Desert Animals

American Badger
Taxidea taxus

Bighorn Sheep
Ovis canadensis

Felis rufus

Burrowing Owl
Speotyto unicularia

Canis latrans

Darkling Beetle

Circus cyaneus

Kangaroo Rat
Dipodomys ordii

Pica pica

Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus

Crotalus viridis

Corvus corax

Sage Grouse
Centrocercus phasianus


Side-Blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana

Spadefoot Toad
Spea intermontanus

Bufo boreas

Westblue Butterfly
Brephidium exile

BadgerAmerican Badger
Taxidea taxus

Description: A badger has a distinctive white and black facial mask. It has extremely long and sharp claws which enable it to dig soil very efficiently.

Diet: Feeds primarily on small rodents such as ground squirrels, pocket gophers and kangaroo rats, but will also eat scorpions, insects, snakes, lizards and birds.

Reproduction: Female produces one litter averaging 3 young born in March or early April. The young stay in the den for several weeks. Young leave the family in the fall.

Interesting and Unique: Individuals are solitary, (keep to themselves) Badgers are underground, in burrows, when inactive. Usually will not stay underground for more than 24 hours except during winter.

Bighorn SheepBighorn Sheep
Ovis canadensis

Description: The bighorn is a thick-necked sheep with a creamy white rump. Rams weigh between 125 - 315 pound and stand 3 to 3 ½ feet high at the shoulder. Females are smaller than the rams, between 74 - 200 pounds and 2 ½ to 3 feet at the shoulder. Males support massive coiled horns that spiral back, out and then forward, forming a full curl. Females have shorter, thinner horns.

Diet: often eats grasses, but diet also includes significant amounts of shrubs and forbs.

Reproduction: Female usually produces one offspring. Gestation lasts about 180 days. Young are weaned in 4 to 6 months. Habitat may affect reproductive success. Males engage in serious butting contests in the fall. The sounds of crashing heads can be heard over a mile away.

Interesting and Unique: In the desert Bighorn can survive 10 or more days in summer without drinking. A Bighorn's hooves are well adapted to climbing on rock ledges and cliffs. They have a very hard outer layer with a straight outer edge, with a softer, almost rubbery inner section.

Felis rufus

Description: A bobcat's color varies from a warm tawny brown in the summer to a grayish in the winter. It is recognized by its dark spots (particularly on the legs), its smaller ears and the tip of its tail, which is black only on top.

Diet: Prefers small mammals, such as voles and jackrabbits; will eat invertebrates and carrion

Reproduction: Female produces one litter of 2 to 3 kits. Gestation last 50 - 60 days. Both parents care for the young during their time in the den. Young are weaned when about 2 month of age & stay with their mother until early fall.

Interesting and Unique: In the southern range a second litter of kits may be born in early August. Individuals are solitary except when breeding.

Burrowing OwlBurrowing Owl
Speotyto cunicularia

Description: Small owl with no ear tufts on a rounded head; stubby tail and long legs. Earth brown with white spots on back, wings and crown.

Diet: Feeds primarily on large insects and rodents. Sometimes eats birds and amphibians

Reproduction: Female incubates 6 or 7 eggs for 27 to 30 days. Male provides food during incubation and early nestling stages. Young run and forage after 4 weeks and at 6 weeks they are capable of sustained flight. Female usually produces 1 brood per year.

Interesting & Unique: Nests and roosts in burrow dug by mammal or owl. May mimic a rattlesnake if disturbed. In the summer, this owl is most active in the daylight hours. This owl can be found in our region from March to October. The owl is a ground dweller who occupies burrows dug by badgers and marmots. It migrates south in September or October.

Canis latrans

Description: This dog like creature is larger than a fox but smaller than a wolf. It may weigh up to 50 pounds. It is gray or reddish gray with rust legs, feet and ears, Its underparts are white. It usually has black stripe running down the back and tail.

Diet: feeds on what is available but eats mainly dead animals, small vertebrates (jackrabbits, pocket mice, voles and ground squirrels) and invertebrates; will sometimes feed on vegetation

Reproduction: Gestation lasts 2 months, litter size averages 4 to 7 young. Young are born in the spring and are tended by both parents. Family leaves den when young are 8 to 10 weeks old. Young become independent by late fall.

Interesting and Unique: The coyote runs with its tail held down between its legs. Although it is smaller than a wolf, its ears are larger. The coyote is one of the most adaptive of all animals. It can live in a wide variety of habitats.

Darkling BeetleDarkling Beetle

Description: Darkling beetles are found all across the desert west. They are fast running beetles with a ridged black "shell". The shell is actually made up of two hard wings that protect delicate wings underneath.

Diet: Adults are scavengers, eating mostly dead plants. The larvae eat roots, grasses and other plants.

