No doubt, the desert is an extraordinary place.
All around you is a striking landscape that varies wherever your head turns. Soaring mountain ranges. Deep desert valleys. Chiseled canyons. Lush palm oases.
But, you know what else abounds here? Some pretty fascinating creatures!
Here are some of our favorite animals that we share the desert with. Since these animals have more than 600,000 acres to roam in, consider yourself lucky if you spot any of them while exploring Anza Borrego:
Desert Bighorn Sheep
The endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep is the animal that visitors most want to see when they’re in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. And, we can’t blame them. This beautiful creature mostly lingers on rocky low elevation areas and near water sources during the summer months. The park deliberately closes portions of the desert so that the sheep can get to these water sources without fear of human visitors. While the bighorn is endangered mostly due to loss of habitat and disease, there is a great population of them in the protected park.
Want to see one? Here’s a secret tip: A good place to spot one is along Palm Canyon Trail, just at the west edge of Borrego Springs.
Definitely one of the cutest creatures of the night, the desert kit fox is North America’s smallest member of the dog family. Don’t expect to see kit foxes during any of your day adventures as they spend the hottest parts of the day in their underground dens. Most surprising about the kit fox is the striking size of its ears, which is a desert adaptation that allows them to stay cool. Another amazing adaptation for desert survival is their ability to glean most of the water they need from the food they digest. In fact, they rarely have to drink water!
The most elusive animal of the desert, the secretive bobcat usually hunts at night and is rarely spotted. About double the size of a domestic cat, bobcats are pretty adaptable, and can vary their hunting style and diet with any given environment.
They’re best known for being outstanding predators. They approach their prey slowly and patiently than pounce for the kill in a powerful leap. Their usual targets are jackrabbits, birds, insects and rodents.
Black Tailed Jackrabbit
If you see a shooting blur of ears dashing past you in the desert bushes, then you may have just spotted the black-tailed jackrabbit. They’re pretty common throughout the Anza Borrego Desert, and are most recognized for its extremely long back legs and oversized ears. Like most desert animals, they get most of their water from the plants they eat, including shrubs, grass and trees.
During the hottest parts of the day, the jackrabbit will spend its time resting in cool, shallow depressions in the sand. And, just like cottontail rabbits, the jackrabbit has the ability to run at a super speed of up to 30mph when it feels threatened. Most of the time, they’ll run off in a zig zag pattern. Don’t bother trying to capture this on camera. It’ll happen so fast, so better to just enjoy the brief interaction as is.
The ultimate survivors, coyotes can survive in almost any North American environment, whether stark deserts, lush mountains, or urban cities.
Not only are coyotes intelligent and cunning, they’re also very social creatures and live in basic family structures consisting of an adult male and female and cubs. Their varied and high-pitched sounds are usually to call their group together and to establish the position they hold in their family. You have the highest probability of spotting a coyote more than any other animal throughout your time in the desert. They can be found almost anywhere – in the open desert, across a highway, or sitting at the edge of a golf course.
Mule deer are usually spotted in higher elevations of the desert where they forage on woody vegetation and leafed plants around dawn and dusk. During the hottest parts of the day, mule deer will usually rest in secluded areas not too far from where they forage and from water sources.
One of the few desert animals that is actually active during the heat of the day is the antelope squirrel. You’ll usually find them dashing from bush to bush with their tail held high arching over their backs. Their bodies tolerate temperatures of up to 108 degrees. In fact, this is the highest temperature tolerance of all mammals! They’ll stay out in the heat while collecting food until their bodies reach the max temperature, then they’ll rest in the shade and stretch their body on a cool surface until their temperature is lowered. You’ll find them nibbling on their favorite foods of cactus fruits, insects and seeds.
When the animals of Anza Borrego venture out at night, you can retreat into the sumptuous rooms at La Casa del Zorro for a night of delicious dining and decadent sleep.