Animals of California Deserts

Animals of California Deserts
California's Sonoran and Mojave deserts might appear to be barren and lifeless to the casual observer, but many types of animals survive in their arid conditions. The Mojave Desert covers 25,000 square miles and much of it lies in southeastern California. The Sonoran Desert, another region characterized by hot temperatures and dry weather, lies to the south of the Mojave. Both deserts are home to a surprising number of animal species.


Desert Bighorn Sheep

Mammals of all sizes live in California's deserts, with the largest being ungulates such as the mule deer, pronghorn antelope and desert bighorn sheep. Predators in the desert include the mountain lion, coyote, bobcat, gray fox and the kit fox. The rodent family has representation from species like the porcupine, pocket gopher, deer mouse, pocket mouse, brush mouse, wood rat, kangaroo rat an assortment of squirrels.

The free-tail bat, the California leaf-nosed bat, the Townsend's big-eared bat and the pallid bat and many other bat species survive in these deserts. Other mammals found in California's deserts include the badger, the black-tailed jackrabbit, the desert cottontail, the raccoon, the ringtail and the striped skunk.




Some 40 percent of the terrestrial species of birds found in this country are in just the Sonoran Desert at some point during the year, according to the World Wildlife website. The trademark bird of the California deserts, the roadrunner, hunts rattlesnakes and prefers to run along the ground rather than fly. Quails like the Gambel's quail and California quail frequent the desert. Raptors of the desert include golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and prairie falcons. Owls, hummingbirds, flycatchers, crows, ravens, jays, sparrows, blackbirds, finches and warblers all spend time in California's deserts. Wrens, with the cactus wren and canyon wren among them, do as well.

Reptiles and Amphibians


The western diamondback, the Mojave rattlesnake, the sidewinder and the speckled rattlesnake are among the species of venomous rattlers in California's deserts. Other snakes that live in these ecosystems include the rosy boa, coachwhip, king snake, gopher snake and lyre snake. The desert tortoise is a resident of both these arid landscapes. Lizards such as the horned lizard, desert iguana, chuckwalla, Gila monster and zebra-tailed lizard dwell here. A dozen amphibians exist in the deserts of California. The tiger salamander, the largest kind of salamander in the world that lives on the ground rather than in the water, widespread across these regions.

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