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The San Quintín variety of kangaroo rat. The San Quintín variety of kangaroo rat.

Thought to be extinct, San Quintín kangaroo rat appears in Baja

No one had seen a San Quintín kangaroo rat for more than 30 years, leading officials to believe the rodent was extinct.

But now the species of kangaroo rat endemic to western Baja California has turned up in Ensenada.

The last sighting was in 1986, leading the International Union for Conservation of Nature to conclude it was possibly extinct.

The Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) said an undisclosed number of specimens were sighted in the Monte Ceniza and Valle Tranquilo Natural Reserves. The sightings were made by researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Conanp is now collaborating with the researchers and the non-governmental organization Terra Peninsular to create a conservation plan.

The project will include habitat restoration, improvement and protection strategies, a molecular analysis of the nocturnal rodent population’s health and raising awareness about kangaroo rats, described as keystone species of their environments.

Kangaroo rats are named for their powerful hind legs, which propel the animal in a series of large and characteristic bounds, and a tail with a large tuft of hairs on the end that is longer than its body.

Experts say they play an important role in the ecological communities in which they live. Specifically, they influence plant growth by feeding on and dispersing seeds and digging burrows in the soil. This contributes to the overall health of the ecosystem. They are also prey for numerous predators including barn owls, burrowing owls, snakes and coyotes.

Source: Debate (sp)

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