Desert Wildlife 

Desert Tortoise

Watch for tortoises on the trails in spring and summer. Do not approach the tortoise. If frightened, it will release its bladder and lose its valuable water supply.


The Mojave Green rattlesnake has the most poisonous venom of any rattlesnake in North America. If bitten, stay calm and call 911 immediately.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owls use vacant rodent burrows under bushes as their homes. They can often be seen basking in the sun at the burrow entrance.

Bighorn Sheep

The desert bighorn sheep prefer rocky, steep slopes and often use bike trails in the hills of the Mojave Desert.

Wild Burro

Burros were introduced to the deserts of the southwest by the Spanish in the 1500s. Wild burros still roam the desert and can often be seen near watering sites.

Mountain Lion

Well-camoflaged and nocturnal, mountain lions are rarely seen by humans. An occasional bighorn sheep or deer skeleton may be the only evidence of lions that you will ever see in the desert.


Common Wildlife in the Mojave Desert

Animal Description
Bobcat The short, powerful bobcat body is adapted to pounce from ambush on birds, rodents, and rabbits. Keen senses, patience, and night shadows aid this shy cat.
Coyote Its skill as a hunter, and its appetite for anything swallowable , ensures this desert carnivore's success. Its diet may include insects, lizards, snakes, birds, rabbits, carrion, fruit, nuts, grass, tennis shoes, or young tortoises. Coyotes are renowned for howling, but they also bark playfully.
Golden Eagle The rabbits and squirrels that evade the night hunters must still search the day time skies for the silhouette of the stately golden eagle. Its keen eyes scan the landscape for the slightest movement as it soars from the mountain heights out over the valleys and desert floor. Its golden nap is visible only at close range. Its soft voice is hardly ever heard.
Jackrabbit Muted jackrabbit fur colors provide a motionless defense from the searching eyes of many predators; coyote, bobcats and eagles. Strong eyes and keen hearing send the powerful legs into motion. Young are born well furred.
Kangaroo Rat To survive in the desert on seeds alone is a challenge few can meet. Seed metabolism produces nutrients and minimal water, enough for this conservative rodent. Large hind feet are adapted for travel over desert sand. Cheek pouches minimize night foraging and exposure to predators.
Roadrunner This bird is a specialist with a body designed for desert life. Roadrunners get their moisture from their prey; reptiles, insects, rodents, and young birds. Powerful legs rather than wings, serve the bird well.
Sidewinder This small and mostly nocturnal rattlesnake moves by looping sideways in J-shaped curves, an efficient mode of travel on soft sand dunes and washes it inhabits. It waits in ambush for small rodents it detects by sight or body temperature.
Stinkbug Stilting across the sand, this large black beetle freezes in a handstand pose at the slightest disturbance. Emission of a pungent odor repels predators. The pose is enough to stop those familiar with this scavenger.
Tarantula This largest desert spider is not poisonous to humans but bites painfully if provoked. It feeds on insects, but may fall victim to the large, colorful tarantula hawk wasp. A tarantula may inhabit a burrow for years.

This information was provided by the National Park Service