Arizona Mammals

Click here for the latest Arizona mammal update.

Arizona’s premier mammal species, and one of the very youngest, the humans (Homo sapiens), congregates in urban habitats that most other mammals avoid.  Residents of the scattered human homes of the Agua Fria River Basin often see the 15 to 20 common species that are active during the day and early evening.  Residents of large urban areas such as Phoenix and Tucson rarely see more than three or four species.

Developers are eager to fill the Agua Fria River Basin with homes and businesses.  As the human population of the Basin grows, the number of familiar mammals will decline.

Of course, almost all species decline as the human population grows.  When I began high school in 1960, the human population of earth totaled three billion.  Forty years later in 2000, it had doubled.  From 1960 to 2000 the U. S. population grew from 180 million to 280 million, and will add more than 100 million during the next 25 years.

In Arizona the extinction of other species by humans is occurring most rapidly for species that spend much of their lives in or near water (look at the blog posts on fish and amphibians).  This is because toxic wastes flow down slope to the streams and lakes, and because the streams and lakes are being modified.  Over the next 100 years many species will disappear.  Mass extinctions have occurred before in Earth’s history, but it is likely that none were as large or sudden as the one that is being caused now by humans.  Certainly no other single species has ever achieved such a great destruction of life on earth.

Mammals are described in numerous field guides and websites (e.g., Kays and Wilson, 2002, National Wildlife Federation, AZGDF).  Field guides often illustrate animal tracks, and some (e.g., Halfpenny 2000) are devoted to this essential subject.  A complete field guide to Arizona’s 144 mammal species can be assembled and downloaded from the North American Mammals page of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History web site.  The downloaded field guide will have a page for each species with a picture, distribution map, and description.

The photograph shows a Rock Squirrel sitting on a fence post. 


More than half the 144 Arizona mammal species are present in the Agua Fria River Basin, but only 15 to 20 are seen very often.  Most common are Cottontail Rabbits, Jackrabbits, Mule Deer, Pronghorn (Antelope), Collard Peccary (Javelina), Coyotes, Raccoons, Skunks, Bobcats, Foxes, Rock Squirrels, and Valley Gophers.   Smaller species, the chipmunks, rats, bats, mice and voles are often seen, but may not be close enough for identification.

Numbers (species identified/probable total)*

World

US

AZ

AZ T & E

1240

423

144 (130 in checklist)

10

* Data from AZGDF and Wikipedia.

Names Primer:  The Lagomorpha

This and other checklists on the blog include scientific names consisting of two or three italicized words:  the genus, species, and subspecies.  Most are derived from Latin.  Scientific names may be unfamiliar, but they are useful because, unlike common names, they are the same everywhere.  Common names for a species are often different across regions.

Animal species are grouped according to their similarity.  Similar species are assigned to the same genus.  Similar genera are assigned to the same family.  Similar families are assigned to the same order.  For example, the order Lagomorpha includes two families:  Leporidae (Rabbit family) and Castoridae (Beaver family).  The Leporidae family includes two genera:  Lepus (jackrabbits) and Sylvilagus (cottontails).  The genus name, Sylvilagus, was formed by combining the Latin word sylva (wood) with the Greek word lagos (hare).  Sylvilagus includes thirteen species.  One of them, the Desert Cottontail, was named Sylvilagus audubonii.  The species name is the ‘Latinized’ version of Audubon’s name.  It was probably assigned because Audubon was the first to determine that Desert Cottontails were a separate species.

Species diverge when their population becomes separated.  Slight divergences are recognized by adding subspecies names.  If the divergence becomes so great that the subspecies are no longer able or willing to interbreed, a new species is designated.  This can be confusing.  For example, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) lists 13 rattlesnake species for the state.  Counting the currently accepted subspecies produces a total of 20 different rattlesnakes living in the state.  Humans are affecting all Arizona’s rattlesnake species and subspecies.  It is in this regard that subspecies are particularly important.  The habitat of one subspecies may be more heavily impacted than the habitat of the other subspecies.  Thus, it is not helpful to list an entire species as needing protection when it is only one of its subspecies.

Mammal References and Notes

American Society of Mammalogists:  http://www.mammalsociety.org,

AZGFD, Arizona Game and Fish Department:  http://www.azgfd.gov .

Defenders of Wildlife:  http://www.defenders.org.  News:  www.defendersblog.org.

Halfpenny, J.C., and T. Telander.  2000.  Scats and tracks of the desert southwest:  A field guide to the signs of 70 wildlife species.  The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CN.  144 p.

