A baby saber-toothed rat

The saber-toothed rat is characterized by its long, saber-shaped teeth, size, and mangy appearance. The rat was discovered only recently in 2012 on the banks of the Soquel Creek. The creek runs twenty miles, with headwaters beginning in the Santa Cruz Mountains, flowing through the Capitola Village, and emptying into the Monterey Bay. The creek was once home to numerous varieties of fish, turtles, ducks, and frogs, but due to severe pollution the saber-toothed rat is the only species that remains.

It is believed that the saber-toothed rat is a mutation of the common brown rat. Because of its recent discovery, information regarding the rat is limited. However, it is believed that the genetic mutation has changed the size of the common rats’ teeth, now they grow up to seven centimeters long. Their bodies have also increased in size and are commonly found to be up to thirty-five centimeters long (not including their tails) and can weigh up to four kilograms.

It has been observed that the saber-toothed rat is cannibalistic, but because they reproduce so quickly and effectively it does not threaten their population. In fact, at this time there are estimated to be over ten thousand saber-toothed rats living along the banks of the Soquel Creek. That number is steadily increasing.

Although the rats have been described as “terrifying,” they pose no immediate threat to humans. In fact, they have been known to approach humans, nuzzling against their legs to be pet in a dog-like manner. 

Emily Cooper