Everyone Thought This Little Guy Was Extinct — Until Now

He'd been missing for over 30 years — and people were SO happy to see him again.

People conducting some field research in Baja California recently weren't even looking for the San Quintin kangaroo rat  — why would they? He hadn't been seen in decades, and was believed to be extinct.

But then the little guy seemed to hop back into existence right in front of their eyes. 

Park ranger holding 'extinct' San Quintin kangaroo rats
Terra Peninsular park ranger Enrique Alfaro holding a couple of San Quintin kangaroo rats | Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum

The tiny and very unique creature — about 5 inches long with a lengthy tufted tail and springy back legs that help him hop like a kangaroo — ended up being accidentally sacrificed for tomatoes and strawberries; his habitat in Baja was converted to farms and hothouses to grow these fruits. 

And no one had seen the San Quintin kangaroo rat since 1986 — until now. 

People from the San Diego Natural History Museum and Terra Peninsular, a Mexican nonprofit devoted to conservation, were out conducting normal field research last July when they came across not one but four kangaroo rats that seemed to be of the San Quintin "extinct" type. And they were right. 

Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum

"You can’t imagine how happy we are,” Jorge Andrade, adaptive manager coordinator at Terra Peninsular, said in a press release. “It’s very gratifying for us to think that the San Quintin kangaroo rat persists in the area." 

San Quintin kangaroo rat rediscovered in Baja
Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum

Thrilled researchers took turns holding the special rats to document their existence in photos before releasing them back into the field and watching them hop away. 

Now that they know the little rats still exist, they're determined to help protect the species in the future through land conservation. 

Researcher posing with rediscovered kangaroo rat in Baja
Sula Vanderplank, research associate and science advisor, holding a San Quintin kangaroo rat once believed to be extinct | Scott Tremor/San Diego Natural History Museum

“Not only is this discovery a perfect example of the importance of good old-fashioned natural history field work, but we have the opportunity to develop a conservation plan based on our findings,” Scott Tremor, mammalogist with the museum, added. “The ability to take our research and turn it into tangible conservation efforts is thrilling."

Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum
You can help make sure the San Quintin kangaroo rat is around for a long time to come by making a donation to the San Diego Natural History Museum and to Terra Peninsular