Species Profile

Ord's Kangaroo Rat

Scientific Name: Dipodomys ordii
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Alberta, Saskatchewan
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2017
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2abc+4abc; C2b
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This small, nocturnal rodent is restricted to 12 active sand hill complexes in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan, and is separated from the nearest occurrence of the species in the US by about 270 km. Its small population (fewer than 1,000 mature individuals in most years) varies unpredictably over short periods of time. It is threatened by cumulative human impacts including installation and maintenance of roads and service corridors, energy production, changing land uses, and light and noise pollution. These threats may exacerbate the other limiting factors of vegetation encroachment and stabilization of open sand dune habitats. Standardized annual population monitoring of the species in Alberta has revealed a 72% decline in abundance between 2006 and 2015, likely due to habitat decline and a substantial reduction in distribution. This is assumed to be representative of the entire Canadian population. This species was listed under SARA since 2007, and most of its habitat is unprotected.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1995. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 2006. Status re-examined and confirmed in April 2017.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2007-12-13

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Ord's Kangaroo Rat

Ord's Kangaroo Rat Photo 1
Ord's Kangaroo Rat Photo 3

Top

Description

Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii Woodhouse 1853) is a small (~70 g), nocturnal rodent that occupies habitats with loose, sandy soils typically associated with actively eroding sand dunes. It is the only kangaroo rat species (genus Dipodomys) that occurs in Canada. The Ord’s Kangaroo Rat is not closely related to kangaroos or Norway Rats, but has some shared features, including reduced front limbs and large hind legs and feet, which are used for hopping on two legs. It has orange-brown dorsal pelage with distinctive white markings on the head, underbelly, and hips and a long, tufted tail that is more than half the total length of the animal. Kangaroo rats are often considered a keystone species because of their seed predation and hoarding behaviour, vegetation clipping, and soil disturbance. They are also a common prey item for many species, including species of conservation concern. Kangaroo rats are sensitive to habitat change, particularly sand dune stabilization by vegetation, and the species is commonly used as an indicator or focal species of intact sand dune ecosystems. Animals from the Canadian population contrast with others in the United States and Mexico, from which it is geographically isolated, by their larger size, use of torpor to survive long periods of winter, and more rapid reproduction during the relatively short snow-free season. These may be adaptations that have been favoured by long-term isolation at the extreme northernmost periphery of the species’ range. [Updated 19/01/2018]

Top

Distribution and Population

The species is widely distributed in the interior arid grasslands and deserts of western North America, from the southern Canadian prairies to central Mexico. In Canada, its distribution is restricted to 12 active sand hill complexes in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. The Ord’s Kangaroo Rat in Canada constitutes a disjunct population at the northernmost part of the range, separated by approximately 270 km from the nearest population of the same species in Montana. High rates of overwinter mortality and summer reproduction lead to highly variable population sizes, both within and between years, making it difficult to estimate population size and detect population trends. The most recent estimate of peak population size for Ord's Kangaroo Rat in Canada was 4,957 mature individuals in 1995. Given the range-wide loss of habitat for the species, the current population size is assumed to be much lower. Estimates of minimum known alive for Alberta (assumed to be about 50% of the population) from 2006 – 2015 suggest strongly that peak population size for Canada is fewer than 1,000 individuals in most years. The Canadian population is lowest in number during early spring. Standardized population monitoring in Alberta (about half the population) from 2006 to 2015 indicates that the number of sites occupied by the species has decreased and that there is a 72% reduction in population size over the past 10 years. Population trend data are not available for Saskatchewan, although trends in Alberta are presumed to be representative of the overall Canadian population because similar threats and limiting factors (below) operate across the entire Canadian range of the species. [Updated 19/01/2018]

