Fauna of the Canyons and Mountains
The many ecosystems of our canyons and mountains support a rich diversity of animal life. Longtime residents of Palm Springs wouldn't feel at home without seeing an occasional coyote crossing the road, and sighting a mountain lion is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for lucky hikers. As untrammeled development kills off habitat for smaller creatures, our top predators, like mountain lions and golden eagles, are pushed toward extinction. Click the animals' names to open a Wikipedia article in a new tab or window.
Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)
The apex predator of our canyons, the mountain lion (also known as cougar or puma) is the fourth largest cat in the world. An adept climber, it can also sprint up to 35 mph. The World Conservation Union lists it as "near threatened".
Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni)
Able to go for long periods without water, this species is listed as "conservation dependent". Weighing up to 200 lbs, they are agile climbers. Conservation efforts have doubled the population since 1960.
Coyote (Canis latrans)
Well known for its nocturnal serenades, the coyote is a familiar sight in open desert throughout Palm Springs. At about 20 lbs, the local population is smaller than its northern cousins, despite its versatility as a hunter.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Famous for its tufted ears, desert bobcats have the lightest colored coats in their species. A solitary hunter, it will prey on anything from insects to deer. Hunting at dawn and dusk, sighting a bobcat is a treat for canyon hikers.
Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)
Common throughout North America, the kit fox has a grey/red coat and weighs only 5 lbs. Hunting nocturnally, it lives on small prey, ranging from rabbits to insects. Pups are born in the spring.
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis)
This majestic raptor has a wingspan averaging over seven feet and can carry off prey ranging from mice to lambs and young deer. Mating for life, they hunt in pairs, returning to an eyrie that may be over six feet in diameter.
Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
Its curved bill well adapted to foraging for insects, this friendly bird can be recognized by its loud, rattling cry. Lifelong pairs build nests in barrel cactus, cholla and yucca plants, enjoying the natural protection of the plants' spines.
Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Rarely resorting to flight, this most iconic desert dweller can run at speeds of up to 15 mph. A member of the cuckoo family, it preys on reptiles, rodents and insects, sometimes sporting a half-digested snake dangling from its bill.
Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)
Spending 95% of its life in a cool, underground burrow, this herbivore lives on grasses, herbaceous plants and cactus shoots and fruit. Listed as 'vulnerable', it is illegal to touch, harass or harm this gentle creature.
All photos credit: Tom Brewster Photography unless otherwise specified. Animal photos courtesy of Wikipedia.