Hoffa, R.L., and W. Anderson.  1996.  Coexisting with urban wildlife:  A guide to the central Arizona uplands.  Sharlot Hall Museum Press, Prescott, AZ.  123 p.

Kays, R.W., and D.E. Wilson.  2009.  Mammals of North America (second edition).  Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.  248 p.

National Wildlife Federation:  www.nwf.org.

Organization for Bat Conservation: http://www.batconservation.org/

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History:  www.mnh.si.edu  and for conservation status:   http://www.mnh.si.edu/mna/search_status.cfm

U. S. Endangered Species Act.  1973. The act and related laws are discussed at:  http://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/ESACT.html.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  http://www.fws.gov.

U. S. Forest Service.  2007.  Regional Forester’s list of sensitive animals:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev3_021328.pdf.

World Conservation Union:  www.iucn.org .

Symbols Used in the Checklist

            An asterisk (*) in the left check box indicates Tier 1A “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” (Arizona State Game and Fish Department).  The letter S (S) in the check box indicates sensitive species (U. S. Forest Service).  The letter T indicates species that are candidates for federal protection and species that are threatened as defined by the U. S. Endangered Species Act.  The letter E indicates species that are endangered (E) as defined by the Act.

The scientific names in the checklist are linked to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History website

Arizona Mammals
Order: Artiodactyla (Even-toed Ungulates)
Antilocapridae (Pronghorn)
E Pronghorn (E=Sonoran)  (Antilocapra americana)
Bovidae (Bison, Sheep and Goats)
American Bison  (Bison bison)
S Bighorn Sheep  (Ovis canadensis)
Cervidae (Deer)
Elk (Cervus elaphus)
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Tayassuidae (Peccaries)
Collared Peccary  (Pecari tajacu)
Order: Carnivora (Carnivores)
Canidae (Dogs)
Coyote (Canis latrans)
Common Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Felidae (Cats)
E Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
* E Jaguar (Panthera onca)
Cougar (Puma concolor)
Jaguarundi (Puma yaguarondi) (Herpailurus yaguarondi)
Mephitidae (Skunks)
North American Hog-nosed Skunk (Conepatus leuconotus)
S Hooded Skunk (Mephitis macroura)
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Western Spotted Skunk (Spilogale gracilis)
Mustelidae (Weasels, Badgers and Otters)
S Ermine (Mustela ermine muricus)
Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)
American Badger (Taxidea taxus)
Procyonidae (Ringtail, Raccoon, and Coati)
Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus)
S White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica)
Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Ursidae (Bears)
American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
Order: Didelphimorphia (Opossums)
Didelphidae (Opossums)
Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
Order: Insectivora (Shrews, Moles, Hedgehogs)
Family: Soricidae (Shrews)
Crawford’s Gray Shrew (Notiosorex crawfordi)
S Cockrum’s Desert Shrew (Notiosorex cockrumi)
S Arizona Shrew (Sorex arizonae)
Cinereus Shrew (Sorex cinereus)
S Merrian’s Shrew (Sorex merriami)
Montane Shrew (Sorex monticolus)
S Dwarf Shrew (Sorex nanus)
S Water Shrew (Sorex palustris)
Leporidae (Rabbits and Hares)
Antelope Jackrabbit (Lepus alleni)
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)
NT White-sided Jackrabbit (Lepus callotis)
S White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii)
Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii)
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Mountain Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii)
Castoridae (Beaver)
American Beaver (Castor canadensis)
Dipodidae (Jumping Mice)
S Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius)
Western Jumping Mouse (Zapus princeps)
Erethizodontidae (Porcupines)
North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Geomyidae (Pocket Gophers)
Botta’s Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae)
S Graham Mountains Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae grahamensis)
Northern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys talpoides)
S Kaibab Northern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys talpoides kaibabensis)
NT Southern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys umbrinus)
Huachuca Mountains Pocket Gopher (Thomomys umbrinus intermedius)
Southern (Pajarito) Pocket Gopher (Thomomys umbrinus quercinus)
Heteromyidae (Pocket Mice, Kangaroo Rats, Kangaroo Mice)
Baiey’s Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus baileyi)
Long-tailed Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus formosus)
Hispid Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus hispidus)
Rock Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus intermedius)
Desert Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus penicillatus)
Spiny Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus spinatus)
Desert Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys deserti)
Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Chisel-toothed Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys microps)
S Houserock Valley Chisel-toothed Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys microps leucotis)
Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii)
Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys spectabilis)
S NM Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys spectabilis clarenci)
NT Arizona Pocket Mouse (Perognathus amplus)
S Wupatki Arizona Pocket Mouse (Perognathus amplus cineris)
S Springerville Silky Pocket Mouse (Perognathus amplus goodpasteri)
Plains Pocket Mouse (Perognathus flavescens)
NT Silky Pocket Mouse (Perognathus flavus)
Little Pocket Mouse (Perognathus longimembris)
Great Basin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus parvus)
Muridae (Rats, Mice, Voles and Lemmings)
S Northern Pygmy Mouse (Baiomys taylori)
S, NT Southern Red-backed Vole (Clethrionomys gapperi)
S Long-tailed Vole (Microtus longicaudus)
S Mogollon Vole (Microtus mogollonensis)
Montane Vole (Microtus montanus)
Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus)
White-throated Woodrat (Neotoma albigula)
Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Neotoma cinerea)
Arizona Woodrat (Neotoma devia)
Desert Woodrat (Neotoma lepida)
Mexican Woodrat (Neotoma mexicana)
Stephen’s Woodrat (Neotoma stephensi)
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
Mearn’s Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys arenicola)
Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster)
Southern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys torridus)
Brush Mouse (Peromyscus boylii)
Canyon Mouse (Peromyscus crinitus)
Cactus Mouse (Peromyscus eremicus)
White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)
NT Deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)
S Mesquite Mouse (Peromyscus merriami)
Northern Rock Mouse (Peromyscus nasutus)
NT Pinyon Mouse (Peromyscus truei)
Western Heather Vole (Phenacomys intermedius)
S Fulvous Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys fulvescens)
Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis)
S Plains Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys montanus)
Arizona Cotton Rat (Sigmodon arizonae)
Tawny-bellied Cotton Rat (Sigmodon fulviventer)
NT Hispid Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus)
S Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat (Sigmodon ochrognathus)
Sciuridae (Squirrels, Chipmunks, Marmots, Prairie Dogs)
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii)
White-tailed Antelope Squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus)
*S Gunnison’s Prairie Dog (Cynomys gunnisoni)
*S, NT Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)
Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
Abert’s Squirrel (Sciurus aberti)
S Kaibab Squirrel (Scirus aberti kaibabensis)
S, NT Arizona Gray Squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis)
S Mexican Fox Squirrel (Sciurus nayaritensis)
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis)
Spotted Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus spilosoma)
Round-tailed Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus)
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus)
S White Mountains Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus monticola)
Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus)
Gray-collared Chipmunk (Tamias cinereicollis)
Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis)
Least Chipmunk (Tamias minimus)
S White Mountains Chipmunk (Tamias minimus arizonensis)
S Kaibab Least Chipmunk (Neotamias minimus consobrinus)
Colorado Chipmunk (Tamias quadrivittatus)
Hopi Chipmunk (Tamias rufus)
Uinta Chipmunk (Tamias umbrinus)
*E Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

