By KTVU staff
LOS GATOS, Calif. - An almost extinct, rare rodent has reemerged in Santa Clara County.
Previously thought to exist only in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and nowhere else on earth, the Santa Cruz kangaroo rat was recently discovered by biologists about 25 miles away in Sierra Azul Open Space.
It's small like a rat, shaped like a kangaroo, and is listed in California's critically imperiled subspecies. Known scientifically as Dipodomys venustus venustus, the furry creatures are more closely related to gophers and chipmunks than rats and had not been seen in Santa Clara County since 1947.
The discovery of "several individuals" in 2023 shows the species is benefiting from the habitat conservation, according to scientists at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space.
The kangaroo rat is a "keystone" species helping maintain balance in the environment and greatly influencing the plants and animals around them.
Biologists said they hope to continue research to increase the population resiliency and eventually have them listed under the California Endangered Species Act.