Animals of the Area:
Nevada's most famous animal is the bighorn sheep. It is the
official state animal. You can often see these magnificent animals near Hoover
Dam. Adult males, called rams, weigh from 150 to 200 pounds. Females, called
ewes, are somewhat smaller. Baby sheep are called lambs and are normally born in
May or June. Bighorn sheep are surefooted animals that can swiftly climb the
mountains in which they live. They use their speed to escape from predators,
such as mountain lions. Bighorns are brown to grayish-brown with white rumps.
Rams have large, curled horns. Ewes have smaller, straight horns.
Bighorns normally travel in herds, led by the oldest ewe. Rams separate from
the herd during the summer months. The males return to join the ewes and lambs
in the fall. All bighorn sheep have horns that grow throughout the animal's
life. As the sheep grow older their horns grow distinct rings, one for each
year. Counting these growth rings will tell you the bighorn sheep's age. Bighorn
sheep can live as long as 14 years. Telling the age of a ram is easier than
determining the age of a ewe. This is because the horns of a ram are larger than
a ewe's and have more growth during the year. Therefore, the rings on a ram's
horns are larger and more distinct.
(Bighorn sheep photos)
Coyotes are carnivores, or meat eaters. Coyotes are gray or
rusty gray with white throats and bellies. Adult coyotes weigh between 20 and 50
pounds. They are fast runners and can easily outrun any human. When running, the
coyote holds its tail between its hind legs.
In southern Nevada, the coyotes usually eat rodents, rabbits, lizards and
birds. Coyotes will eat berries if there is no other food available. They will
also eat animals that have been killed by automobiles and whatever food they can
find in garbage dumps.
ANTELOPE GROUND SQUIRREL
You can identify the antelope ground squirrel by the white
lines running down each side of its gray body. Its cousin, the chipmunk, lives
at Mount Charleston. Antelope ground squirrels are well adapted to southern
Nevada's desert climate. They are able to let their body temperatures rise to
high levels. Because of this, they are often the only living creatures you will
see in the desert during hot summer days. These squirrels dig burrows where they
go to cool off. They will also hibernate in their burrows if forced to by harsh
weather. Their favorite foods are green plants and insects. Their predators
include hawks, falcons, and coyotes.
(Antelope ground squirrel photo)
This animal averages in length from 24 to 31
inches long. The body is catlike and the face is fox-like. The cat has a long,
bushy tail with black and white bands around it. The ringtail cat is found in
the rocky canyon areas like where Hoover Dam is located.
(Ringtail cat photo)
LITTLE BROWN BAT
The bats most frequently found in the
area of Hoover Dam are grayish to dark brown in color and average in length from
3 3/4 to 3 5/8 inches. They live in the tunnels and caves in the surrounding
canyons. The bats help pollinate desert plants and eat small insects.
Roadrunners are very common to
Southern Nevada. The greater roadrunner is a big bird with a long tail and bill.
It has a bushy crest on its head. Greater roadrunners are fast runners who
seldom fly. A roadrunner is often seen running with its neck outstretched and
its tail held out flat. They are ground dwellers that hunt lizards, snakes,
birds, and invertebrates. (Roadrunner photo)
This large graceful bird can be seen soaring
at great heights above southern Nevada. Adults measure up to three feet long.
They are brown with a white tail band and feathered legs. Eagles usually build
their nests on suitable cliff ledges or, less frequently, in trees. Their prey
includes rabbits, mice, and injured water birds.
(Golden eagle photo)
Everyone who lives in Southern Nevada has
seen this bird, but few know its name. The bird has a beautiful song that can be
heard when it echoes off canyon walls. The adult wren is about 3-4 inches long.
It has a white throat and breast and a brown belly. The little wren eats gnats
and seeds of desert plants.
This is one of four types of quail found in Nevada. The
others are the California quail, mountain quail and scaled quail. Gambel's quail
are easily identified by tufts of feathers, called topknots, on their heads.
They can often be seen in vacant lots around the Las Vegas Valley. Their food
consists mostly of seeds and fruit.
(Gambel's quail photo)
The turkey vulture varies in length from
26 to 32 inches with a wingspan of 72 inches. Its color is brown-black all over
with an unfeathered head. Sometimes this bird is referred to as a "buzzard".
They serve as scavengers of the desert by eating carcasses of dead animals.
(Turkey vulture photos)
This bird is all black and ranges in sizes from 19
to 21 inches. The raven has a heavy bill, wedged shape tail and long throat
feathers. The bird is found in areas of mesquite and it needs trees or power
lines for nesting.
Scorpions are found all over the world, but
most like to live in warm, dry climates such as the desert. Scorpions have
pincers and a long tail with a stinger at its tip. Though they have many eyes,
they do not see well. When running, they hold their pincers out. Males have
broader pincers and longer tails than females. Like wolf spiders, scorpions feed
at night on insects. The mother carries her babies on her back until they shed
their first skins. Scorpions sting to defend themselves. Never touch or play
with a scorpion!
Desert tarantulas can get as large as
four inches long. They have brownish black, hairy bodies and legs. Female
tarantulas may live for 20 years. In the day, tarantulas hide in holes or under
stones. In the dim light of sunset or near dawn, tarantulas come out to hunt
food. They eat insects, lizards and other small animals. Tarantulas do not like
to attack humans. Usually their bite is no more poisonous than a bee sting.
The Tarantula Hawk is a velvety black wasp
with orange wings. It depends on the tarantula for its survival. Here's how: The
female tarantula hawk paralyzes the spider with its stinger. Then she quickly
digs a large hole. Next, she drags the spider inside. lays an egg, then covers
the hole. When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the spider. When it is full
grown, the tarantula hawk feeds on plant nectar.
(Tarantula hawk photo)
This snake varies in size from 24 to 51 inches. It has
uniform white scales surrounding brown diamonds on its back from the midline to
its tail. The upper half is greenish brown to olive green. You may find this
snake in areas where mesquite, creosote and cacti are prominent. Its venom is
extremely toxic. Keep your distance!
(Mojave rattlesnake photo)
The average length of this lizard is 11
to 16 1/2 inches in length and it is very obviously potbellied. Its skin is
loose and floppy. These lizards are seen around large boulders or rocky areas
and live strictly on leaves, flowers, buds, and fruit.