Animals of the Mojave Desert

A national treasure is the Mojave Desert. Its 20 million acres provide for people in a variety of ways, from clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe, energy to power our lives, and economic opportunities from recreation to military training. Its otherworldly splendor protects a diverse collection of unique flora and fauna.

The Animaloki is committed to maintaining this unique, non-replaceable desert environment. Take a look at the photos to see some of the 12 native species that share the desert with Las Vegas and are we’re working to protect.

Bighorn Sheep

FAST FACTS – Found in the southwestern United States. Weighs up to 300 pounds and lives 10 to 20 years in herds of 8 to 10 individuals in northern Mexico and northern Mexico.

DID YOU KNOW THAT…? These quick creatures are well suited to Nevada’s arid environment, surviving for many weeks without drinking and only eating grasses and cactus.

Bighorns’ convex hooves, which aid them in escaping predators such as mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats, make it easier for them to ascend steep and stony desert hills. The distinctive horns of both male and female sheep grow soon after birth, and individuals continue to grow them throughout their lives.

Ewes’ horns are smaller and lighter than those of cows, and they seldom grow more than half-curl. Curved horns can grow to be three feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds in older rams.

Head-to-head confrontations between rams may stretch for up to 24 hours. Desert bighorns are thought to number around 13,000 individuals in total; disease from cattle and habitat destruction are among the biggest hazards they face.


Fennec foxes (Vulpes zerda) are among the cutest desert animals. These juvenile canids are 14 to 16 inches (35,6 to 40,6 cm) long, with huge ears that may reach 4 to 6 inches (10,2 to 15,2 cm) in length. Their tails are not included in this measurement.

The foxes use these ears to listen for prey beneath the sand and shed heat. According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, when foxes detect the sound of rats, insects, or other tiny creatures, they dig them out in a flurry of sand with all four paws.

In African and Arabian deserts, fennec foxes are well-adapted. They have pale fur that grows on the bottoms of their feet to give them traction while running in the sand and protect their feet from the scorching desert surface.

The foxes can pant up to 690 times per minute to cool down when air temperatures rise. During the hottest part of the day, fennec foxes dig elaborate burrows to escape the sun.


In the Sahara Desert, the addax is a highly endangered antelope species. Due to its pale coat and long, spiral horns, the species is also known as the “white antelope” and the “screwhorn antelope.”

Poaching is the greatest danger to the addax. Habitat loss has also contributed to the Critically Endangered status of the addax, as much of the species’ natural habitat has been transformed into farmland.

In the wild, there could be fewer than 90 adult addax; maybe as few as 30. In the wild, this desert creature may soon be extinct.


The Mohave rattlesnake is the most venomous snake in the Mohave Desert, and it is found throughout the region. The Mohave rattlesnake is a pit viper with deadly venom that is also known as the desert diamondback and the Mohave diamond rattlesnake.

These snakes may live in any desert from arid to grasslands and shrubs, but prefer high desert and lower mountain slopes. When people purposefully bother a rattlesnake, the majority of snakebites occur.

Greater Roadrunner

Grows 18 to 24 inches tall and lives 7 to 8 years, Eats insects, rodents, birds, and rattlesnakes. FAST FACTS – Found in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.

DID YOU KNOW THAT? The largest member of the diverse cuckoo family is this quirky-looking bird with its tufted feather crest, long legs, and zippy demeanor. Rodents, bats, other birds, and even poisonous prey like scorpions and rattlesnakes are among the species that this fearless predator kills.

Since they can lower their body temperatures at night and warm up in the morning by spreading their wings to expose their dark skin to the sun, greater roadrunners are well suited for the desert. By regulating their temperature, they can conserve energy for running down prey.

They may fly a limited distance if they choose, but they seem to prefer to run. Courtship rituals involving offers of twigs or food are also common among larger roadrunners, who are known for their flirting. It is common for them to remain mates for life.

Screaming Hairy Armadillo

Screaming hairy armadillos (Chaetophractus vellerosus) are less cuddly than fennec foxes, but no less well-adapted to their desert habitat. When frightened, these armadillos emit a horrifying scream that is similar to the wails of a newborn human baby.

