Check Out Boomer Bear’s Top 5 List of absolutely amazing animals—and some of them may even call your backyard home!
Hoppy When It Rains—Couch’s Spadefoot, Scaphiopus couchi
After a few drenching monsoon downpours, the nighttime desert sounds like a symphony of sheep!
The Couch’s spadefoot might be small but it’s probably the best desert-adapted amphibian in North America. Amazingly, it mostly stays in its burrow (estivates) eight to 10 months out of the year, coming out when the summer monsoons hit.
It’s not really a toad or a frog, and its name spadefoot comes from a shovel-like structure on its hind feet made of keratin (like your fingernails and toenails). Surprisingly, biologists have discovered that it’s not the moisture that brings out the spadefoots from their burrows, but the low frequency sound or vibration from probably rainfall or thunder!
Once out, spadefoots head for the temporary ponds created by the monsoon storms. Females start laying eggs within two days, and tadpoles can hatch within 15–36 hours. In just over a week, these tadpoles metamorphize into small adult spadefoots, which must gobble up as many bugs, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, crickets and spiders as possible before burrowing back underground!
The Greater Roadrunner Really Hammers Its Prey!
A greater roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, on average can weigh up to 19 ounces and grow up to two feet in length from bill to tail tip.
This desert predator likes to live in open expanses of land and can even be found as far as the Mississippi River! Roadrunners enjoy open country, especially with grasslands and low deserts—giving them a clear hunting ground.
The greater roadrunner makes a dovelike, low-pitched, cooing sound and can be seen doing this from an elevated perch. Most of their time though is spent hunting lizards, small mammals, birds and even rattlesnakes!
While these birds are fast runners —as its name suggests—they are not very good fliers. Venomous ani-mals like snakes and scorpions have no effect on this member of the cuckoo family.
To kill a rattlesnake, the greater roadrunner will sneak up to the snake, grab its head and smash it to death against a rock. The roadrunner will even continuously smash other small animals into rocks to break their bones, making them easier to eat. While most of the greater roadrunners’ diet is comprised of animals, during the winter, about 10 percent of its diet is made up of fruit, seeds and nuts since there are not as many animals out in the cold—but they don’t have to worry about that right now!
The Gila Monster Is Monstrously Marvelous!
The United States’ largest native and venomous lizard also is the desert Southwest’s mightiest monster.
Named for the Arizona Gila River basin—where it was first discovered—the Gila monster, Heloderma suspectum, on average can weigh up to 5 pounds at 2 feet in length. It also can live upwards of 20 to 30 years. Their stout, black bodies are covered in bumps called osteoderms and is contrasted with patterns of bright peach, orange or yellow patches.
The Gila monster is slow moving at about 1 mph, making it one of the slowest animals in the world! Gila monsters also have poor eyesight, but instead use their sense of smell and taste to understand their surroundings.
Coupled with strong jaws, a Gila monster uses its venom primarily on predators rather than prey. Their venom is located in glands along the lower jaw, which flows through their grooved teeth, into its victim.
These reptiles are found in the foothills of the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts in the southwestern United States and into northwestern Mexico. Spotting one of these reptiles is rare because they spend 95 percent of their time underground, especially when it’s cold or hot! They emerge only if they need to hunt or sunbathe.
Their diet consists of bird eggs and nestling animals like baby cottontail rabbits and ground squirrels. The food they consume can then be stored in their tails for later should they need energy reserves. Four to five meals can keep sustain them for an entire year!
Click here for National Geographic News' story: Gila Monsters Declining From Climage Change
S-s-s-que-e-eze & S-s-swallow!
Click the image above to watch a video battle between these two reptiles in nature. Image courtesy of YouTuber RobertG25
The rattle and the strikes of a diamondback don’t scare the common kingsnake. This big, non-venomous snake is a powerful constrictor and hunts rattlesnakes, which it swallows whole!
This type of kingsnake is found in most parts of Arizona from sea level to elevations up to 6,000 feet. These shiny snakes tend to be black with white or yellow-green bands, but a few subspecies are all black. Unlike a rattler, a kingsnake doesn’t have triangular-shaped head. Both kingsnakes and Western diamondbacks can grow to about 5 feet long.
In addition to rattlers, kingsnakes also prey upon rodents, lizards, birds, amphibians, reptile eggs and even small turtles.
How does it kill a rattlersnake? It grabs the rattler by its head and coils around its body to squeeze the life out of it. Amazingly, kingsnakes have developed an immunity to a rattler’s strong venom. With its prey subdued, the kingsnake has no problem swallowing the other snake whole!
Kingsnakes tend to be active during the day in spring and fall, but in the scorching summer months, they become nocturnal.
Aye-Aye, It’s Freaky!
With its batty face, teeth of a rat, bushy squirrel tail and freakishly elongated fingers, the aye-aye is a lemur like no other! (If you like odd-ball critters like this, be sure to create your own in the space provided.)
Like other lemurs, aye-ayes live on the African island of Madagascar. They avoid the forest floor, preferring to spend their lives up in the rainforest canopy. Their large eyes help these nocturnal creatures see in low light. But their thin, long fingers are really far out!
This omnivorous primate taps trees with its really long middle finger, listening for wood-boring insect larvae. It will bite into the bark and stick its middle finger into the hole to fish out the grub! It also uses its specialized finger to scoop out the meat of coconuts and other forest fruit!
Unfortunately, the IUCN lists aye-ayes as endangered due to habitat degradation and people hunting them.