Petrified Forest National Park Mammals in Depth

Mammals are a diverse group of animals, ranging from the delicate white-footed mouse to the elegant mule deer. Mammals have fur or hair, produce milk for their offspring, and are warm-blooded. In the often extreme climate of the plateau country, animals use such survival strategies as hiding in their burrows or migration as well as physiological adaptations like hollow hairs for insulation. Many animals in arid regions are nocturnal, using the cooler night to survive the heat of summer or the darkness of the late hours to escape notice of predators. Many of the mammals found in Petrified Forest National Park are rodents, a mainstay prey for many predators of the region. Early morning is the best time to view mammals while in the park.

Do not approach, feed, or harass any wildlife in Petrified Forest or any other national park area.


Coyotes are the ubiquitous symbol of the west. This gray and tawny predator is a member of the canine family. The main job of the coyote is controlling rodents, which make up a large percentage of its diet. It is a true omnivore, eating whatever it can find including fruits, reptiles, insects, small mammals, birds, and carrion. Coyotes are often seen crossing the park roads early in the morning.


Pronghorn are not antelope although the name has been historically applied to this elegant animal. They are actually the sole living member of an ancient family of animals, Antilocapradae . The fastest mammal in North America, pronghorn can sprint up to 60 mph. They are frequently seen in the park's grasslands, traveling alone or in small herds. Opportunistic foragers, pronghorn feed on forbs, shrubs, grasses, juniper, and sometimes even cacti. During late spring into summer, look for the gangly offspring of the pronghorn shadowing their mothers. Gunnison's Prairie Dog Prairie dogs, members of the rodent family, live in large colonies or "towns". Each town is divided into areas called wards, which are further divided into social groups called coteries consisting of an adult male, several females, and their offspring.

As they browse for forbs and grasses, guards watch for danger. The guards' high-pitched cries announce the approach of predators sending the town's inhabitants running for their burrows. Prairie dogs are a favorite food of many predators in the park, including coyotes, hawks, golden eagles, foxes, badgers, and bobcats. Pallid Bat Pallid bats, one of the many bat species found in the Southwest, are best recognized for their pale blond fur and pink faces. As insectivores, they are an important part of the environment, eating hundreds of arthropods during the night, including beetles, centipedes, moths, cicadas, praying mantises, grasshoppers, crickets, and even scorpions. Their acrobatic flight is a pleasure to watch. Ord's Kangaroo Rat Ord's kangaroo rat is the epitome of desert survivors.

They never drink water; the dry seeds that they eat metabolize to provide the moisture needed within their body. Specialized kidneys allow the disposal of waste with very little loss of water. Nocturnal, they are often seen crossing roads at night, balancing with their furry tails as they hop on elongated hind legs. Black-tailed Jackrabbit Black-tailed jackrabbits are hares, not rabbits. Unlike cottontails, jackrabbits don't build nests, the young are born with eyes wide open and ready to go. Coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and golden eagles are among the many predators of jackrabbits. To escape, jackrabbits dash away in an explosion of speed, their zigzagging route broken by long leaps. They can sometimes be seen resting in the shade of a sage or saltbush. In the heat of summer their ears act as air-conditioners; blood vessels in the long, thin ears disappating heat into the surrounding air. The list below features only a few of the many species of mammals in the park.

Coyote Canis latrans

Gray fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Swift fox Vulpes velox

Bobcat Lynx rufus (Felis rufus)

Mule deer Odocoileus hemionus

Pronghorn Antilocapra americana

Ringtail Bassariscus astutus

Raccoon Procyon lotor

Badger Taxidea taxus

Striped skunk Mephitis mephitis

Western spotted skunk Spilogale gracilis

Black-tailed jackrabbit Lepus californicus

Desert cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii

Desert shrew Notiosorex crawfordi

Pallid bat Antrozous pallidus

Townsend's big-eared bat Corynorhinus townsendii (Plecotus townsendii)

California myotis Myotis californicus

Fringed myotis Myotis thysanodes

Yuma myotis Myotis yumanensis

Western pipistrelle Pipistrellus hesperus

Porcupine Erethizon dorsatum

Gunnison's prairie dog Cynomys gunnisoni

White-tailed antelope squirrel Ammospermophilus leucurus

Spotted ground squirrel Spermophilus spilosoma

Rock squirrel Spermophilus variegatus

Botta's pocket gopher Thomomys bottae

White-throated woodrat Neotoma albigula

Bushy-tailed woodrat Neotoma cinerea

Mexican woodrat Neotoma mexicana

Stephens' woodrat Neotoma stephensi

Ord's kangaroo rat Dipodomys ordii

Silky pocket mouse Perognathus flavus

Northern grasshopper mouse Onychomys leucogaster

Brush mouse Peromyscus boylii

Canyon mouse Peromyscus crinitis

White-footed mouse P eromyscus leucopus

Deer mouse P eromyscus maniculatus

Pinon mouse Peromyscus truei

Western harvest mouse Reithrodontomys megalotis

House mouse Mus musculus

Please remember Petrified Forest is a national park and federal law protects everything within its boundary. Animals and plants are a natural part of the park. You are in their home; please respect them.

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