These screams are intended to shock predators or attract other predators to the location, maybe distracting an assailant and allowing the armadillo to escape, according to research published in 2019(opens in new tab).

Antelope Jackrabbit

In the south western United States, the antelope jackrabbit is a hare that can be found in deserts and other arid environments. It’s one of the biggest hares in North America.

The huge size, extremely long, pointed ears, white/gray sides, white underparts, buff neck and chest, and black/buff back distinguish the species.

Cacti and mesquite leaves make up the herbivorous mammal’s diet. (Mesquite is a tiny tree that thrives in arid regions and other dry environments.)

Gila Monster

The Gila monster is known for its ferocious reputation. It is both venomous and the biggest lizard native to the United States. The Arizona Gila River basin, where they were initially discovered, is where gila monsters get their name.

The black body of a Gila monster is striped with dramatic pink, orange, or yellow patterns, which makes it easy to spot. These reptiles are mostly found in subterranean burrows, and unless they are provoked, they will seldom bite humans. Despite their piercing bite, they are not fatal.

Desert Pupfish

FAST FACTS – Grows up to 3 inches long and lives 6 to 9 months. Eats aquatic insects and algae, found in desert pools, streams, and springs.

DID YOU KNOW THAT? This little fish can live in hot, salty water. Each winter, when the water gets colder, they may burrow into the muddy bottom of their underwater habitat to feed primarily on green and brown algae. In February, the mating season for pupfish begins, and it lasts through the summer.

Male pupfish turn iridescent blue during mating and aggressively defend their territory, excluding females who are ready to reproduce. The now-separated desert lakes were formerly a single, connected lake, as evidenced by the different species of pupfish.

The pupfish were isolated in the remaining desert pools when the lake vanished some 10,000 years ago. habitat degradation and invasive species threats have endangered many species of pupfish, in particular.

Hairy Desert Scorpion

The hairy desert scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) stands out among the many scorpion species that call deserts home. According to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, these sorpions may grow up to 7 inches (17.8 cm) long, making them the biggest scorpions in North America.

Hairy desert scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet (UV) light, despite their drab olive-green color. Scorpions fluoresce for a variety of reasons, but the easiest way to see them is to employ a UV light into the desert on a summer night, when they are most active.

[1] In the midst of this, you get a lot of good press. The Sonoran and Mojave deserts of North America, as well as Nevada and Utah, are home to hairy desert scorpions.

Male and female hairy desert scorpions engage in a pincers-locking mating ritual that resembles a wrestling bout when they’re trying to breed. In reality, the guy might find himself becoming his mate’s next meal if he does not flee quickly after depositing his sperm.

Females live-birthed up to 35 young that piggybacked on their mother’s carapace until they were big enough to forage on their own, gestating them for six to twelve months. Desert hairy scorpions are stingless and have a weak venom, which is fortunate for humans. The sting of a bee is similar to the sting of most people.

Arabian Oryx / White Oryx

The genus oryx contains four antelopes: the Arabian oryx is the smallest. Its long, straight horns are roughly 1m tall at the shoulders, and they stretch 75 cm in length.

In the early 1970s, the Arabian oryx went extinct in the wild. Captive animals were reintroduced back into the wild as part of a reintroduction program that started in the 1990s. The Arabian oryx population in the wild is now estimated to be 850 animals.

Illegal hunting is the species’ biggest threat.

Mountain Lion

In the Mojave Desert, mountain lions are one of the biggest animals. They prefer to dwell in hilly regions, although they have been documented to live in arid locales near high mountains.

Mountain lions are lone cats that have been known to be wary of humans. Children, on the other hand, have been known to be stalked by them. Mountain lions pounce from behind, biting at the prey’s neck or base of the skull, when they are hunting.

Burrowing Owls

Grows 8 to 10 inches tall, lives 6 to 8 years, and eats large insects and small mammals. FAST FACTS – Found in the western United States, Mexico, and South America.

DID YOU KNOW THAT…? They’re one of North America’s tiniest owls, and they differ from other owls in a number of ways. Instead of nesting in trees, burrowing owls dig beneath the ground. They hunt around the clock, eating insects during the day and capturing tiny mammals at night. They are not solely nocturnal.

