Giant k-rat going extinct

It looks like the giant kangaroo rat, one of California’s most charming animals, will go extinct this year as a result of the catastrophic man-made climate change that people around here keep calling “a drought”. I observed a serious population crash last year, and things are getting even worse now. If it was a bird there would be a lot of public attention and possibly an attempt at captive breeding, but since it’s a rodent, nobody cares.

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21 Comments on “Giant k-rat going extinct”

  1. vnsankar123 Says:

    I might get out to Panoche Valley to have a look and see if I can find any within the next couple of weeks.

    Last April (early), when the drought was still pretty bad (nowhere near as bad as it is now though), I was able to find 25 around Silver Creek Ranch in about an hour of spotlighting.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for the Panoche population as this is one of my favorite rodents around the world. Sad…

  2. vnsankar123 Says:

    For reference, Silver Creek Ranch in just E of Panoche Valley on Panoche Rd (gravel), E of the Panoche Creek crossing. This area is generally thought to hold the highest density of GKR in the Panoche valley ecosystem/general area.

    • vdinets Says:

      In April 2014 they were abundant in Panoche and easy to find at Carrizo, but by September finding them in Carrizo became almost impossible and in Panoche we could only find one (in Panoche Hills near the entrance gate).

      • vnsankar123 Says:

        As far as I know, GKR and other K-rats become tougher to find as you get into Sep/Oct especially after summer, since the grain/seeds that they forage for become less common at this time of the year, so they leave their burrows less; this information came to me from conversations with BLM biologists who survey in the area for kit foxes in Jun-July (they saw only a handful of them on these surveys, even in 2013 summer) and birder Debi Shearwater, who’s searched out rare mammals and birds for the last 18 or so years in Panoche. Apparently the best time to look for them is in mid April-May (Debi saw 40 once here!), so this would probably be the best time to see if there are any left in these areas.

        I was out in Panoche this April and while I didn’t look for any k-rats, the area was parched and looked almost semi-desert. I had a hard time finding 2 Antelope squirrels, which are normally easy in a specific spot at Silver Creek and no sign of any Kit Foxes, etc.; the birding was apparently dismal last winter as well due to extreme drought conditions. I haven’t been to the Carrizo, but the 95% population decline and lack of breeding makes the prospects for this species seem very bleak indeed both there and in Panoche. What a pity…

  3. I was able to find some links about conservation of various kangaroo rat species – interesting information, but not very up-to-date. If any institution is on the case, it is likely to be the San Diego Zoo. There must certainly be researchers who care about the fate of the species, and who are well up on what is going on.

  4. simonfeys Says:

    I will be in Carrizo mid-June (where I was hoping to see the K-Rat and the Fox), I hopeI will find some…

  5. heavenlyjane Says:

    I am a bit confused about the location you all are discussing. I am looking on Google Maps and Panoche
    Creek and Road isn’t in the Carrizo Plains. It’s further north in San Benito County, near New Idria. Can someone give me a lat/log?


    • vnsankar123 Says:

      Yes, Panoche Valley is an area of grasslands (or used to be…) just North of New Idria, at the Fresno-San Benito County border reasonably far from the Carrizo Plains (in San Luis Obispo county, near Kern Co. border).

      The very approximate coordinates for the 2 best sites are listed below:

      Panoche Hills BLM area: 36.693130, 120.792789

      Silver Creek ranch: 36.580247, -120.731506

      • heavenlyjane Says:

        Thanks. That does help. I tromped around this area decades ago when I was an undergrad. I probably live-trapped them but can’t remember.

  6. heavenlyjane Says:

    My best guess is Lat 36.594377, Long -120.684604. Am I even close?

  7. philtelfer10 Says:

    Vladimir, i hope the situation isn’t as dire as you say and maybe the species can bounce back if conditions eventually improve. Please let us know of any body you find that we could voice concerns to if you think it may help.


    • vdinets Says:

      I’m trying to find someone at CDFW, but no luck so far. The problem is, captive breeding projects have to deal with an enormous amount of bureaucracy, and take a very long time to set up. There’s no rapid-response system at all.

  8. heavenlyjane Says:

    I shared this with some natural history professors and students at my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz to see if these were aware. I think this would be a great senior or masters thesis and San Benito County is pretty close by.

  9. jasonwoolgar Says:

    Hi Vladimir….I will be in Carrizo in a couple of weeks if you know any good areas to check that far south and, if you do manage to make contact with anyone regarding a captive breeding colony, then I would be happy to follow it up on the ground. Just let me know if I can help at all.

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