In The Desert
Content including photographs are Copyright © 2011 - Present - Don & Linda Gilmore
The Kangaroo Rat is probably the most misunderstood animal in the desert. They don't drink water; they only eat seeds, this is where their moisture comes from. They are chased and hunted continually. They are the favorite food of Kit Foxes, Coyotes, Snakes, and Owls. And look at him, the cutest thing in the desert. Also the cleanest animal as far as wildlife goes. No ticks, fleas, or other parasites, according to a study done by the Game & Fish in Arizona.
This is not recommended but Linda has this special gift with animals. She had to move this one out of the road. Their fur is the softest, smoothest and silkiest feeling fur of any animal. During wet years their population explodes and during dry years it dwindles till only a small portion of their original population remains. They are curious and seem to love to play with each other. With those big kangaroo type back legs they can jump incredible distances.
As with any wild animal -- it's not advisable to handle them or get to close --- any wild animal with teeth can bite you if they feel threatened.
Rock squirrels can be found in Southern Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Western Texas. These guys get around and it's no wonder they were found in the Valley of Fire, Nev., Grand Canyon, and Harquahala Mt., in Arizona. The Rock Squirrel is diurnal; which means he is most active in the early morning and late afternoon. The one pictured here was on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Here is one that was found on Harquahala Mountain -- See Day Trips. They live in colonies. They eat pine nuts, walnuts, mesquite tree seeds, cactus, and agave. They also eat insects, grasshoppers and crickets. Even though this is a ground squirrel it is also a good tree climber. You always think of squirrels as being native to large forested areas and not necessarily living in the desert.
Round Tailed Ground Squirrel
The Round Tailed Ground Squirrel is often mistaken for a Gopher or a Prairie Dog. They have a long rounded tail that distinguishes them from either of the above. They are called ground squirrels because they burrow in loose soil often under mesquite trees and creosote bushes. They have a semi-colonial social structure. They will chase away other ground squirrels that get too close to their burrow. These guys are really cute. They go into torpor in the winter; which is a temporary hibernation.
Harris Ground Squirrel
The Harris Ground Squirrel or Yuma Antelope Squirrel is found in Southwestern Arizona and Northwestern Mexico. They live in low arid desert with sparse vegetation. This photo shows the body strip more clearly.
This one was photographed near Wellton, Arizona. The one above was photographed near the Valley of Fire, Nevada at the Northernmost part of their range. In the enlargement notice the large claws used for digging. Often mistaken as a Chipmunk. They are very similar in appearance.
This Muskrat was photographed in the All American Canal near Yuma, Arizona. A medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent native to North America. They cause extensive damage to canal walls and dams. They are not however so-called "true rats". Muskrats can swim under water for up to 15 minutes. Their hind feet are semi-webbed, although when swimming they use their tail for propulsion.
Utah Prairie Dog
In summer, reddish (ranging from tawny olive to clay) above, mixed with black-tipped hairs, slightly paler below. Short white-tipped tail, terminal half has white center.
Length = 12 to 14 1/4 "
Endangered Status - The Utah Prairie Dog is on the U. S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in Utah. It's population "95,000" in 1920's dropped to just over "2,000" in 1970. They have recovered somewhat and in Utah it was down listed to Threatened in 1984. It is now being removed from Golf Courses and other areas and relocated.
The name "Rodent" conjures up some disgusting little Rat that is full of diseases. NOT TRUE. These animals are smart and caring with their young. They are also fun to watch. As with all wildlife, don't try to handle them, they can bite. They are survivors.....
Are they hurting anything? We don't think so, but we're not golfers. To us, golf courses just waste valuable water resources in the desert anyway..
Photo taken on a golf course in the desert.
They live in Colorado, Utah Arizona and New Mexico. This one was photographed in Arches National Park, Utah. They eat seeds berries, flowers and insects. They store food in the fall for winter use.
Photo courtesy of Gail Cook
Hispid Cotton Rat
The head and body of the Cotton Rats range in length from 13.3 to 21.3 cm. The tail is bare and is not as long as the head and body. Their bodies are covered with coarse hair. They are usually gray on their back with black hairs mixed in. The underside is light colored.
You'll find them living all over the Southwest, anywhere there are cotton fields. They use the cotton for nests and eat the plants, sometimes causing considerable damage to cotton crops. They make trails in the grass where they travel. This photo was taken in Gilbert, AZ.
Photo courtesy of Peter Moulton
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