mammals, 1993-2010

January 5, 2011

I had expected to insert the birds post prior to these mammals, but now I think I’ll postpone the birds post until I’ve accumulated more photos to justify it.

There are plenty of mammal species I’ve seen for which I did not or could not obtain a good photo.  I’ll mention some of those.  Have seen plenty of mule deer, jackrabbits, rock squirrels, voles and kangaroo rats.  Have seen a few red foxes, coyotes, yellow-bellied marmots, pikas.  Have twice seen a bushy-tailed woodrat, both times at night while peddling a bike in the Wasatch Mtns.  Have twice seen ermine–one brown-coated in summer & one white-coated in winter.  Have twice seen utah prairie dogs in SW Utah.  Have seen three badgers, but only one of those was alive.  Have seen just one ringtail–in Zion National Park.  Have seen only one black bear in Utah–in the Abajo Mtns, reclining up in a ponderosa pine we had walked directly beneath a couple minutes earlier.  In Canyonlands National Park once in late summer, while I sat quietly on a campground’s picnic table at midnight, a kit fox calmly strolled across the middle of the campsite, just a few feet away.  Have seen several moose, and some very skittish elk.  Still no bobcat, mountain lion, sasquatch.

My favorite mammal to discover was probably the javelina (“peccary”) in Arizona.  That was summer, 2004, in southern Arizona, and I neglected to photograph any of them.  I wish they lived farther north so I could see them–and hear their funny chattering amongst themselves–more often.

I’ll include here some more or less ‘domestic’ species, too.

Actually this first species shown below is not native to Utah.  Mountain goats’ introduction into Utah’s mountains occurred in the 1960s.

mountain goats, adult profile, Wasatch Mtns

late July 1993, mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), adult profile, trail to Mt Timpanogos summit, Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT


mountain goats, curious kid, Wasatch Mtns

late July 1993, mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), curious kid, trail to Mt Timpanogos summit, Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT


desert bighorn sheep, Arches National Park

late Nov 1993, desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni), Arches National Park, Grand Co, UT


horse, lonely gelding, House Range

late July 2005, horse (Equus caballus), lonely gelding, House Range, Millard Co, UT

This horse seemed to have been retired to the wild by its owner.  It approached me as though glad to see a person, unlike the very wary & skittish wild horses that also frequent this mountain range.  Perhaps a wild stallion would attack him in any encounter?


wild horses, Paradise/White Rock Mtns

late April 2006, wild horses (Equus caballus), stallion & harem, Paradise/White Rock Mtns, Iron Co, UT

This is as close as I’ve come to wild horses.  Notice they are watching me with suspicion.  This range and the House Range are places I’ve visited in western Utah where wild horse density seems especially high.


cattle, Black Mtns

mid May 2006, cattle (Bos taurus), Black Mtns, Iron Co, UT

Our public lands also support this species, which is good at severely altering the landscape where it congregates at high density, as here.  This is on Bureau of Land Management land.


runaway horse, paved road, Deep Creek Mtns

late Aug 2006, runaway domestic horse (Equus caballus), paved road, Deep Creek Mtns foothills, Tooele Co, UT

This horse seemed grumpy and was purposefully stomping down the middle of the road.  It continued that after I passed.


desert woodrat, Deep Creek Mtns

late Aug 2006, desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida), Deep Creek Mtns, Juab Co, UT


Different photo of same specimen above:

desert woodrat, head-on, Deep Creek Mtns

late Aug 2006, desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida), head-on, Deep Creek Mtns, Juab Co, UT


cliff chipmunk, Canyon Mtns

early Sept 2009, cliff chipmunk (Neotamias dorsalis), Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT


uinta ground squirrel, Wasatch Mtns

mid Aug 2010, uinta ground squirrel (Spermophilus armatus), Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT


cattle, Great Basin National Park

late Aug 2010, cattle (Bos taurus), Great Basin National Park, White Pine Co, NV

Our national park land also supports some of these.


white-tailed prairie dog, McCoy Flat

early Sept 2010, white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus), McCoy Flat area, Uintah Co, UT

I found a large colony of these along a dirt road, in very nondescript habitat.  Burrow entrances were extremely dense.  Makes me wonder what has erased this species from similar habitat where it does not occur now.  I can surely understand how natural predators’ densities might be higher in areas where healthy populations of this species occur.


pronghorn, adult male, Deadman Bench

early Sept 2010, pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), adult male, Deadman Bench area, Uintah Co, UT

At the end of the Pleistocene, 3 of the 4 genera of western-North American pronghorns became extinct.  We have just one of those 4 left now.  Learn about this, and other nifty facts involving the recently decreased faunal diversity of the Great Basin, here in this great book:  The Desert’s Past: a natural prehistory of the Great Basin, by Donald K. Grayson, 1993, ISBN 1560982225.

It’s interesting to consider how most of the mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants that live in the western USA used to share habitat with so many additional large mammalian species (very recently, in evolutionary history) that became extinct 10,000-30,000 years ago.  There are evolutionary adaptations that persist in some living species that are no longer needed to coexist efficiently among the remaining mammal species.  For example, it has been argued that our current pronghorn can run much faster than required to outrun its current predators.  But if the North American cheetahs (Miracynonyx) were still around, such speed would be quite useful.  For details, see this bookAmerican pronghorn: social adaptations & the ghosts of predators past, by John Alexander Byers, 1998, ISBN 0226086992.


desert cottontail, Asphalt Ridge

early Sept 2010, desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), Asphalt Ridge area, Uintah Co, UT