Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 16, 2023

Contact:

Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

Texas Kangaroo Rats Proposed for Endangered Species Protection

WICHITA FALLS, Texas— Responding to a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect the Texas kangaroo rat as an endangered species. The agency also proposed protecting 597,069 acres in Childress, Cottle, Hardeman, Wichita and Wilbarger counties in North Texas as critical habitat for the animals.

“These handsome rodents are rapidly disappearing from their dwindling native grassland habitat, which is at grave risk from climate change,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act can save kangaroo rats and the once grand prairies they need to survive.”

Texas kangaroo rats are threatened by historic and ongoing conversion of their short-grass prairie habitat to agriculture, elimination of natural fires, extermination of bison and large-scale eradication of prairie dogs.

The animals are further imperiled by climate change that is making the southern plains hotter and drier, including a potential tenfold increase in the number of days over 100 degrees each year, resulting in a nearly complete loss of the kangaroo rat’s habitat.

The Service first identified the species as needing protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1982 but failed to grant that protection.

“It shouldn’t take 40 years for the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect an animal that’s been losing habitat for more than a century,” said Robinson. “The Service badly needs an overhaul to truly protect imperiled species. The Biden administration and the Service’s director, Martha Williams, are failing to timely safeguard plants and animals at risk of disappearing forever.”

The agency has protected just 35 species under the Endangered Species Act during the Biden administration, a rate of about 14 species per year. By comparison, the Obama administration protected 363 species, for a rate of 45 species per year and the Clinton administration protected 521 species for a rate 65 species per year. Scientific organizations have identified thousands of species in the United States that should be considered for protection.

Texas kangaroo rats have long tails and long hind feet that enable their kangaroo-like leaping movements which help them evade predators. They collect grass seeds in an external cheek pouch and then dine in their long but shallow burrows dug into loose soils.

RSTexas kangaroo rat_TPWD
Texas kangaroo rat. ©2010 TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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