FLORA AND FAUNA
[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” el_width=”80″ el_align=”center” accent_color=”#73db2c”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the Flora and Fauna of the area. In the three years we have been working on this project we have not encountered many of the animals they list. No snakes, centipedes, scorpions or bobcats have been seen, but this does not mean that they are not there and won’t move in with the addition of human influence on the property. So, be aware…shake out your boots and shoes before putting them on. If you see a cute cat wandering around, don’t pick it up.
ABSOLUTELY NO HUNTING! The animals who live here are few and valuable. If you encounter a snake or any animal intruder contact security and we will remove it from harms way.
Although the park is known for its fossils and eroded badlands, its main environment is semi-desert shrubsteppe. The volcanic soils of the Bidahochi Formation support abundant plant life along the Painted Desert rim. In contrast to the relatively bare badlands below, the rim is covered with shrubs, small trees, grasses, and herbs.
The dominant plants in the park include more than 100 grass species, many native to the region. Growing among the grasses are flowering species such as evening primrose, mariposa lily and blue flax, and schrubs such as sagebrush, saltbush, and rabbitbrush. Among the wide variety of grasses are native perennial bunchgrass, blue grama, sacaton, sideoats grama, bearded sprangletop and bush muhly.
Trees and shrubs grow in riparian zones along the washes. Willows and cottonwoods are the larger plants, joined by rushes and sedges. Here the invasive Eurasian tamarisk, also known as saltcedar, threatens native plants by crowding, using most of the available water, and increasing soil salinity by exuding salt through its leaves.
Some of the larger animals roaming the grasslands include pronghorns, black-tailed jackrabbits (hares), Gunnison’s prairie dogs, coyotes, bobcats and foxes. Pronghorns, the fastest land animals in North America, are capable of 60-mile-per-hour (97 km/h) sprints. The blood vessels in the huge, thin-walled ears of the jackrabbits act as heat exchangers. These hares are known for their bursts of speed, long leaps, and zigzag routes, all of which protect them from being eaten by golden eagles and other predators. The prairie dogs live in large colonies or “towns”, near which many other species find food and shelter. Coyotes dine largely on rodents but also eat fruits, reptiles, insects, small mammals, birds, and carrion.
Bobcats and bullsnakes hunt smaller animals, such as deer mice and white-tailed antelope squirrels in the park’s riparian zones. Western pipistrelle bats feast on insects, and pallid bats eat beetles, centipedes, cicadas, praying mantises,scorpions, and other arthropods. On the Painted Desert rim, small animals find food and shelter among the denser foliage, and mule deer sometimes frequent the area.
More than 16 kinds of lizards and snakes live in various habitats in the park and consume large quantities of insects, spiders, scorpions, other reptiles, and small mammals. The collared lizard, which occurs in every habitat, is the largest and most often seen.
Plateau striped whiptails, a species consisting entirely of females, prefer grasslands and developed areas. Side-blotched lizards live in rocky areas of the park but are seldom seen. Gopher snakes, which sometimes imitate rattlesnakes when disturbed, are among the most common snakes in the park. The Western rattlesnake, the only venomous snake found in the park, prefers grasslands and shrub areas.
Seven kinds of amphibians, which drink no water but absorb it through their permeable skins, have been identified in Petrified Forest National Park. Tiger salamanders, found in grassland and near major drainages, are the only salamander species known in Arizona. Woodhouse’s toads, which are seldom seen, are the largest toads in the park. They like grasslands, riparian corridors, and developed areas. Red-spotted toads, most active in the rainy season, July through September, are found in rocky areas near streams and in canyons. The Great Plains toad, the most common toad in the park, prefers grasslands. Resident Spadefoot toads include the New Mexico, plains, and Couch’s varieties.
A survey conducted in 2006 identified 216 species of birds known to have occurred in Petrified Forest National Park since the park became a protected area in 1906. Of those, 33 species breed within the park, 6 other species probably do, and 18 species live in the park year-round. Thirty-five species live in the park only during the summer and 11 species only during the winter. The greatest diversity of birds occurs during fall and winter migrations.
Raptors, songbirds, and ground birds are found in the park’s grassland, while the Puerco River’s riparian corridor is a good place for year-round residents as well as migrants such as warblers, vireos, avocets, and killdeer. Developed areas around the visitor center and museum attract Western Tanagers, Hermit Warblers, House Finches, and others. Occasional shorebirds and Eastern birds also visit the park.
Birds commonly seen in the park include the Common Raven and the Western Meadowlark, known for its charming song. Anna’s Hummingbird, which can hover and fly backwards as well as forwards, is among the smallest birds in the park. The largest is the Golden Eagle, with a wingspan of up to 7 feet (2 m).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]