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Lake Mead - Hoover Dam
Ecology of Hoover Dam

Animals of the Area:

Drawing of Bighorn SheepNevada'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)

Drawing of CoyoteCoyotes 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. (Coyote photos)

Drawing of Antelope Ground SquirrelYou 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)

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.

Drawing of Gambel's QuailThis 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. (Raven photos)

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. (Tarantula photos)

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. (Chuckwalla photos)

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Desert Wildlife
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Animal Adaptations
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