The desert has surprising diversity not only it its flora, but also in its native animals. I didn’t have to hike far to see a number of cute creatures going about their business. Let’s start with the bunnies.
There are two types of wild rabbits in the Scottsdale area: cottontails, as pictured above and Jackrabbits. Jackrabbits are much larger than the cottontail and are in fact not rabbits, but hares. Yes, I also didn’t know that a hare is different from a rabbit but as is common I got an education while doing my research post-trip. Here is what I discovered:
- Hares are larger than rabbits and have longer hind legs and longer ears
- Baby rabbits are called bunnies while baby hares are called leverets
- Bunnies are born blind, hairless and totally dependent on their parents while leverets are born with fur, can see and can hop around within moments after their birth
- Rabbit’s fur stays the same color all year round, the hare’s fur changes from brown in summer to white in winter
- Rabbits live in groups while hares are fairly solitary
Here is an internet picture of a hare:
Interestingly most rabbits live in burrows underground while hares make above ground nests, but the cottontail also lives in above ground nests.
Lastly, hares run away when faced with danger,while rabbits head underground. The cottontails I met, however did not run away to my delight. Instead they froze in place, no doubt thinking they could blend into the scenery and become invisible. I was thrilled that they did freeze as I was able to catch some great shots.
Look at those ears! No doubt they provide a great way to keep cool.
This is my favorite cottontail photo:
No, this bunny wasn’t having an existential crisis – I simply caught him in the middle of washing his face.
Now it would seem counterintuitive that one would find turtles in the desert – after all, they spend a great deal of time in the water which is certainly at a premium in an arid place. Nevertheless, there are known desert turtles including the northern box turtle which have adapted to the dry surroundings and are now considered dry land members of the turtle family.
I was able to photograph similar looking turtles found during my hikes and in full transparency have to state it is a non-native species brought in by humans. Nevertheless the pond slider turtle has made Scottsdale its home in man-made lakes and ponds.
I would be an embarrassment to photographers everywhere if I didn’t provide a photo of one of the most well-known inhabitants of the desert – the lizard. I apologize in advance if my identifications aren’t correct- just let me know and I will revise:
To round out this post, here are photos of the ubiquitous but entertaining members of the rodent family – squirrels:
I think the squirrel was more intent on cooling itself on the shaded pebbles and had no interest in the approaching cottontail.
ANTELOPE GROUND SQUIRREL
Back at home in NYC, squirrels are considered pests – although I like them because they often pose for me. In the desert however, one needs to give some respect to the rock squirrel.
It eats rattlesnakes.