8 thoughts on “Arizona Mammals

  1. Pingback: Mule Deer and Fawn at Coldwater Farm | Garry Rogers

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  5. One evening I went to let my dog outside and instead of going out, she froze and stared off into the night. My husband and I got a flashlight and were able to see the glow of a pair of eyes about 100 ft away. We saw the largest javalina, or possibly wild hog, that I have ever seen staring back at us. He then sauntered off slowly and got behind some brush. We were so shocked by his size and in the darkness, we really weren’t able to get that good a look at him. Since then, we have noticed large pig tracks of one individual animal around the property. I always thought that javalina traveled in groups. Do you know if large male javalina travel alone or is it possible this may be a wild domestic pig?

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    • Huh. The Javelina we see are not too big. I have heard reports of Wild Boars in the area, but I haven’t seen any. They would lack the pale ‘collar’ streak of Javelina. If you see one again, check with the Prescott National Forest Wildlife Biologist. Let me know what you learn.

      Thank you.

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  6. On Friday evening, on the cement around my front door (in Humboldt – near the river), there were some odd footprints (it had been rain/snowing and the grass was wet but not the sidewalk). I went to get my camera but, in the few minutes it took me to get it and return, the prints had dried up. They were maybe an inch wide, the pad was almost rectangular, there were toes (4 I think) but no nails. I looked in SCATS AND TRACKS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST, but couldn’t see anything similar. Definitely not a house cat, coyote, skunk, or raccoon – the most likely to visit. Any ideas?

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