Mammals and Reptiles
Welcome to the animal world of Pinnacle Peak. The park environment is an ideal habitat for a variety of creatures. Boulders, crevices, burrows and ground holes provide shelter from predators and temperature extremes. The native cactus, trees and shrubs provide both protection from the elements and predators, and food and moisture for many creatures living within the park. All desert animals have developed a variety of survival skills and physical adaptations to prosper in the arid conditions of the Sonoran Desert.
White-throated Woodrat - Neotoma albigula
Pinnacle Peak is home to various rodents, but the rodent with the most notoriety is the White-throated Woodrat, commonly known as a Packrat. These curious critters collect various items of interest and store them in their nests. Some nests are several thousand years old and are often composed of cactus spines and sticks at the base of trees or in rock crevices. Packrats eat a variety of seeds and cacti.
Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
This large cat, (up to 9 feet) also called Puma or Cougar, is solid in color and has a small head in relation to the rest of the body. It has a very long tail that is held low. A Puma is a solitary animal that tends to prey upon Mule Deer, Javelina, coyotes and rabbits. They are known to hunt in day or evening, stalk to within 30 feet, and deliver a fatal bite to the back of the victim's neck.
Bobcat - Lynx rufus
Bobcats are frequently seen at Pinnacle Peak Park. They have a short stubby tail, broad cheek ruff and tufted ears. A Bobcat usually does not get larger than 25 pounds, but often looks larger because of its long legs. Bobcat prey includes cottontail rabbits and other small animals. Bobcats will also consume young Javelina or Deer.
Coyote - Canis latrans
This omnivorous desert dog can leap nearly 15 feet, so do not be surprised if you see a coyote balanced on top of a 6 or 7 foot wall! Coyotes are very vocal and can sometimes be heard yipping, howling and barking. They are very adaptable animals and have learned to live quite well in both rural and city settings. Coyotes are opportunists and eat a variety of animal and plant life. They help keep rodent and rabbit populations in check.
Gray Fox - Urocyon cinereoargenteus
The Gray Fox weighs from 7 to 14 pounds and is gray on its back and reddish on its sides. The tail is long and full with a black mane on the top. The Gray Fox is the only canine in North America that has retained its tree-climbing abilities from its ancestors millions of years ago. The Gray Fox is primarily active from dusk to dawn and its diet consists of smaller mammals including Desert Cottontails, Rats, Mice, and a variety of plant materials.
Mule Deer- Odocoileus hemionus
Mule Deer, also known as Black-tailed Deer, have excellent sight, hearing and sense of smell. Their ears are large and mulelike, hence the name. Rather than leap, these deer stot when fleeing, with all four hooves hitting the ground in unison. These deer graze on a variety of desert plant life including grass and the new growth of shrubs and trees.
Javelina- Tayassu tajacu
Contrary to popular belief, the Javelina or Collared Peccary is not a pig. The fact is Javelinas and pigs belong to separate zoological families! Despite poor vision, these mammals are able to identify members of their herd due to scent glands on their backs, which emit a strong cheesy odor. They are primarily herbivores and consume prickly pear cacti, thorns and all. They also dig for tubers and roots of other plant material. The babies are called "reds."
Desert Cottontail - Sylvi lagus audubonii
These rabbits are a food source of larger predatory animals including Pumas, Bobcats, Coyotes and Gray Foxes and snakes. The Cottontail is able to confuse predators by fleeing in a zig-zag running pattern. Cottontails tend to eat a variety of available plant life including cacti.
Rock Squirrel - Spermophilus variegates
This large squirrel can be seen year-round scampering over boulders in the park. Hawks, Bobcats, Coyotes, Gray Foxes and Rattlesnakes are its major predator. The Rock Squirrel varies in size from 17 to 21 inches and has a long bushy tail. It navigates over bushes and into tree branches to feed on a variety of foods including mesquite seeds.
Harris' Antelope Squirrel - Ammospermophilus harrisii
This small, omnivorous squirrel up to 9 inches, has a white stripe on each side of its body and positions its bushy tail in a parasol-like fashion to create shade on its back. Because of this, the squirrel can be seen in full sunlight during the hottest days of the year as it forages for food. This squirrel prefers to eat the fruit and seeds of cactus and plants but will eat insects as well. Onlookers are often amazed at how this tiny mammal can crawl over dangerous thorns on cactus to get to the prized fruit!
Desert Tortoise - Gopherus agassizii
These land dwellers can grow to over a foot in length. They can also live for many decades and it is believed that some Desert Tortoises have lived a full century! They eat desert grass, leaves, flowers and cacti fruit. Tortoises are able to obtain moisture from the food they consume, but will drink rainwater if the opportunity arises. Tortoises can also metabolize dry grass. Not only is it against the law to pick up a Desert Tortoise, it is life threatening to them; human contact frightens the tortoise into releasing stored moisture, therefore putting it at risk of dehydration. The current Desert Tortoise population is in steep decline due to habitat loss, off-road vehicle use and disease.
