Southwest Wildlife Discovery Series: ‘Creeping’ Around in the Desert

— By Diane A. Vaszily, Volunteer docent, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Who are the creepers of the desert? It may help to know that creeping is done near dusk and dawn. Animals who are most active at this time are known as “crepuscular” rather than nocturnal (those who hunt in the dark of night). Even Great Horned Owls are more crepuscular than nocturnal. While an animal may be listed as “nocturnal,” most can be found ready for patrol during the twilight times of the day.

Kit fox

So, who is this cast of creepy characters? Coyotes, of course, who are clearly out in the middle of the night as evidenced by their howls. [Read more about coyotes in our January 2020 issue.]

Kit foxes, the smallest of the Southwest foxes, are rarely seen, coming out of their burrows only to feast on the mice running across the desert in very low light. If you should be rewarded with a glimpse of this sly little fellow, consider yourself lucky. They are so fast and shy that most of us miss them.

Javelina

Javelina, badgers, coatimundis and bobcats are also classified as crepuscular; but chances are you will see them “creeping” around before the darkness sets in and just before first light. While hawks depend on their eyes to locate their prey by day, owls rely on their keen hearing to follow the scratching and chewing sounds made by rodents and rabbits. That is why owls can begin the hunt when hawks have retired for the night.

Coatimundi

At Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) in North Scottsdale, near the open desert of Rio Verde, our sanctuary cares for all types of wildlife. They are fortunate to have a place to live since they are unable to be returned to the wild. Our monthly full moon tours are great opportunities to see and hear these creatures of little light. But, should you visit during the bright light of day, you will still see them since we bring along a little treat!

SWCC has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife since 1994 and though thousands have been returned to the wild, we have almost 100 animals in our sanctuary, including mountain lions, black bears, Mexican gray wolves and a jaguar hybrid.

Visit www.southwestwildlife.org and check the calendar for tour availability.


Photos courtesy of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.

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