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Ecology: Desert Wildlife

Watchable Wildlife Sites

Fish Slough

    Fish Slough is a lush oasis amid an otherwise arid landscape - with less than six inches of rain, and summer temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The unusual surface water supply provides for varied plant and animal life, from unique and sensitive species such as Owens pupfish and Owens tui chub, to resident and migrating birds, and small mammals.

Haiwee Deer Winter Range

    This area on the edge of the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains was designated as a Watchable Wildlife site because it offers outstanding opportunities to view a portion of the East Monache mule deer herd. As winter moves in, deer move down from the mountains to the valley bottom, at about 4,000 feet above sea level. Here they can forage on diverse grasses and forbs and find water in hidden springs.

Desert Tortoise Natural Area

    For three million years, the desert tortoise survived and adapted to changing climates in what is now the California Desert. But in recent years, their numbers have been greatly reduced. This public land in the northwestern Mojave Desert in northeastern Kern County, is managed to protect a unique habitat in its natural state.

Harper Lake

    Most of Harper Lake is a dry lake bed that lies under the flight area of Edwards Air Force Base. But in its southwest corner, water runoff from nearby farms has created what is probably the largest marsh in the Mojave Desert. This oasis attracts resident wildlife and thousands of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds, making this a prime birdwatching spot.

Afton Canyon

    One of the only places where the Mojave River flows above ground all year round. This unusually reliable Mojave Desert water source provides bounty for many animals. More than 180 species of birds have been spotted, and bighorn sheep can now find water here, thanks to habitat restoration efforts. The area also hosts various turtles and lizards, and desert tortoises.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

    Big Morongo Creek rises to the surface for just three miles between the Mojave and Colorado deserts, before it disappears underground again. The resulting canyon oasis has gained a national reputation among birdwatchers as "a usual spot to see the unusual." At least 235 species of birds have been observed here - including several rare species - along with desert bighorn sheep, mule deer and smaller mammals, lizards and more.


source: BLM
photo of birdwatchers in desert oasis
Southeastern Great Basin and Mojave Desert

map of California Mojave Desert watchable wildlife areas

1- Fish Slough
2- Haiwee Deer Winter Range
3- Desert Tortoise Natural Area
4- Harper Lake
5- Afton Canyon
6- Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
recreation - ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - 360 photos - glossary - comments

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