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
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
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
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
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.
A Food Web
is a way to show how each living thing gets food, and how nutrients and energy
are passed from creature to creature. Food chains begin with plant-life.
Plants need the energy from the sun to make their food and grow.
Plants are called producers.
They get energy from the sun and make (produce) their own food to grow.
Animals are called consumers
because they cannot make their own food, they need to consume other forms of
life to stay alive.
There are different kinds of consumers.
Herbivores are animals that just eat
plants. Carnivores are animals that
eat animals, and Omnivores
eat both plants and animals. When things die, they decay. They decay
because they are eaten by microscopic ( so small you cannot see them) forms of
life like bacteria and fungi. These forms of life are called
A very simple food web is shown below.
If Mountain Lions just eat other animals why do they need
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.
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!
The tinykangaroo 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.
The antelope squirrelis 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
Antelope squirrels eat seeds, cactus fruits, other vegetation, and insects.
Their natural enemies include coyotes, bobcats, snakes, foxes, hawks, and
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
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
Harvester ants are the most abundant animal in the desert. They
live in underground nests, and come out and forage when it warms up
such as creosote seeds, mesquite seed pods, grasses, and also dead
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.