New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern United States with forests, mountains, deserts, and rivers. Owing to its varied climate and topography, New Mexico has different types of vegetation zones that provide diverse sets of habitats for a lot of wildlife. The number of wildlife species in the state includes over 100 mammal species, 110 reptile species, 27 amphibian species, and over 500 species of birds that live or migrate through New Mexico.
Black bears, bighorn sheep, cougars, bobcats, and deer inhabit the mountainous area above 7,000 feet, while jackrabbits, coyotes, kangaroo rats, porcupines, and wild turkeys live in regions with low altitudes. Endangered species include the Mexican gray wolf and Rio Grande silvery minnow.
In this article, we’ll go over the scientific names, information, and fun facts about some of the animals that are found in New Mexico.
1. The New Mexico Black Bear
The New Mexico black bear (Ursus americanus amblyceps) is a subspecies of the American black bear. It is also the state animal of New Mexico. It is the only bear species currently inhabiting the state. New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish has a black bear’s face on its logo. Even though it’s named black bear, the bear doesn’t always have black fur; it could have brown and even cinnamon fur. The state declared the species as protected in 1927, but they are still hunted in a regulated way in certain parts of the state.
There are approximately 5,000 to 6,000 black bears that currently inhabit the state. Hunters legally kill between 250 and 300 every year, which is currently not enough to threaten their overall numbers. However, Fragmentation and habitat loss are the biggest threats to the specie in the state. These mammals occupy all forested areas in the state and are especially common in mountainous regions.
2. Burrowing Owl
Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) are small, long-legged owls found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. They live in dens created by different creatures in the desert. Their diet consists of bugs and rodents. These birds are around 20 cm long and are brown with little white spots, a white face and forehead, and yellow eyes.
Burrowing owls are preyed on by a wide assortment of hunters, including birds of prey, falcons, and different flying predators Land animals such as wild cats, weasels, and badgers also prey on these owls. Their diet consists of bugs, reptiles, and different birds, contingent upon the season and food accessibility.
The burrowing owl is found in dry, open, less vegetated land with available burrows, perches for horizontal visibility, and adequate food sources. Living in open grasslands as opposed to forests, the owl has developed longer legs that enable it to sprint, as well as fly, when hunting. This owl’s adaptations incorporate long legs, an earthy-colored body with dots of white, and a shortfall of ear tufts. Its wingspan is 20 to 24 inches.
Peccaries are medium-sized, pig-like hoofed mammals of the family Tayassuidae (New World pigs). They are found throughout New Mexico in the tropical rainforests. Peccaries usually measure between 90 and 130 cm in length, and a full-grown adult usually weighs about 30 to 40 kg. They are the closest relatives of the family Suidae, which contains pigs and relatives.
Being related to pigs, the peccary has dim coarse hair and an enormous head with a round nose. It has a small tail and small ears. Peccaries are the New World partners of pigs and vary from genuine pigs in specific skeletal and dental aspects. They likewise have a fragrance organ under the skin that opens on the edge of the back and emits a solid musky smell. These are omnivorous mammals, with a diet that consists of plants, little creatures, and carcasses.
They make a woofing alert sound to alert and utter a shaking sound by prattling their teeth when they’re upset. Even though they are fierce when approached, they are in some cases hunted down by South American Indians. Peccaries are additionally pursued for their skin and meat. There are three species of peccary: white-lipped peccary, chacoan peccary, and collared peccary. Peccaries, in New Mexico, are usually found living in tropical rainforests alongside other wildlife.
4. Crawford’s Grey Shrew
Crawford’s grey shrew (Notiosorex crawfordi), also known as the desert shrew, is a small shrew found in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It is a member of the amily Soricidae of the order Eulipotyphla. It’s one of the smallest desert mammals and one of the world’s smallest homeotherms. A full grown gray shrew will only be about a size of 1.5 to 2 inches long and weigh 3 to 5 grams, half of which is the tail. It is gray-brown in color with light gray under parts. It has small, but prominent, ears.
The Crawford’s grey shrew has poor vision, so it has to rely on its highly sensitive ears and long nose to hunt down its prey. It also uses an echolocation, similar to bars, with high-pitched squeaks to locate prey. The shrews are also nocturnal animals – storing food during the night so they don’t have to go out during the day. The grey shrew will also emit a musky odor that makes it seem less appetizing to mammalian predators when it is threatened.
Unlike most shrews, the grey shrew does not have access to an abundant water supply. Consequently, it has adapted to the hot temperatures and lack of water by reducing causes of water loss from its body. To conserve the little water that it gets, it finds shelter to protect itself from the harsh external temperatures. Crawford’s grey shrew does not construct its own burrows. Instead, it builds small nests in pack rat houses or under dead agaves.
5. Mexican Wolf
The Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), also known as the lobo, is a subspecies of grey wolf native to southeastern Arizona and Southern New Mexico in the U.S., and northern Mexico. It is the smallest of North America’s grey wolves and is similar in appearance to the Great Plains wolf. However, it has a smaller, narrower skull and a darker pelt, which is yellowish-gray and heavily clouded with black over the back and tail.
It is the most endangered grey wolf subspecies in North America that has almost gone extinct in the past but was reintroduced in the state through breeding programs and government efforts. After being listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, the U.S. and Mexico collaborated to capture all lobos remaining in the wild. This measure prevented their extinction. A captive breeding program was started and from this program captive-bred wolves were released into recovery areas in Arizona and New Mexico beginning in 1998 in order to assist the animals’ recolonisation of their former historical range.
As of 2021, there were 200 wild Mexican wolves, and 350 in captive breeding programs. Approximately 60% of the total Mexican wolf population inhabits the state of New Mexico. In New Mexico, these wolves live on the Madrean pine-oak woodlands – a habitat which supports Coues’ white-tailed deer that is the its main prey.
The elk (cervus Canadensis) is one of the largest species within the deer family, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America and Central and East Asia. In New Mexico, they are found living in parklands, deciduous forests and in mountainous regions. Elk usually inhabit forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. Male elk have large antlers which they shed each year. Males also engage in ritualized mating behaviors during the rut, including posturing, antler wrestling, and bugling – a loud series of vocalizations that establishes dominance over other males.
Elk have thick bodies with slender legs and short tails. They have a shoulder height of 0.75-1.5 m with a nose-to-tail length of 1.6-2.7 m. Males are larger and weigh 178-497 kg while females weigh 171-300 kg. Extraordinary bulls can surpass the weight of 500 kg. There are numerous subspecies of elk all over the world but the one found in New Mexico is the Rocky Mountain elk. The elk is the second largest extant species of deer, after the moose.
7. Kit Fox
The kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) is a fox species that inhabits arid and semi-arid regions of New Mexico in the U.S., and northern and central Mexico. These foxes are the smallest of the four species of Vulpes occurring in North America and are among the smallest of the vulpines worldwide.
They have large ears, between 71 and 95 mm, that help them dissipate heat and give them exceptional hearing. Their average weight is between 1.6 and 3 kg. Adults can grow up to the lengths of 455-535 mm with a long tail adding another 260-323 mm. Generally, the fox’s dorsal color is grizzled or yellowish-gray. The grizzled appearance is the result of guard hairs that are typically black-tipped.
The tail is bushy and grey, with a black tip and the caudal gland has a pronounced black spot. Its color ranges from yellow to grey – varying geographically. The back is usually darker than the majority of its coat and its belly and inner ears are usually lighter.
Kit foxes inhabit dry and desertous regions encompassing desert scrub, chaparral, halophytic regions, and grasslands. Generally, they favor areas with sparse ground cover. Loose textured soils may be prioritized for digging burrows and dens. Kit foxes can also be found in agricultural areas, in particular orchards, and can even inhabit urban areas. They are usually found at elevations 1,300 to 6,200 ft above sea level.
Kit foxes are currently an endangered species and efforts ae being made to protect their population in California.