Watchable Wildlife at Picacho Peak State Park
The park offers a natural habitat for many of the animals found in the Sonoran Desert. This includes many species of mammals and reptiles as well as a large number of birds. (Bird lists are available at the Visitor Center.) The park is home to a number of invertebrates as well. A large variety of other interesting Arizona wildlife species can be found within the park and offer year-round wildlife viewing opportunities.
Mammals frequently seen include black-tailed jackrabbit, desert cottontail rabbit, roundtail ground squirrel, harris antelope squirrel, rock squirrel, desert pocket mouse, Mexican freetailed bat, kangaroo rat. Coyote, badger, skunk, raccoon, bobcat, desert mule deer, javelina, and kit fox are occasionally seen. Porcupine, antelope jackrabbit, ringtail cat, and mountain lion are rarely seen.
Reptiles frequently seen include western diamondback rattlesnake, gopher snake, garter snake, coach whip, common chuckwalla, zebra-tailed lizard, tree lizard, western banded gecko, and the side-blotched lizard. Tiger rattlesnake, Mojave rattlesnake, desert tortoises, and the regal horned lizard are infrequently seen. Gila monsters are rarely seen.
The Sonoran desert toad (an amphibian) has been spotted in the park during the monsoon season.
Invertebrates that can be seen at Picacho Peak include giant desert centipede, desert hairy scorpion, tailless whipscorpion, western black widow spider, and fiddleback spider. The most frequently seen invertebrates are probably the desert tarantula in the fall, and sun spiders and the bark scorpion year-round.
Desert Mule Deer
The Sonoran Desert is home to a specially adapted species of mule deer that is able to withstand the oppressive heat and low water availability during Arizona’s summer months. The desert mule deer, although seen infrequently within the park, at times delights visitors with an encounter. As year-round residents of Picacho Peak State Park, the desert mule deer avoid people by nature and can be tricky to spot. Try the following tips to increase your odds of seeing these beautiful desert dwelling mule deer.
Throughout the year, a majority of desert mule deer activity takes place around sunrise and sunset. By being on the trail early or late, park visitors will be in the field at the same time deer are most active. Constantly survey surroundings, look for movement, and if available, scan distant hillsides with a pair of binoculars. Seeing deer always adds a special something to a trip, sometimes you just have to work a little harder for the payoff.
Badgers are a mostly nocturnal park resident that, at times, are seen during the day by visitors. These mainly solitary creatures are carnivorous and help keep the rodent populations in check within the park. Badgers have large claws designed to dig and they utilize these assets for digging their burrows, and to extract their prey from their underground homes.
Badgers prefer not to encounter humans and will typically scurry off into their dens of they sense someone approaching. If confronted, they will charge to keep an intruder away from their den, so please admire these interesting little mammals from a distance while in the park! Arizona badgers do not hibernate, although they become mostly inactive during the cold winter months so your best chance to see one of these desert dwelling badgers is during the spring and summer.
Desert cottontail rabbits can be seen with regularity within Picacho Peak State Park. They can be entertaining to watch and photograph as they go about their day feeding and socializing with other rabbits. To catch these guys in action, look for movement in the desert brush in the hours near sunrise and sunset.
Because the desert cottontail is on the menu for a list of predatory mammals and birds, they don’t stay in one place for too long and will retreat to cover if they feel threatened. Approach slowly while limiting your movement to a minimum to get within good camera range for a few photographs.
Picacho Peak State Park is home to a large variety of resident and migratory bird species. Abundant varieties include vultures, hawks, doves, owls, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, flycatchers, jays, wrens, sparrows, finches, warblers, and many more. Some of the most commonly seen species include turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, peregrine falcon, Gambel quail, mourning dove, Gila woodpecker, gilded flicker, curve-billed thrasher, canyon towhee, house finch, common raven, cactus wren, and Costa’s hummingbird.
Please refer to the bird list available at the contact station. This list is a fun guide to help visitors identify birds in the park and to check off those that have been encountered. Hit the trails with a small pair of binoculars while scanning the desert around you for movement. Your binoculars can be used to both find and identify bird species and really help accentuate your Arizona birding experinece.