Tuesday, July 07, 2009


It is estimated that at the time of its discovery in 1834, the Jogues Valley was home to at least a dozen unique species of animals including the pygmy cliff snake, the great blonde bat, and the lesser dunfour lizard. Today one of the few remaining mammals unique to the valley is the bowl rat. The bowl rat was first described to science by the French naturalist, Antoine Basleaux, in 1835. Light tan in color and measuring approximately eight inches from the base of its rear quarters to the tip of its nose, the bowl rat is so named because of its habit of collecting water by lying on its back beneath the dripping branches of the water trees. By forming a crude bowl with its soft belly the bowl rat is able to collect a reservoir of water which it then laps up with its tongue, which is more than three times longer than any other rat species. Bowl rats are very social animals which, in Basleaux's day, lived in subterranean colonies of approximately 50 to 125 animals. Today their colonies are less populous, averaging between 10-25 animals. Bowl rats retreat underground during the heat of the day, and are most active at dusk. Although primarily an insectivore, the bowl rat has also learned to include household trash and human food in its diet. Today, the bowl rat has been pushed to the edge of extinction through deliberate attempts to eradicate them as well as through introduced pests such as the common household cat. It is estimated that in 1834 there may have been as many as 5,000-8,000 bowl rats living in the Jogues Valley. Today fewer than 400 are thought to remain. A breeding program through the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Southern California has enjoyed enormous success in building a captive population of bowl rats, which today numbers more than 200 animals.

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