JACKRABBIT (American Desert Hare)
The black-tailed jackrabbit is a common hare of the western United States and Mexico, where it is found at elevations from sea level to up to 10,000 feet. Reaching a length of about 2 feet, and a weight from 3 to 6 pounds, the black-tailed jackrabbit is the third largest North American hare, after the antelope jackrabbit and the white-tailed jackrabbit. The black-tailed jackrabbits occupy mixed shrub-grassland terrains. Their breeding depends on the location; it typically peaks in spring, but may continue all year round in warm climates. Young are born fully furred with eyes open; they are well camouflaged and are mobile within minutes of birth, thus females do not protect or even stay with the young except during nursing. The average litter size is around four, but may be as low as two and as high as seven in warm regions.
The black-tailed jackrabbit does not migrate or hibernate during winter and uses the same habitat of 0.4 to 1.2 square miles year-round. Its diet is composed of various shrubs, small trees, grasses and forbs. Shrubs generally comprise the bulk of fall and winter diets, while grasses and forbs are used in spring and early summer, but the pattern and plant species vary with climate. Black-tailed jackrabbit is an important prey species for raptors and carnivorous mammals, such as eagles, hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, and wild cats. The rabbits host many ectoparasites including fleas, ticks, lice, and mites; for this reason, hunters often avoid collecting them.
The black-tailed jackrabbit's dorsal fur is agouti (dark buff peppered with black), and its undersides and the insides of its legs are creamy white. The ears are black-tipped on the outer surface, and unpigmented inside. The ventral surface of the tail is grey to white, and the black dorsal surface of the tail continues up the spine for a few inches to form a short, black stripe. The females are larger than males, with no other significant differences.
Canis latrans mearnsi
You're about to fall asleep in your comfy Green Acres bed when out of the distance comes the otherworldy singing of the Coyotes. Coyotes trek the desert from the mountainous areas to the salt pans. They live well in this landscape, hunting rodents (their favorite food), insects, bird, lizards, fish, snakes, fruit, nuts, grass, tennis shoes, young tortoises, sick animals, and just about any other edible item. They also scavenge dead animals and will eat seeds and fruit. These social animals live mostly in groups. Some coyotes have become bold enough to beg from park visitors. Coyotes are renowned for howling, but they also bark playfully.
Found mostly in the foothills, bobcats catch rabbits and rodents, reptiles, birds, and insects. Though night active, you may see them at dawn or dusk. The short, powerful bobcat body is adapted to pounce from ambush on their prey. Keen senses, patience, and night shadows aid this shy cat.
Desert Bighorns travel the desert's mountainous regions in groups as they search for the water and various plants that sustain them. When people and development began to encroach on bighorn habitat, they were granted protection under the Endangered Species Act. Nevertheless, illegal hunting is a problem. The dwindling bighorn population is forced to compete with burros for food and water.
Many times at sunset, you'll start to catch glimpses of tiny little guys wildly flying around. At first glance, you think that they're moths, but it's really bats that have come out from their hiding places in the Joshua Tree rocks and caverns to grab a crunchy insect meal.
Bats vary greatly in their habits, depending on their species, but they are in general very shy creatures and like most wild animals, stay away from humans while going about their business of eating, reproducing and avoiding predators.
Bats are often thought of as flying mice,but they are more closely related to primates, including humans. As with most other mammals, the bat's body is covered by hair, with the exception of its wings; and those wings are what make bats truly unique: the only mammals that can fly.
Bats are found almost everywhere on earth, except in extremely hot desert environments and the cold Polar Regions. Most species also possess a system of acoustic orientation, often called "bat radar," but technically known as echolocation.
Although bats have the same basic arm and hand bones found in humans and most other mammals, the bat's hand and finger bones are very long and slender and there are only 4 digits. The delicate-looking skin between the arms, fingers, body, legs, and feet looks delicate, but is tough and resistant to tearing.
Size can vary greatly among the more than 900 bats species worldwide, ranging from the 0.5-ounce Bumblebee Bat with a 6-inch wing span to the 3.3-lb Flying Fox with a wing span of 80 inches.
Bats are fastidious creatures. When a bat returns to its roost for its hanging slumber, it will spend as much as 30 minutes cleaning itself before settling down to sleep. Wherever it can reach with its long, pink tongue will be thoroughly bathed. Often, moistened hind feet with their fingers free of the membrane will tend to the rest of the body.
