Prescott area wildlife

By Maria Johnson
Staff Writer

From golden grasslands to thick ponderosa forests spotted with aspens, Prescott’s diverse landscape supports a large variety of wildlife. With more than 450 miles of trails surrounding these natural areas, some lucky explorers may catch a glimpse of an intriguing scaly, furry or feathered critter. Here are a few of the creatures one may encounter in the area:

Mule Deer: Residing in all local areas, these mammals are perfectly camouflaged in the Prescott landscape. Fawns are born in May through June, so keep your eyes open for newborns and their mothers, primarily at dawn and dusk.

Collared Peccary: Almost always smelled before they are seen, these strange creatures, also known as javelina, can be seen traveling in herds of six to 12. They feed largely on prickly pear cacti (or your garden) and can be seen in the mornings and evenings in cooler weather. Observe quietly from a distance — these animals are easily startled and can be aggressive when threatened.

Bobcat: These fuzzy kitties are twice the size of a typical house cat, and are wild predators. Their range includes the entire US, with Prescott included. Chances of seeing one are slim; however, fresh tracks in the dirt indicate their elusive feline presence.

Great Horned Owl: With a four-foot wingspan and a height of nearly two feet, these large, yellow-eyed owls are often heard hooting throughout the night. While hiking, do not forget to look up — this species likes large trees such as cottonwoods and enjoys residing in the abandoned nests of ravens or red-tailed hawks.

Great Blue Heron: These elegant birds are the largest of the North American herons and can be seen wading in bodies of water silently stalking their prey of fish and other small animals. With a wingspan of almost six feet, these birds are easier to spot gliding above as they are often well-hidden within the riparian areas in which they live.

Acorn Woodpecker: Groups of these animated red-headed birds are commonly seen nesting in dead trees in ponderosa forests. They collect acorns, their primary food source, and store them in granaries of individually-drilled holes in trees. These trees may hold up to 50,000 acorn stashes.

Eastern Collared Lizard: A rainbow of a reptile, the eastern collared lizard is a medium-sized lizard often seen basking in the sun on warmer days. When at top speed, this species can actually lift up its front legs and take off running on only its hind limbs.

Short-Horned Lizard: Stare at the ground while you walk to find this plump little critter — often near anthills in wide-open grasslands. It calmly basks in the morning sunshine. Approach cautiously: This little guy squirts blood from his eyes when frightened by predators.

Mexican Spadefoot Toad: After several months spent buried underground, these toads emerge with the arrival of summer monsoon rains. Follow their croaks at night to find them in damp and warm habitats.

This article appeared in the April 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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