Top

Habitat

Ord’s Kangaroo Rat is a habitat specialist that is typically associated with the margins of actively eroding sand dunes and requires an open or sparsely vegetated, sandy habitat to facilitate its hopping locomotion and extensive burrowing. Its primary habitats are loose sandy soils associated with actively eroding sand dunes, sand flats, and sandy eroding slopes in sand hill regions. Secondarily, kangaroo rats may occupy other sandy areas where the soil has been disturbed by humans (e.g., roads and fireguards), but there is evidence that such habitats may be associated with higher levels of mortality. Actively eroding sand dune habitats have declined in recent decades on the Canadian prairies, due to shifts in climate regimes and changing land use and vegetation disturbance regimes. Primary habitats in Canada are discretely distributed in space and are embedded within a landscape matrix dominated by agriculture. Thus, existing habitat is highly fragmented, with habitat patches separated from one another by distances that are beyond the typical dispersal distance of the species. Because of this patchiness, the Canadian population functions as a metapopulation with high levels of turnover.[Updated 19/01/2018]

Top

Biology

Ord’s Kangaroo Rats spend most of their life below ground in elaborate subterranean burrows that provide shelter from winter conditions or other inclement weather and conceal them from above-ground predators, especially during the daytime. Above-ground activity is almost exclusively nocturnal, and most activities are restricted to nighttime when there is little or no ambient light (e.g., moonlight). The species forages primarily on seeds, which it will attempt to cache below ground in sufficient quantity to sustain individuals through the winter period when cold temperatures and snow cover prevent efficient foraging. Except for mothers rearing offspring, kangaroo rats are highly solitary; they are also aggressively territorial, presumably in defence of their underground residences and seed caches. Winter starvation and hypothermia appear to be the most common sources of mortality for the species; overwinter mortality rates of up to 90% have been documented. Most Ord’s Kangaroo Rats in Canada survive less than 1 year. The Canadian population of Ord’s Kangaroo Rat exhibits high rates of reproduction from spring to late summer—a strategy that compensates for high overwinter mortality. Females that survive the winter can rear up to four litters in a single season, and litter size averages about three offspring. Juveniles become reproductively active at the early age of approximately 47 days, so the species has the reproductive capacity to expand quickly under ideal conditions. [Updated 19/01/2018]

Top

Threats

Direct threats from individual human activities pose relatively low population-level impacts on their own, but cumulatively represent a high threat to the species in Canada in combination with natural limiting factors. The following threats are recognized to pose risks of direct and indirect impacts and may exacerbate the effects of natural limiting factors: transportation and service corridors (roads, trails, pipelines), energy production, light and noise pollution, invasive and other problematic species (predators and parasites), natural system modifications (fire suppression, absence of Plains Bison; Bison bison bison), climate change and severe weather, commercial developments, and agricultural crop and livestock production. Some potential threats, such as military training and livestock grazing, may also have positive benefits under certain conditions. The primary limiting factor for the persistence of Ord’s Kangaroo Rats in Canada is vegetation encroachment and stabilization of open sand dune habitats. This specialized habitat is undergoing a long-term trend of loss that is driven primarily by variation in natural climatic conditions, particularly increased precipitation and growing season length that favours vegetation growth and dune stabilization. Yet, many human threats contribute to this trend and exacerbate its effects. In addition, the combination of a relatively small population that undergoes substantial seasonal fluctuations puts Canadian Ord’s Kangaroo Rats at imminent risk of extirpation. [Updated 19/01/2018]

Top

Protection

Federal Protection

The Ord's Kangaroo Rat is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

Top

Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

Top

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

13 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and status report on the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) in Canada (2018-01-17)

    Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii Woodhouse 1853) is a small (~70 g), nocturnal rodent that occupies habitats with loose, sandy soils typically associated with actively eroding sand dunes. It is the only kangaroo rat species (genus Dipodomys)that occurs in Canada. The Ord’s Kangaroo Rat is not closely related to kangaroos or Norway Rats, but has some shared features, including reduced front limbs and large hind legs and feet, which are used for hopping on two legs. It has orange-brown dorsal pelage with distinctive white markings on the head, underbelly, and hips and a long, tufted tail that is more than half the total length of the animal.
  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Ord’s kangaroo rat Dipodomys ordii in Canada (2006-08-30)

