• The dunes in soft light

    White Sands

    National Monument New Mexico


The unusually harsh environmental conditions present at White Sands National Monument have not prevented numerous animal species from adapting, surviving, even thriving here. While many of these creatures are nocturnal and others hibernate during the winter months, tracks in the sand frequently remind visitors of their presence. Currently, over 800 species of animals, including insects, have been identified which live either in the dunes or on the outskirts. By far, the largest group is the invertebrates at more than 500 different species, including varied species of beetles, spiders, moths and wasps.

Birds are also plentiful here. There are over 220 recorded species of birds seen in the monument, including wrens, mockingbirds, larks and ravens, as well as larger species like roadrunners and raptors. However, high daytime temperatures, especially during the summer months, make it unlikely that most will be spotted in the heart of the dunes. It's far more common to see them in the desert scrub vegetation surrounding the visitor center and entrance station.

Among our 53 species of mammals, the kit fox is the largest that actually lives in the dunes. Other dune-dwelling mammals include smaller species of rodents (pocket mice, and kangaroo rats). and gophersLike many birds, such larger mammal species such as coyotes, bobcats, badgers, rabbits and porcupines make their homes in peripheral areas, and only enter the dunes in search of food.

Reptiles, including a variety of lizards and snakes, number approximately 33 species and there are seven species of amphibians, primarily largely toads and spadefoot toads. Surprisingly, there is even one fish, the diminutive White Sands upfish, which isfound in a few springs and creeks (Lost River, Salt Creek, Malpais Springs and Mound Springs) only in the Tularosa Basin's Lost River.Even tiny crustaceans with the ability to survive by staying dormant during dry periods have been found at Lake Lucero and other temporary bodies of water that persistent on the playas after heavy rainfall events.In addition to the pupfish and several recently-discovered moths, over the centuries a number of species of mice, lizards, crickets and other insects that inhabit the dunes have developed a white or at least a substantially lighter coloration than their cousins elsewhere, and are endemic to this area.

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