They have unusually long legs and spend the majority of their time on the ground. Like most owls, they also lack tufts of feathers above their eyes. Burrowing owls will occupy a hole that has been abandoned by a prairie dog, badger, desert tortoise, or other small creature more often than they will dig their own nests if necessary.

They often surround their nests with animal waste to attract dung beetles while constructing them. This ensures that the intelligent bird will always have access to one of its favorite foods!

Harris’s Hawk

In the falcon world, Harris’ hawks (Parabuteo unicinctus) are oddities. In Arizona’s Sonoran desert, these magnificent red-winged raptors may be seen hunting in groups, pursuing their prey through thickets and saguaro cactuses.

Lizards, other birds, and small desert mammals like kangaroo rats and ground squirrels are among the foods of the birds. According to the conservation organization Audubon, when they obtain big prey, they’ll divide it among their fellow hunters.

In order to raise their young, these birds commonly work in groups. Any offspring produced by a couple of guys mating with a single lady are raised cooperatively by the three. Older broods from earlier in the season may stay around to give food to younger broods, and hawk siblings assist each other.

Arabian Sand Gazelle / Reem

The Arabian sand gazelle is a little antelope that goes by the name reem. Its horns have inward curving ends.

The Arabian sand gazelle, a desert creature, used to be widespread across the Arabian Peninsula. The majority of people now live in protected areas.

The IUCN (Interninional Union for the Conservation of Nature) has designated the species as Vulnerable. Illegal hunting and habitat destruction pose the greatest threats to the species.

Africanized Honey Bees

Africanized honey bees, sometimes known as killer bees, were only introduced to the American continent recently. These vicious bees have a reputation for viciously attacking anything that strays into their territory. When you go after their hive, however, they’re most dangerous.

Killer bees got their name because they attack in greater numbers and pursue their victim for longer distances than regular honey bees, despite the fact that their venom is no more powerful. When they are startled, they stay agitated for longer than a typical honey bee.

Desert Ironclad Beetle

The insect tank, the desert ironclad beetle (Asbolus verrucosus). The beetle’s powder-blue hue is derived from a waxy coating that helps it retain water in the arid Sonoran desert. The beetle’s shell is covered with armor-like ridges that make it appear even more robust than it is.

According to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the ironclad beetle subfamily is distinguished by its ultra-strong exoskeleton. These beetles can shrug off being stepped on by a human.

For their defensive behavior in the face of threats, desert ironclad beetles are also known as “death-feigning beetles.” The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden reports that when threatened, the beetles roll over and play dead. They consume vegetation and decaying organic matter, and they seldom, if ever, need to drink, like many desert dwellers.

Desert Burro Deer

DID YOU KNOW THAT? Mule deer is a term used to describe the burro deer. This deer hops with all four hooves hitting the ground simultaneously, quickly navigating rough terrain and escaping predators, and is named for its long ears that resemble a burro’s.

Male deer are identified by their antlers, which they grow and shed every summer and fall. This trademark running hop is known as “stotting.” Changes in the length of days throughout the year control the antler growth cycle.

During the hottest parts of the day, burro deer stay calm by sleeping in flattened grass beds that they make themselves. Just a hard palate at the top of their mouth for grinding the fodder they consume, these deer have no upper teeth.

Sand Cat

The desert sand cat (Felis margarita) is a more delicate, fuzzy desert dweller. It’s the only desert-dwelling cat species.

The Sahara desert, the Arabian Peninsula, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are all home to desert sand cats. Sand cats are rare and seldom seen by humans, despite their resemblance to affectionate domestic cats. According to the International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada, they’re cryptic and difficult to monitor.

The cats’ fur-lined paws left no tracks, and their light-colored coats made them difficult to see, according to researchers who tried to study these animals in the wild. Moreover, at night, the cats crouched low and covered their reflective retinas with their eyelids as they hid from searchlights.

Sand cats are stealthy predators who can kill snakes, desert rats, and lizards as well. Their mating call is a bark like a dog’s.