Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saguaro National Park

Mon - Jan. 25th

We went on a quided tour with an expert on mammals in the desert. He showed us how to look for signs of their presence.

It was such a clear day, according to their chart, the peaks we could see were 81 miles away.

We saw tracks of javalina and a spot where it had perhaps rolled in the dirt or some other animal such as a coyote. We saw a couple of wood rat (pack rat) nests. Our guide said there has been a pack rat nest as old as 10,000 years found in the Grand Canyon. They tend to take over abandoned nests and continue to collect things and hoard them in their nests. We saw lots of little burrows of small animals. One he said is called a grasshopper mouse that is a predator and actually
howls like a coyote or wolf, but it comes out as a little high-pitched squeak. They actually bite the stinger off a scorpion to protect themselves before they attack it and eat it. There is a beetle that emits a stink from it's rear like a skunk and they force it's rear into the ground and eat it's head. Quite vicious for a tiny little mouse. It is the only mouse of it's sub-species that has the enzymes to
be able to digest the nut of the jojoba plant. The nut produces an oil very similar to whale oil. They are starting to try to farm it, since whale hunting is very limited now due to environmental restrictions.

Our guide said there were about 40 different mammals that could be found in the west part of Saguaro National Park where we were, and perhaps twice as many in the east part on the other side of Tucson, which is at a higher elevation. It's hard to believe there is so much life in what appears to be such dry and barren land.

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