The Grand Canyon is home to iconic animals (and a few surprising ones) – here’s what visitors will see with a keen eye.
The Grand Canyon is home to several major ecosystems and these combine to support great biological diversity. The canyon is home to five of the seven living areas and three of the four types of deserts found in North America. The Grand Canyon is an organic hotspot with plenty of wildlife for enthusiasts to spot.
Another great biological hotspot is Yellowstone – go to different seasons to see different animal behaviors. One of the best ways to explore the Grand Canyon is to descend on a mule to the bottom of the canyon.
The Grand Canyon ecosystem
The five life zones are Lower Sonora, Upper Sonora, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. The range of areas shown here is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada – much of the variation is due to differences in elevation.
- Living areas: Five of the seven North American living zones
- Mammals: Over 90 species of mammals
According to the National Park Service, more than 90 species of mammals live in the national park. In fact, it gives the park a greater diversity of mammal species than Yellowstone. The park has everything from the largest land animal in North America to some of the most diverse bat species in the United States.
Most people who visit the canyon only see mule deer, elk, squirrels, etc., but many of the Grand Canyon’s mammals are secretive or nocturnal.
Bats in the national park
About 22 species of bats inhabit Grand Canyon National Park. It is one of the greatest diversities in the United States for small flying mammals. Many of these bats eat insects while others feed on fish, still others eat the nectar of fruit plants found in the canyon and help with pollination.
- Little brown bat: Able to eat 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in an hour
Unfortunately, bats are endangered in the United States. In much of the country, white-nose syndrome can prove fatal to bats. As of yet, he hasn’t reached Arizona, but he likely will in the next few years. Come see the canyon bats before this disease takes its toll.
While in the Grand Canyon, gaze up into the evening and night skies and see these tiny creatures flying in search of their prey. They are the only mammals capable of truly flying.
The largest grazing animals in the canyon
Bighorn sheep: One of the canyon dwellers and most charismatic is the desert bighorn sheep. It is the largest native animal in the park (two larger non-native species are larger in the park – bison and elk).
- The biggest: The largest native animals in the park
- Weight: Males can weigh up to 300 pounds or 135 kilograms
The Grand Canyon provides excellent habitat for these sure-footed animals, with the canyons providing remote refuges. It is the only non-reintroduced population of bighorn sheep from the desert.
American Bison: The American bison are the largest living mammal in North America and can reach weights of over 2,000 lbs or 900 kg. If one wishes to see these iconic American beasts, then one will have to be on the north shore – there are no bison on the south shore.
- The biggest: The American bison is the largest mammal in North America
- Site: The live on the north shore
Elk: Elk are the largest member of the deer family living in the Grand Canyon. The descent of elk from the Rocky Mountains of 303 individuals that were introduced between 1913 and 1928 from Yellowstone National Park.
- Introduced: Between 1913 and 1928 From Yellowstone
Keep in mind that these wild animals can be dangerous and that it is recommended to stay at a distance of at least 100 feet.
Mule deer: The mule deer are one of the most frequently seen animals in the national park. They are very common throughout western North America. Their name comes from their large mule-like ears. Their narrow tails distinguish them from white-tailed deer (while white-tailed deer are common in the United States, they are not found in Grand Canyon National Park).
Other animals in the canyon
Another animal that one may like to see but not scare off is the pig-nosed skunk and it is the largest species of skunk in the world. They are mainly found in the south but it seems they are now present in the canyon with a breeding population on both sides of the river.
Mountain lions (puma concolor) are the biggest predators found in the area – although humans in the canyon don’t have to fear these large kittens as they don’t see humans as prey. There are many names for the mountain lion – some 18 native South American names, 25 native North American names, and 40 English names (the most common are cougar, puma, panther, and catamount).
- Danger: Mountain lions pose little danger to humans
Other animals include bobcats, coyotes, ringtails, rabbits, many lizards, many snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders, scorpions, and more. There are many species of birds, including the endangered California condor, cuckoo, and owls.
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