    Ord’s kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ordii Woodhouse 1853), a small, nocturnal rodent, is the only species of Dipodomys that occurs in Canada. It has large hind legs and feet, and mainly orange-brown dorsal pelage with distinctive white markings, including lateral stripes on the tail. The tufted tail accounts for more than half of total length (260 mm). Mean adult body mass is 69 g.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Ord's Kangaroo Rat (2018-01-18)

    This small, nocturnal rodent is restricted to 12 active sand hill complexes in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan, and is separated from the nearest occurrence of the species in the US by about 270 km. Its small population (fewer than 1,000 mature individuals in most years) varies unpredictably over short periods of time. It is threatened by cumulative human impacts including installation and maintenance of roads and service corridors, energy production, changing land uses, and light and noise pollution. These threats may exacerbate the other limiting factors of vegetation encroachment and stabilization of open sand dune habitats. Standardized annual population monitoring of the species in Alberta has revealed a 72% decline in abundance between 2006 and 2015, likely due to habitat decline and a substantial reduction in distribution. This is assumed to be representative of the entire Canadian population. This species was listed under SARA since 2007, and most of its habitat is unprotected.
  • Response Statements - Ord's Kangaroo Rat (2006-11-29)

    The species requires sand dune habitat, which may disappear over the short term (10 years). The area of occupancy is only about 53 km² and only 1000 or fewer individuals are alive at the end of most winters. There is strong evidence for local adaptations of the Canadian population and a rescue effect is extremely unlikely because the nearest population in the United States is 270 km away.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii) in Canada (2012-11-30)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation or consultation with the Alberta Government, Saskatchewan Government, Department of National Defence, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007-05-16)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 141, number 26, December 13, 2007) (2007-12-26)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006-08-30)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2016 to 2017 (2017-10-24)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 40 wildlife species; of these, the majority (78 %) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 73 species assessed 11 were assigned the status of Not at Risk (8 re-assessments and 3 new assessments). To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated (i.e. - no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition 16 species have been assessed as Extinct, 58 have been designated as Data Deficient and 186 were assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PNR-2008-0091), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2009-04-01)

    This is an amendment to extend the permit one year expiry date 2011-03-31 now 2012-03-31. Population monitoring will be achieved by intensive spring, summer and fall surveys for the Ord's Kangaroo Rat using standardized observation and live capture techniques. This is part of a longterm study to assess abundance, survival, extinction and re-colonization of sites; to collect information on the individual status of Kangaroo Rats, such as parasite load and body condition; to collect demographic information such as sex ratios, and reproductive rates; to understand the role of climate, predators, parasites and humans. To capture Kangaroo rats, roads will be searched at night using slow moving vehicles with spotlights, and natural habitats will be searched on foot using flashlights. Kangaroo rats will be picked up by hand, without the use of traps. Kangaroo rats will initially be placed in a cloth bag. The rats will be fitted with a small metal ear tag and a rice sized microchip. The microchip will be applied subcutaneously with a specialized syringe. Animals will be weighed, sexed, measured, and checked for visible signs of parasites. Individuals that are observed to have heavy infestations of fleas, mites, or ticks, will have parasites sampled by applying a small amount of 0.5% pyrethrin ectoparasite spray to kill the ectoparasites. Animals are usually released in five minutes and recaptured animals in less time. Daytime surveys will be undertaken on foot to identify Kangaroo Rat tracks and burrows.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006-12-28)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2018 (2018-01-26)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 555 wildlife species at risk. In 2017, final listing decisions were made for 44 terrestrial species and 15 aquatic species. Of these 59 species, 35 were new additions, sixteen were reclassifications, three had a change made to how they are defined, two were removed from Schedule 1, one was referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation and two were the object of ‘do not list’ decisions. In 2017, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 45 wildlife species. It is proposed that 21 species be added to Schedule 1, 11 be reclassified, 12 would have a change made to how they are defined, and one would be referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation. The listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 45 species are expected by August of 2018. Please submit your comments by May 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry (SAR) website.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

Date modified: