Critters of the Sky Islands

  As we reach the monsoon season here in Southern Arizona and the scorching sun is hidden behind the thick clouds, our wildlife take the time to come out after a dry and sweltering season. Today we will feature some of the fauna special to the Southwest. I would like to begin with the javelina, and as one of our kid’s books is titled “Don’t Call Me a Pig”, sure enough javelina are not part of the Afro-Eurasian pig family. They are an indigenous species called collared peccary which are found in Central and South America and the Southwest of the US within the boundaries of Coronado National Memorial. Seen by the locals as a pest, they seem to roam boundlessly throughout the landscape, yet provide a huge support to the ecosystem by dismantling agave plants and turning the soil looking for bugs and roots. Dependent too on the agave are the lesser long-nosed bats which scurry north from Mexico after winter to catch the blooming agave and sweet nectar of the saguaro cactus. The population of bats has dwindled in the past decades due to the loss of habitat and agave plants throughout the park, but thanks to the work of the park, thousands of agave plants were planted with the help of a local elementary school and grants to launch the project earlier this year. Next is the amongst the cutest mammals around, and a rarity to the United States are the coatimundis also known as chulos in Spanish. These furry little ones are part of the racoon family and like their cousins, will eat anything they find including bugs, small vertebrates, and like the javelina, will dig up the soil or turn over rocks in search of food. The social behavior is noted by many as most interesting. Coatimundis are seen as truly communal and travel in large female-dominated tribes. In spring, males break up into tight-knit clusters but come June, once the offspring are born, the tribe reunites and kicks the males out to find their way until the next mating season

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