When winter comes, insects are no longer available and weather extremes make flying hazardous. The bat, having at least doubled its weight since spring, will either hibernate or migrate. Some bat migrations are known to cover as much as 1,000 miles. By late fall, one way or another , the bat has accumulated a layer of fat that will sustain it either through a winter's sleep or a marathon migration flight.
All resident species of bats in the US are capable of being infected with rabies, but the incidence of rabies is the same as in other mammals. Left alone, bats pose no threat to humans. But most bats will bite when first captured and handled. Never handle a bat that appears unable to fly. Never use your hands to pick up a bat found on the ground. Before entering a bat roosting site to study specimens, contact the Board of Health and inquire about local rabies conditions.
COTTONTAIL RABBIT (Southern Desert Cottontail)
Sylvilagus audubonii arizonae
parkwide: brushy and rocky areas, especially washes and canyon bottoms
The Desert Cottontail, also known as Audubon's cottontail, is found throughout the western United States from eastern Montana to western Texas, and in northern and central Mexico. Westwards its range extends to central Nevada and southern California and Baja California. It is found at heights of up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft). It is particularly associated with the dry near-desert grasslands of the American southwest; though it is also found in less arid habitats such as pinyon-juniper forest.
The desert cottontail is quite similar in appearance to the European rabbit, though its ears are larger and are more often carried erect. It is also social among its peers, often gathering in small groups to feed. The desert cottontail uses burrows made by rodents rather than making its own. Like all cottontail rabbits, the desert cottontail has a rounded tail with white fur on the underside which is visible as it runs away. It is a light grayish-brown in color, with almost white fur on the belly. Adults are 13 to 17 in long and weigh up to 3.3 lb. There is little sexual dimorphism, but females tend to be larger than the males, but have much smaller home ranges, about 1 acre compared with about 15 acres for a male.
The desert cottontail is not usually active in the middle of the day, but it can be seen in the early morning or late afternoon. It mainly eats grass, but will eat many other plants, herbs, vegetables and even cacti. It rarely needs to drink, getting its water mostly from the plants it eats or from dew. Like most lagomorphs, it is coprophagic, re-ingesting and chewing its own feces: this allows more nutrition to be extracted.
Many desert animals prey on cottontails, including birds of prey, the coyote, the bobcat, mountain lions, snakes, and humans. Southwestern Native Americans hunted them for meat but also used their fur and hides. The cottontail's normal anti-predator behavior is to run away in evasive zigzags; it can reach speeds of over 19 mph. Against small predators or other desert cottontails, it will defend itself by slapping with a front paw and nudging; usually preceded by a hop straight upwards as high as two feet when threatened or taken by surprise.
The young are born in a shallow burrow or above ground, but they are helpless when born, and do not leave the nest until they are three weeks old. Where climate and food supply permit, females can produce several litters a year. Unlike the European rabbit, they do not form social burrow systems, but compared with some other leporids, they are extremely tolerant of other individuals in their vicinity.
GRAY FOX or DESERT GRAY FOX
Urocyon cinereoargenteus scottii
rocky canyons and outcrop areas, mostly western part (common)
KANGAROO RAT (Merriam's Kangaroo Rat)
The cutest (way cuter than in this comic strip) little guys out there! Kangaroo rats can go their whole lives without taking a drink of water! They get enough water from the plants and seeds they eat. In the heat of the day, they hide out in burrows and seal the entrances to keep the humidity high. Merriam's kangaroo rat is a species of rodent in the family Heteromyidae. The species name commemorates Clinton Hart Merriam.
Dipodomys merriami is found in the Upper and Lower Sonoran life zones of the southwestern United States, Baja California, and northern Mexico.
Merriam's kangaroo rats, like other kangaroo rats and pocket mice, are members of the family Heteromyidae. Each species within this family has fur-lined food storage pouches. The cheek pouch is utilized as a portable cache for food while foraging. Kangaroo rats are named for their extremely long, kangaroo-like hind feet and they are almost completely bipedal. They hop or jump rather than scurry or run. Because of this, most heteromyid rodents also have a relatively long tail that acts to counterbalance the hopping/jumping form of locomotion.
Fur color varies between populations within the species' range, but the back color is generally light brown or tan. The merriami species is smaller than most of the other kangaroo rats in the southwest. Adults average about 14 inches in length. The tail is relatively long with a large tuft of hair at the tip. The tuft is thought to act like fletching on an arrow, providing drag to keep the animal stable during locomotion. merriami have four toes on each hind foot in contrast to the pacific kangaroo rat, Dipodomys simulans and the Stephens' kangaroo rat, Dipodomys stephensi (both kangaroo rat species also found in San Diego County), which have five toes.