Gila Monster - Heloderma suspectum
This beautiful lizard, beaded in appearance, is one of two known venomous lizards in the world. Do not be afraid of their painful bite, however, because chances are, only people who try to touch or pick them up deservedly get bitten. This lizard can grow as large as 24 inches in length. Contrary to what one might think, the conspicuous patterns and black and orange coloring provide excellent camouflage when the Gila Monster is hiding, resting or securing prey beneath shrubs; the leaves and branches of desert shrubs cast shadows onto the desert floor that are similar to the pattern and colors on the lizard's body! Gila Monsters gorge during spring on nestlings, eggs, and small mammals, including baby rabbits. Food fats and proteins are stored in their fat, stubby tails. Gila Monsters spend the majority of their lives (90%+) in subterranean shelters.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake - Crotalus atrox
This venomous snake can grow up to 7 feet long. It is seen in the spring, summer, and fall months. Be aware, however, that rattlesnakes can be encountered during any month of the year. The diamond shaped patterns on the back and the black and white striped banding near the rattle characterize the Western Diamondback. Rattlesnakes eat a variety of rodents and rabbits.
Black-tailed Rattlesnake - Crotalus molossus
The Black-tailed Rattlesnake can grow up to 4 feet in length. Although it has some similar markings to the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Black-tailed Rattlesnake gets its common name from its black tail. This Rattlesnake also has vivid patterning contrasts of green, olive, gold and black, leading to the belief that it is the most beautiful Rattlesnake! Hikers often describe, "the beautiful, green Rattlesnake," they had seen along the trail. The Black-tailed Rattlesnake eats a variety of rodents and rabbits.
Gopher Snake - Pituophis melanoleucus
These non-venomous snakes are sometimes mistaken for Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes because they look a little like them. They also mimic rattlesnake behavior when feeling threatened. The Sonoran Gopher will coil up, flatten its head, hiss, strike and shake a rattle-less tail as a show to deter predators! This valuable snake helps keep rabbit and rodent populations in check.
Common Kingsnake - Lampropeltis getula
This beautiful, non-venomous snake has black and white to-yellow banding throughout its length, which helps it to blend into the shadows underneath shrubs and plants while looking for small prey such as mice, lizards and birds. The Kingsnake will also eat snakes (including Rattlesnakes)! The Kingsnake uses constriction to kill its prey.
Coral Snake- Micruroides euryxanthus
Venomous Western Coral Snakes are related to Cobras and Mambas. Interestingly enough, however, there have been no recorded deaths from the bite of this thin, diminutive snake that seldom grows longer than 20 inches! The small, head holds fangs a mere, 1/3 of an inch long! The Coral Snake has a black head followed by complete bands of alternating yellow, red, yellow, black, yellow, red, yellow, black. Coral snakes eat tiny Blind Snakes and lizards.
Western Shovel-nosed Snake - Chionactis occipitalis
The Western Shovel-nosed snake, is not venomous, but is sometimes mistaken to be a Coral Snake because of coloring and length. Take note that the Shovel-nosed Snake is yellowish to off-white with alternating "saddles" of red and black coloring on its back. It does not have a black head. This snake eats a variety of insects, spiders and scorpions.
Coachwhip - Urocyon cinereoargenteus
These diurnal, non-venomous snakes are commonly called "red racers" because they appear to move quickly. They can also reach lengths of 7 feet! When threatened, Coachwhips will strike and bite repeatedly. Coachwhip prey includes rodents, birds, eggs and insects. Coachwhips can be seen crossing roads during the heat of the day in the summer.
Chuckwalla - Sauromalus obesus
These large lizards can grow up to 17 inches and are often mistaken for Gila Monsters because of their size and because some have red pattering on their bodies. Unlike Gila Monsters, Chuckwallas tend to have dark, solid-colored heads, long, slender tails and plenty of loose, folding skin. Males tend to have pale, yellow tails. Chuckwallas bask in the sun's warmth on rocks near crevices. When threatened, these lizards retreat into rock crevices and fill their lungs by gulping air. This causes the loose skin around the neck and body to inflate. Once the Chuckwalla is expanded and wedged into the crevice, it is difficult for a predator to extract it. These lizards are herbivores and feed on a variety of desert shrubs and flowers.
Desert Spiny Lizard – Sceloporus magister
These bulky lizards can get as large as 12 inches. They are bold, feisty and territorial and they tend to chase or eat unlucky lizards or insects that enter their territories. Spineys are even known to do pushups if a human being enters their territory. Desert Spiny Lizards have scales that take on a raised appearance. Mostly gray, they have black patches on their shoulders and males may have green and blue coloring on their throats and undersides. Females develop red coloring on their head during breeding season.
Sonoran Whiptail Lizard - C. Sonorae
The cryptic coloring of Whiptails helps conceal them from predators and they are often overlooked until they move. Whiptails, either striped or spotted are small lizards, up to 10 inches in length, with slender tails that are longer than their body. Many species of these lizards are all females that are able to reproduce clones of themselves. Whiptails eat insects and tiny lizards.