A herd of deer found our watering hole this spring! Do you know what kind of deer this is? How many can you find?
We have a lot of different types of hooved mammals in the Sonoran Desert. Here’s some information from the Desert Museum about hooved animals in our local desert.
The Sonoran Desert is home to 4 species of hooved animals—javelina, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. Hooves are specialized claws or toenails, adaptations for running to escape predators. Hooved animals, also called ungulates, are usually herbivores that socialize in herds or bands. Living in a group benefits all the individuals, since there are many sets of eyes watching for predators.
Javelina are common throughout the Sonoran Desert region. Any area with sufficient prickly pear and other cacti can be home to a herd of javelina. They usually provide plenty of evidence of their presence, such as chewed prickly pear pads, rooted-up areas around plants, and many trails and bed grounds.
Our other three hooved desert animals are ruminants (even-toed, cud-chewing animals). Mule deer inhabit the lower foothills and brushy canyons in the desert, while white-tailed deer live at the higher elevations in the mountains. Mule deer depend mainly on good hearing and eyesight, camouflage, and running for defense. Their large (9 inch; 23 cm) ears move continually, checking antennae-like for any sounds of danger. The main predator of deer is the mountain lion.
Pronghorn populations are not large anywhere in Arizona. The Sonoran pronghorn is listed as endangered, but herds in a few places—the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge is one—are doing well.
Bighorn sheep numbers have also declined due to human encroachment and competition with domestic sheep and wild burros, but reintroduced populations are increasing in numbers. The construction of artificial waterholes in some areas has helped maintain bighorn herds.