Desert-Skritter

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Desert Skritter
Information
Natural Habitat: Rashnad deserts
Classification: Mammal
Average Size: 20-25" long excluding tail, 6-8" tall to shoulder
Average Weight: 3-6 lbs
Coloring: Light grey to medium brown
Distinguishing Features: Long snout, large eyes, short tail and burrowing claws 4" in length


Desert skritters are nocturnal medium sized rodents that inhabit the sandy dunes of Rashnad. They live in a large communal burrow with many tunnels and chambers. Their soft pelts are prized and their meat is considered a delicacy.

Description

The long but short body makes the desert skritter ideal for burrowing. Its legs and arms are thickly muscled and body covered in a short but silky fur. On each finger is a claw 4" in length. The tip is rounded and constantly grow to make up for their near constant use. Interlocking edges make them function as a hoe to kick out excess dirt and small rocks from a tunnel in progress. The lack of an undercoat makes it easier to glide through its tunnels and helps to keep the short fur clean with minimal fuss.

The skritter's primarily nocturnal, hides in a burrow in the daytime and only coming out at night to scavenge and hunt small lizards and insects that make up a large portion of its diet. A pair of large eyes twice that of a normal rodent enable it to see quite well even during the moonless nights. The extra sensitive nose mounted on a two inch long muzzle allows the skritter to track down foodstuffs even when its eyes fail it.

This omnivore has the standard flat edged cutting teeth of a carnivore but has a pair of constantly growing incisors on the front center of its mouth as well. The curious mix of teeth allow it to plow through any obstacle in its path and give it a diet of virtually anything it will encounter.

Habitat

Virtually any desert but it's more densely populated in mountainous and hilly regions than low lands due to the threat of flooding burrows. The rolling dunes of Rashnad are its favored area but they can be found in the entire region during the summer months. From Kahlahra to Silver Sea lays are the borders of true desert skritters. Some have been found near the Imke River but changes in pelt suggest these will need be reclassified as a new species.

Only the right terrain can be used for their extensive burrowing systems as too rocky is time consuming to work with and too much sand will just make the system collapse. Areas with compacted sandy soil are prime real estate and, for this reason, is where chambers for general living and breeding can be found. The chambers are guarded fiercely but the burrows leading to and from food and water sources are treated as an open highway and used by all.

Breeding Habits

Not many have studied the reproductive cycles of the skritter but it is believed they mate for life. Many times during a Rashnaditz hunt a male and female can be found inhabiting the same chamber whether there's a brood or not. This may just be a behavior to help conserve space and take up less area in the precious sandy soil.

They mate one month before the wet season so that the mother will be able to nurse her young before the land dies back again under the harsh desert sun. Juvenile skritters leave the nest to find a living chamber of their own, or a whole new territory altogether, roughly one month after birth. There's a learning curve when it comes to feeding due to the quick maturation rate. Young skritters were once believed to eat rocks and poisonous berries until adulthood due to how many were found attempting to eat such things. Years of this have left them with hardy stomachs that can withstand the most vicious of poisons.

Other Characteristics

The Rashnaditz have marked the breeding areas above ground to make hunting the desert skritters an easy task. No matter how many times their home is invaded, the skritters will return due to their territorial nature. Their pelts are prized by the Rashnaditz for the extra layers of warmth they can provide during the cold desert nights. It may take a couple dozen pelts to make a proper blanket but the gamey meat is considered a delicacy in the region and is often served up as a stew that includes donkey and cactus fruits as well.