anza borrego bobcat by daren sefcik










































Bobcat photo by Daren Sefcik:  Daren writes: Ever get that feeling you are being watched? I was out in the middle of nowhere eating my lunch and I look over and see this bobcat fixated on me. He watched me for at least 20 minutes before I moved on. I did not see him move an inch, just stared at me


bighorn sheep anza borrego palm canyon


View 2012 Anza-Borrego Sheep Count Results

The peninsular bighorn sheep is at the top of the "want-to-see" list of many Anza-Borrego visitors.  Listed as a federally endangered species in 1998, this species is found in several parts of Anza-Borrego and the Santa Rosa mountains to the north.  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.  Popular watering areas, such as those along Coyote Creek, are closed to vehicle traffic from June until October to allow the sheep access to water without disturbance.   During the rest of the year, they may be spotted at various locations in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  An excellent place to look is along the Palm Canyon Trail, at the western edge of Borrego Springs.

For the past 42 years, a count of Anza-Borrego's sheep has taken place over the fourth of July weekend, utilizing volunteers positioned at watering sites, to count the number of sheep coming to drink.  It's a tough assignment, hiking in to a remote location in mid-summer with temperatures that can reach 115 degrees. But the annual sheep count plays an important role in monitoring the health of Anza-Borrego's bighorn population.

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.

The nighttime yipping and yelping of coyotes is a common sound throughout Anza-Borrego and coyotes are frequently seen, both traversing the open desert and walking through residential areas. 

Coyotes are the ultimate survivors, found in virtually all environments and urban settings across North America.  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.

Coyotes do not hunt in packs like wolves but they do often will hunt in pairs.  In situations where they encounter humans on a regular basis they will loose their fear of humans and pay little attention.  But dependence on humans is not something to be encouraged, and as fascinating as they may be, it is never a good idea to put food out for the coyotes. 

Kit foxes are often seen in the headlights, crossing the road as you drive through the desert.

The desert kit fox is the smallest member of the canidae 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. 

Kit foxes are not nearly as vocal as coyotes, but they will bark to communicate with pups or when they feel that their den is threatened.


Although there is a good population of bobcats throughout Anza-Borrego, their solitary, stealthy, and mostly nocturnal nature means they are not frequently seen. The average adult bobcat is roughly twice the size of an adult domestic cat.

Like the coyote, 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.

This photo of an Anza-Borrego bobcat was taken by Jason Rothmeyer, who just happened to have the camera ready when this cat took a look as it was passing by

More Information:

UC Davis Veterinary Medicine

Mountain Lion Project

Mountain lions feed primarily on deer and they can be found wherever there are healthy deer populations.  In Anza-Borrego, mountain lions also feed on bighorn sheep, and there are many documented cases of sheep kills in the park.

The UC Davis Veterinary Medicine program has sponsored a mountain lion project in southern California since 2001, capturing lions using road-killed deer as bait, and then releasing them with radio collars to track their movements.  These large cats can have very large hunting territories;  one Anza-Borrego cat roamed an area that extended from the mountains south of Palm Springs to south of the Mexican border.

Mountain lions are extremely secretive in their movements and normally have an natural aversion to humans.  They rarely disclose their position.  But if you do see one in the wild, with males weighing up to 150 pounds, you are best to follow the advice of the Mountain Lion Federation: "If you see a mountain lion, no matter how thrilled you are to be one of the very few gets such an opportunity, stay well back, and take the encounter seriously." 

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 of the small mammals found on this page, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, owls, and snakes.

The desert cottontail is most active in the morning and late afternoon, and is a common sight around Borrego Springs, often feeding in large groups as the sun is going down.

Food consists of grasses and other vegetation, and these rabbits rarely need to drink water, obtaining most of what they need from the foods that they eat.  Like most other rabbits and hares, desert cottontails eat their feces, giving their bodies a second chance to glean the maximum nutrition out of the plant materials that they consume.

The desert cottontail has many predators in Anza-Borrego, including coyotes, bobcats, birds of prey, and  snakes.

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.

Diet consists of seeds, cactus fruits, other vegetation, and insects.

With powerful and large back legs, the tiny kangaroo rat gets its name from the way it moves around; they hop like a kangaroo, 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: they metabolize 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.