The Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, also called the Desert Bighorn,  is at the top of the "want-to-see" list of many Anza-Borrego visitors.  This animal is endangered due to disease and loss of habitat, but there is a good population in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.


Peninsular bighorns prefer dry and rocky low elevation areas, between 300 and 3500 feet in elevation.  During the summer months desert bighorns are most likely to be seen near sources of water.  Some parts of the desert are closed to people during this time so the Desert Bighorn can have access to water without the fear caused by a human presence.


The bighorn sheep eats many different plants depending upon the season and what is available. 



The mountain lion is the main predator of bighorn sheep, but very weak, ill, old, or very young sheep may be killed by coyotes.


An excellent place to look for bighorn sheep is along the Palm Canyon Trail, at the western edge of Borrego Springs.  You will be very lucky if you see one!

50 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

Mule deer are a commonly-seen large mammal in the higher elevations of the park. 

Mule deer prefer to browse on woody vegetation and leafed plants when they are available, and generally stay in areas that are not far from sources of water.

Deer do most of their foraging around dawn and dusk and are most likely to be seen in the open at these times.  During the main part of the day mule deer will generally bed down in secluded locations not far from their foraging areas.

Mountain lions are the primary natural predator of adult mule deer but bobcats and coyotes may prey upon young or unhealthy animals.

25 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

Coyotes are the ultimate survivors, found in virtually all environments and urban settings across North America, including all of Anza-Borrego. 

Native Americans often portrayed the coyote as cunning and intelligent, and they live up to this image by their adaptability, able to survive with whatever food their environment provides for them. 

They are opportunistic feeders, and their diet will include small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, carrion, fruit, vegetation, domestic animals and small pets, and larger animals if they are impaired or unprotected.

Coyotes are very social animals, and the basic structure is the family group, a female with cubs, an adult male, and perhaps some adolescent animals.  The range of sounds that they make, high pitched and varied, are to call the group together and to communicate their position.

You may see coyotes anywhere in Anza-Borrego, out in the open desert, crossing a highway at the edge of town, or resting at the edge of a golf course.  Coyotes are related to domestic dogs but they are a very different kind of animal.  It is never a good idea to feed a coyote.

25 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

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Although bobcats live throughout Anza-Borrego, they are very secretive, mostly nocturnal animals, and are rarely seen. The average adult bobcat is roughly twice the size of an adult domestic cat.

Bobcats are very adaptable creatures and vary their diet and hunting style to take advantage of whatever the local environment provides.  

Bobcats are exceptional hunters, slowly approaching their prey with great patience, and then making the kill with a final powerful leap. Their preferred prey consists of cottontails and jack-rabbits, rodents, birds, and insects but they are capable of taking animals as large as deer, particularly if they are weakened or young.

40 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

The desert kit fox is the smallest member of the dog family found in North America and common  in the open desert, living in the creosote covered alluvial fans and the sandy washes of Anza-Borrego, where vegetation is sparse.

These foxes are mostly nocturnal, spending the hot part of the day in the underground dens. 

When you see a kit fox for the first time the thing that may seem most striking is the size of their ears.  The oversize ears not only help with hearing but are also an adaptation to assist with cooling.  The desert adaptations do not stop there; these foxes have a digestive system that gets most of the water they need from the food that they eat.  They rarely need to drink water.

Kit foxes feed primarily feed on rodents, rabbits, ground birds, insects, snakes, and lizards. 

If you are lucky you may see a kit fox crossing the road at night, just like the one in this picture!

40 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

The black-tailed jackrabbit is common throughout Anza-Borrego, particularly in the flat scrub desert, and is easily distinguished from the desert cottontail by its long ears and long back legs.

Shrubs, trees grasses, and other vegetation are their preferred foods.  Like many desert animals, the black-tailed jackrabbit gets most of the water it needs from the plants that make up it's diet. 

Jackrabbits spend the hot part of the day resting and keeping cool in shallowed-out depressions in the sand.  Like cottontails, when trying to escape from a threat, the

jackrabbit can run at high speed, up to 30 mph and run in a zig zag pattern. 

It's natural enemies are the same as many other small mammals; coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, owls, and snakes.

15 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

The tiny kangaroo rat gets its name from it's very large and strong back legs and the way it moves around; they hop like a kangaroo and can jump up to six feet in one jump. 

This tiny rodent has adapted perfectly to live in a dry desert environment.  Kangaroo rats do not need to ever drink water in their entire life.  Their body creates water from the dry seeds and other foods that they eat.

The kangaroo rat has a complex system of burrowing; the burrow not only provides a place to hide from predators and the heat of the desert sun, but also has different chambers for caching food, sleeping, and living.

20 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

The antelope squirrel is one of the few animals that is active during the hottest part of the day.  They are frequently seen scurrying from bush to bush with their tail held high over their back. 

Antelope squirrels can tolerate body temperatures up to 108 degrees, the highest of all mammals.  When they do need to cool off they will stretch out, belly pushed flat on the ground in some shady spot with legs extended, to cool as much of their surface area as possible.

Antelope squirrels eat seeds, cactus fruits, other vegetation, and insects.  Their natural enemies include coyotes, bobcats, snakes, foxes, hawks, and owls.

10 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this animal!

There are many different lizards that live in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  The Side-Blotched Lizard is one of the most common ones.  You will see it darting across rocks as you walk along a desert trail.

All reptiles are cold-blooded and they must warm up before they can move very fast.  For this reason you will often see lizards sunning themselves on a rock.

This lizard eats insects, spiders, and scorpions.

The Side-Blotched Lizard is eaten by snakes, other lizards, roadrunners, and birds.

15 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this lizard!

When people think of "animals" they often don't think of anything more than mammals, like sheep and mice, coyotes, and deer. But the term "Animal" is an entire kingdom of creatures and it includes everything from insects to birds, to fish, to reptiles, and those big mammals that usually come to mind.

The very common stink bug sometimes goes by other names ,like the "clown beetle", or the "Pinacate Beetle",  It is often seen wandering the desert floor, especially on warn nights.  When itís very hot or cold,  the stinkbug lives in burrows of kangaroo rats or other rodents.

It eats seeds, and plant and animal debris.  It is eaten by ants, roadrunners, and other birds.

The Stinkbug has glands that give off a smell to help protect it from ants and other desert predators. When disturbed or something comes too close, the Stinkbug will stand on it's head to defend itself, giving a warning that it is about to spray.  Donít be scared of me, I am not harmful.  But don't pick me up, either, because your hands won't smell very good after that!

Harvester ants are the most abundant animal in the desert.  They live in underground nests, and come out and forage when it warms up

Eats: seeds such as creosote seeds, mesquite seed pods, grasses, and also dead insects

Eaten by: spiders, lizards

See it: Look for a mound of sand with the entrance hole, often with a ring of seed husks surrounding the sand mound.

Harvester ants survive by working together and living underground to avoid the harsh desert conditions.  Underground they stay cool, store their food, find water, lay eggs, and avoid predators.  As a result, they are one of the longest-lived insects in the desert. Harvester ants work together in big groups called colonies (can have up to 12,000 ants in a colony) to collect food to feed ant larvae. They store the seeds in chambers near the top of the underground nests where it is dry, that way the seeds do not germinate.  Harvester ants are an important part of the food chain. Please do not harm me.

10 Points in your Exploring Guide if you see this insect!