Reproduction: This beetle goes through a metamorphosis like many other insects. The stages of life are egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

Interesting and Unique: This beetle is sometimes called the desert skunk beetle. When threatened, it will raise up on its back legs to stick its bottom in the air. This is a warning to stay back. For protection, it can emit a bad smelling odor. In foggy and dewy weather, this beetle will lie on its back and collect water from the fog and dew on its legs. The beetle can then drink the water off of its legs.

Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier
Circus cyaneus

Description: This large slender bird of prey can be identified by its noticeable white rump patch. Males are pale gray, and females are brown. They have unique facial disks similar to an owl's.

Diet: Variety of large insects, frogs, toads, lizards, small snakes, mammals and birds; will also feed on carrion

Reproduction: Clutch size varies from 3 - 6 eggs. Female incubates eggs for about a month; male brings food. Young fly at about 30 - 35 days.

Interesting and Unique: Year round resident of Southwest Idaho. Nests on the ground. Flies low when hunting, captures prey on ground.

Kangaroo TRatKangaroo Rat
Dipodomys ordii

Description: Kangaroo rats have extremely long, white hind feet and powerful thighs. The front feet are tiny by comparison. The dark tail, with its bushy tip, is much longer than the body.

Diet: Feeds on seeds may also eat green vegetation, some insects and other arthropods.

Reproduction: Gestation lasts 28 - 32 days. Average litter size is 3. Young reach sexual maturity in about three months. Kangaroo Rats are solitary except during breeding season.

Interesting and Unique: Stores food underground. Nocturnal. The powerful thighs of the Kangaroo Rat enable it to jump up to 6 feet in one bound. Kangaroo Rats produce several litters each year. These animals get the water they need from the food they eat; they do not need a source of water to survive in the desert. Kangaroo Rats serve as an important food source for the animals in the desert.

MagpieBlack-billed Magpie
Pica pica

Description: This long tailed bird has a height of 17 - 22 inches. Its black and white pattern and long tail make it unlike any other bird. It is usually seen in flocks of 6 - 10 birds.

Diet: Eats insects, carrion, mice, snakes, eggs and small birds, some grains and fruits

Reproduction: Female incubates 5 - 8 eggs for 16 - 18 days. Adult pair remains together for several years.

Interesting and Unique: This European (Old World) species of bird entered North America long ago by way of Alaska.

PeregrineFalconPeregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus

Description: The peregrine falcon is one of the larger species of falcons. They are recognizable by their bullet shaped bodies and broad, pointed wings.

Diet: pigeons, shorebirds, ducks and songbirds

Reproduction: Peregrine falcons mate for life. Paired birds often return to the same eyrie (nest) each year. Three to four eggs are laid in the spring. The female raises the chicks.

Interesting and unique: Falcons can spot their prey from a height of 1000 feet. As part of the peregrines falcon's courtship behavior, the male passes prey to the female, often while in flight. To make this maneuver possible, the female rolls over in midair to take food from the male's talons. Fastest flying bird in North America. Can reach speeds of 75 miles per hour and up to 200 mph in a free-fall to catch prey.

Western RattlesnakeWestern Rattlesnake
Crotalus viridis

Description: This snake's length ranges from 15 to 65 inches. The snakes body is usually very stout. It has a triangular head that is wider than the neck. The skin on the snake has dark brown or black, diamond shaped blotches on a lighter background. The rattle is found on the snake's tail. Rattlesnakes may be found in rocky outcrops along canyon rims.

Diet: Eats mainly small mammals such as mice, ground squirrels and rabbits but may also consume birds and lizards

Reproduction: Young are born in the late summer or early fall. Litter size increases with female size. Studies have shown that the level of fat reserves in females will determine whether or not they produce a litter each year or every other year.

Interesting and Unique: The rattle on the snake is a series of dry, flattened, interlocking segments that produces a buzzing sound when shaken. A new segment is added each time the snake sheds its skin, which can occur up to 4 times per year. Rattlesnakes have a set of hollow fangs which fold back along the jaw; these fangs spring forward allowing the snake to immobilize its prey by injecting a poisonous venom. The venom is a mixture of proteins that act on blood and muscle tissue. The snake also has heat sensitive pits on its head which helps it to locate warm-blooded prey.

Corvus corax

Description: You can identify this large black bird by its rounded tail and stout beak. This bird can be found in many areas. In the desert, it nests on cliffs and in trees. Often will rest and sleep with several hundred of its relatives.

Diet: Insects, small mammals, reptiles, frogs, eggs, young and wounded birds, grain, fruit and all types of carrion.

Reproduction: Female incubates 3 - 7 eggs for 18 - 21 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young are tended by both parents and leave nest in 5 - 6 weeks.

Interesting and Unique: Since this bird lacks raptor like feet, it kills its prey with it hard beak.