Merriam's kangaroo rat can be found in desert scrub, alkali scrub, sagebrush steppe, pinyon-juniper woodland, and Joshua tree habitat throughout the southwestern United States and Mexico. Merriam's kangaroo rats live individually within a maze of underground burrows. Males and females each establish individual territories. They defend their territories against other male and female merriami, primarily to protect often scarce food resources. It is typical that they locate multiple entrances to their burrow complex at the base of shrubs near the middle of their territory. This allows more opportunities for them to escape from predators.
Most Kangaroo rats are exclusively nocturnal. Even so, they tend to avoid being outside their burrows when the moon is full. The greater the amounts of moonlight the less time they spend collecting food, defending their territory, or searching for mates. When the amount of moonlight is great they retreat underground in order to avoid predation. In some areas, above ground activity is limited to two hours or less. During the day, they remain in their cool burrows. They often seal entrances to their burrows with soil to prevent exposure to heat. When they are active above ground they move about within their territory and attempt to fill their cheek pouches with seeds and plant material. When their cheek pouches are full they retreat to their burrows where they disgorge the seeds they have collected. Some of the food is eaten immediately while the remainder is stored (often building a seed cache of considerable size) in several chambers within the burrow system.
Kangaroo rats lose water mainly by evaporation during gas exchange, and so have developed a behavioural adaptation to prevent this loss. As they spend a lot of time within their burrows to escape the heat of the day, the burrows become much more humid than the air outside (due to evaporative loss). When collecting seeds, they store them in the burrows rather than eating them straight away. This causes the moisture in the air to be absorbed by the seeds, and the kangaroo rat regains the water it has previously lost when it then consumes them.
Merriam's kangaroo rats produce up to three litters per year, with an average of four pups in each litter. Weaning of young occurs 24–33 days after birth.
The diet of Merriam's kangaroo rat is almost exclusively plant seeds (they are granivorous). The bulk of their diet consists of the seeds of desert and grassland plants. They rarely drink water. Rather, they obtain water through metabolic processes augmented by the moisture content of their food. (See Kangaroo Rat)
Kangaroo rats are a common prey items for many other desert animals. Typical predators of the Merriam's kangaroo rat include barn owls, great horned owls, coyotes, foxes, badgers, bobcats, and several snake species including sidewinders and glossy snakes.
In general humans have not caused adverse impact to the Merriam's kangaroo rat through most of its range. However, in southern California one subspecies, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat, Dipodomys merriami parvus, is at risk due primarily to urban development including construction of dams and alteration of hydrologic regimes throughout its range. Once common on alluvial plains in the washes of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed the San Bernardino kangaroo rat as endangered in 1998.
The sandy-colored kit fox blends easily into the landscape and is difficult to see. Extremely well-adapted to life in the desert, they sleep in underground dens during the day. They hunt at night, using their large ears to help find and catch rodents. This prey provides them not only with food, but with much of the water they need.
Fish? In the desert? Pupfish originally inhabited a stream and lake system stretching from the Sierra Nevada through the Colorado River system over 10,000 years ago. As the climate became drier, populations became separated and eventually evolved into the five distinctive species that exist today. Some have an exceptionally high tolerance for salty water and temperature extremes. The two- inch-long fish may be seen in Death Valley National Park and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
is a deer whose habitat is in the western half of North America. It gets its name from its large mule-like ears. Adult male mule deer are called bucks, adult females are called does, and young of both sexes are called fawns.
WILD HORSE and BURRO
Equus caballus and Equus assinus
The origin of wild horses dates back to the days of Columbus and Cortez, explorers who brought horses to North America. Burros were brought by Jesuit missionaries and later used extensively by miners. Many of the descendants of these horses and burros escaped or were abandoned by settlers, ranchers, prospectors, Native American tribes, and the U.S. Cavalry between the late 1800s and 1930s. These descendants formed the first wild horse and burro herds.
Considered pests by many who were trying to settle the west, these feral creatures were hunted by "mustangers" until the population was drastically reduced. A public outcry in the late 1960s influenced Congress to enact, in 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, providing for the protection, management, and control of wild horses and burros on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Federal protection and the absence of natural predators contributed to flourishing populations. In 1976, BLM began the Adopt-A-Horse-or-Burro Program to place wild horses and burros into caring homes.