The Weather Network – They run, climb, and chew, but have you heard of mice that jump?

They are small, lively and seem to make a good snack for a great blue heron.

The jumping rat is one of Alberta’s little-known species, according to Calgary naturalist Brian Keating, but he didn’t capture many of them on film.

But recently, photographer Susan Ingham — who owns Ingham Nature Photography Inc. A set of photos shows a mouse scurrying straight down the throat of a bird at Fish Creek Provincial Park in southern Calgary.

“She was really not sure what kind of rodent it was, and thought maybe it was a little intoxicating,” Keating said in her day’s interview. Homestretch.

He sent the photo to professional biologist Chris Fisher, who immediately wrote to say that its long tail and “long hind limbs and yellowish undersides indicate a hopping rat.”

Photo of a western hopping rat in Parkland, Alta, 2012 (Michael Patrick Marklevitz via CBC)


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Most often, we hear of the house mouse, the white-footed mouse and the meadow mouse, often called the field mouse, but there are many different types of rodents, says Keating.

During his time with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Saskatchewan, they would set up traps filled with peanut butter for small mammal studies.

“I was amazed by the diversity there,” he said. “Every morning was like Christmas with sometimes new species being discovered.”

According to the Alberta government, there are seven species of rats in the province and 12 species of rats, which are small rodents with very short tails, says Keating.

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He was also particularly interested in the kangaroo rat, a type of jumping rat intended for dune areas in the prairie, such as sites near the Canadian Forces base Suffield near Medicine Hat.

These recent photos indicate there are rats jumping around Calgary as well.

“It’s just a very cool concept and a recognizable rodent is rarely seen as it heads, head first, down the throat of a dangerous predator!”

Why mice jump In the case of a kangaroo, Keating says that jumping is actually a very effective way to travel through sandy environments.

“If you look at real kangaroos in Australia, studies have shown that their coiled jump actually takes less energy for the distance traveled,” he said.

“It generates less heat for the muscles, which is a good adaptation when you think about it in an environment that has limited water and is often hot.”

Hopping mice are also found in wet and marshy areas, where hopping would also be an effective way to get around, says Keating.

There are two types of hopping rats most common in Alberta: the meadow hopping rat, found in the northern part of the province, and the western hopping rat, found in the southern part.

They can jump about two feet in height and one foot in height.

“Their usual jump looks like a jumping frog,” Keating said.


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The rodents typically spend about nine months hibernating, and emerge in late May after losing nearly 25 percent of their body weight.

Females have a gestation period of 19 days before giving birth to up to nine young.

It becomes a potential meal for herons, because the birds are “opportunistic hunters,” Keating says, and will eat anything they can swallow, including fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, insects, and other birds.

“They grab smaller prey with their powerful lower jaw and can also use their dagger-like bills to snare larger fish,” he said.

“They have highly specialized elongated vertebrae in their neck that enable them to strike prey with a remarkable amount of force.”

If jumping rats aren’t eaten, Keating says, they live up to four years.

“How very exciting to find out that here in Calgary, and all over Alberta, there is another kind of jumping rat out there.”

This article was originally Posted by CBC News on September 14th.