Chiricahua National Monument is enveloped in the Coronado National Forest, creating a large block of relatively undeveloped land and containing a variety of habitat types. As a sky island, elevational changes provide animals five different biomes to use. Large mammals, such as the black bear and mountain lion, have enough space to find the resources (prey) they need in order to survive. The forests and grasslands provide food and shelter for Coues white-tailed deer, javelina, and others.
Many smaller mammals also occur within the Monument. Several species, such as the coatimundi and the Chiricahua fox squirrel, have limited range in the United States, but are a fairly common sight at the Monument. There are also mice, rats (including kangaroo rats), skunks, ringtails, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, javalina (peccaries) and bats. In fact, there are 16 species of bats in the Chiricahua Mountains, including several nectar bats, which feed on the pollen and nectar of flowering plants, in much the same way as the hummingbirds do!
The Chiricahua Mountains were also historically the home of the jaguar, North America's largest cat. Although rarely seen since the 1940s, the jaguar is listed as an endangered species in the United States, and occassionally they are seen wandering north of the Mexican border.
The ocelot is a smaller cat that has also been documented historically in the Chiricahua Mountains. As with the jaguar, the ocelot is listed as endangered, and is rarely seen. Often killed for their skins or to protect livestock and poultry, these animals are now being managed in order to try and increase their numbers and recover dwindling populations. Because cats are secretive and solitary, it is difficult to monitor their progress, but it is important to retain any remaining habitat, so that if their populations do come back, they will have somewhere to go. We are hopeful that these animals will someday be more common at the Monument, as predators play an important part in a healthy ecosystem.
Commonly Seen Mammals
The Coues' White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi), or Arizona White-tailed deer, is a small, but very common deer in the Chiricahua Mountains. Coues' deer are well adapted to living in the desert. Their smaller size requires fewer resources, and the does (females) wait until summer to give birth, when the grass is nice and green, and forage is plentiful.
All four species of North American skunks can be found at Chiricahua. The Hooded (Mephitis macroura) and Striped (Mephitis mephitis) skunks are probably the most common, but keep an eye out for the Hog-nosed (Conepatus mesoleucus) and Spotted (Spilogale gracilis) skunks, as well. Skunk species can have a variety of patterns within each species, so skunks can sometimes be hard to identify from a distance. Generally, the hooded skunk has a very long, thick coat and a variety of patterns. The striped skunk's white forms a V-shape, filled with a black triangle, and the hog-nosed skunk has a solid white back. The spotted skunk has unmistakable spots.
Skunks are primarily noctural, and often are seen at Bonita Canyon Campground. Please keep a clean camp and keep our wild animals wild!
The Coati, or Coatimundi (Nasua nasua) is fairly common within the Chiricahua Mountains. During the fall and winter, bands of coatis are often spotted at lower elevations, around Silver Spur Meadow and the Bonita Canyon Campground. Coatis are very social animals, and the females and their young often group together to forage. The males are usually solitary. Coatis, unlike their cousins the ringtail and the racoon, are diurnal, which means they are active during the day.
Desert Cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus audubonii) are well-suited to the arid climate in southern Arizona. They seek out shade during the hottest parts of the day. Cottontails have many predators, both from the sky (birds of prey, including owls) and on the ground (foxes, snakes, etc.). Cottontails use their keen sense of hearing to avoid being eaten, and can spy predators sneaking up on them with their far-sighted eyes.
The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is a colorful small predator, and is the only canine in North America that can climb trees. It is mostly gray, with reddish sides, and a black stripe that extends to the tip of its tail. Remember to stay a safe distance from all wild animals. Any mammal can carry rabies.
The Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus, is the most abundant bat in the monument. Bat surveys indicate that there are almost twice as many Big Brown Bats than all other bat species combined. Chiricahua is home to more than 20 bat species, at various times of the year. Bats provide humans with many important ecological services, like eating pesky insects and pollinating agricultural crops as well as wildflowers.
Last updated: September 26, 2018