Sage GrouseSage Grouse
Centrocercus urophasianus

Description: Males weigh 4 to 7 pounds and have a distinctive white and black neckband. Females are smaller (2 - 4 pound range). Sage grouse are mostly a dusky, grayish-brown color - perfect for blending in with the habitat.

Diet: Feeds on sagebrush during the winter. At other times of the year will feed on leaves, blossoms and buds of plants. Also may eat ants and grasshoppers

Breeding and Young: Females incubate 7 - 8 eggs for 25 -27 days. Young are downy and can move about when first hatched. They are tended by the females and can fly when they are 7 - 14 days old. Sage grouse have a distinctive mating ritual. The rituals take place in traditional breeding grounds called "leks." The males spread their plumage, strut, and inflate air sacs located on their breasts. This produces a steady plopping sound. This is done to attract the females and to protect their territory from other males.

Interesting and Unique: This large upland game bird was once abundant in sagebrush habitat, but a loss of habitat is affecting the population of the bird. Males waddle when they walk probably because of their size. Hens walk lightly and evenly. These birds gather in the fall to prepare for their migration to lower elevation wintering grounds.


Description: Scorpions are arachnids. They have eight legs; each leg has tiny claws. They have a hard exoskeleton and not an internal skeleton. The stinger at the end of the tail injects a paralyzing poison into the prey. Scorpions also have a pincher-like appendages used to grab and subdue prey. They range in color from black to brown to tan to red

Diet: insects and small rodents are the main food of this meat-eater

Breeding and Young: Scorpions give birth to large litters of live young, who quickly climb onto the mother's back after birth. The mother cards for the young until they are able to hunt.

Interesting and Unique: These animals have been on earth for over 400 millions years. Scorpions have tiny sensory hairs that protrude from their exoskeleton. Comb-like sensors on the bottom of the body also give the scorpion information about the environment.

Side Blotched LizardSide-Blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana

Description: This small lizard is gray to brown on its body with dark blotches and speckling above. The male has tiny blue spots on the back and orange patches on the throat, front legs and sides of its belly. The female also has the orange patches but they are not as vivid. Behind the forelimb is a bluish or black blotch for which the lizard is named.

Diet: Insects, spiders, scorpions, mites and ticks

Reproduction: Female lays 1 -2 clutches of 3 - 4 eggs in March - August.

Interesting and Unique: It can be active when air temperature is below freezing, if warm rocks in the sunshine can be found. Smallest and one of the most abundant lizards of SW Idaho. Predators include night snakes, striped whipsnakes and raptors.

Spadefoot ToadGreat Basin Spadefoot Toad
Spea intermontanus

Description: This small toad lacks the noticeable bumpy glands and warty skin of its relatives. It has vertical eye pupils, instead of the horizontal eye pupils of true toads. This frog has a black, wedge-shaped "spade" on each hind foot; this spade is used to dig burrows. The body is gray and brown or olive.

Diet: Larvae probably eat algae, organic debris and plant tissue. Adults are known to eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and flies.

Reproduction: Breeding occurs after spring or summer rains. Females lay eggs in small packets containing 20 to 40 eggs; under good conditions, eggs probably hatch in 2 - 3 days. Spadefoots are tadpoles for only a few days. They grow and change very quickly before the water pool dries up. Interesting

Characteristics: Primarily nocturnal animals. Hibernate in the winter and aestivates in the summer. Digs burrows in loose soil or uses burrows made by other animals to escape heat and dry periods. Predators include birds. Adult spadefoots have special skin secretions known to repel predators and cause humans to sneeze.

ToadWestern Toad
Bufo boreas

Description: Color varies from green to brown with a white to cream-colored stripe down the middle of the back.

Diet: Adult eats all types of flying insects and spiders, crayfish, sowbugs and earthworms

Reproduction: Breeding period varies according to conditions, usually occurs February through July. Females deposit an average of 12,000 eggs/clutch; eggs are laid in two strands.

Interesting and Unique: The Western Toad digs burrows in loose soil or uses burrows of small mammals. Hibernation occurs during the winter in cold climates. Birds and garter snakes prey upon adults.

Western Pygmy-Blue Butterfly
Brephidium exile

Description: Tiny. Upperside copper brown with dull blue at the bases of both wings. Underside of hindwing is copper brown with white at the base, fringe mostly white. 3 small black spots near base; row of black spots at outer margin.

Diet: Adults eat flower nectar; caterpillars eat on tumbleweed.

Breeding and Young: Blue green eggs hatch into light green caterpillars. Males patrol over the host plants all day to find receptive females. Females lay eggs all over the host, but mostly on the upperside of leaves.

Interesting and Unique: This butterfly is the smallest butterfly in the Western United States. The species occurs in large numbers, but is easily overlooked. The coming of man and the introduction of weeds has increased its population.

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