Death Valley National Park covers over 3 million acres of western desert terrain. The habitat varies from saltpan below sea level to the sub-alpine conditions found on the summit of Telescope Peak, which rises to 11,049 feet. Vegetation zones include creosote bush, desert holly, and mesquite at the lower elevations and sage up through shadscale, blackbrush, Joshua tree, pinyon-juniper, to limber pine and bristlecone pine woodlands.
Annual precipitation varies from 1.90 inches below sea level to over 15 inches in the higher mountains that surround the valley.
The saltpan is devoid of vegetation, and the rest of the valley floor and lower slopes have sparse cover, yet where water is available, an abundance of vegetation is usually present. These zones and the adjacent desert support a variety of wildlife species, including 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians, and five species and one subspecies of native fishes (Hansen 1972 and 1973; Landye 1973).
Small mammals are more numerous than large mammals, such as desert bighorn, coyote, bobcat, mountain lion, and mule deer. Mule deer are present in the pinyon/juniper associations of the Grapevine, Cottonwood, and Panamint Mountains.