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Mammals of Scotts Bluff National Monument

There are 35 different species of mammals that can be seen at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Some of these mammals, like eastern cottontails and prairie dogs, are permanent residents. Others are seen in the monument only occasionally, like bighorn sheep and pronghorn.
A coyote stands amongst dried vegetation.
Coyotes are common predators at Scotts Bluff National Monument, though rarely seen.

NPS

Coyote

The coyote (Canis latrans) is common in the monument, though rarely seen. Their hair is a grizzled gray color and their bushy tail has a black tip. They usually weigh 20 to 40 pounds, but can occasionally weigh more. The coyote is classified as a carnivore, though they really are more omnivorous. They eat anything from grasshoppers, mice, fruit, toads, snakes and rabbits. They will look for circling magpies and crows to help locate food sources. Coyotes are more frequently heard than seen. They enjoy vocalizing at dusk, dawn. or during the night.
An eastern cottontail rabbit rests on a green lawn.
The eastern cottontail can often be seen on the lawns near the visitor center and adminitration buildings.

NPS/Eric Grunwald

Eastern Cottontail

The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is the most common rabbit in North America. It has a chunky body with red-brown or gray-brown fur. They have large hind feet, long ears, large brown eyes, and a short fluffy white tail. The cottontail's diet includes grasses, fruits and vegetables in the summer and twigs and bark in the winter. The cottontail is a very territorial animal. They do not dig burrows, but may use the abandoned burrow of another animal or create a shallow nest made of grass and lined with fur. Predators include hawks, eagles, owls, foxes, coyotes, bobcats and weasels.

Deer Mice

Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) have large beady eyes, large ears, and are often two-toned in color. They are accomplished jumpers and runners. The deer mouse is only three to four inches in length, not counting their tail. They vary in color from white to black, but all have white underside and feet. They are nocturnal and spend the day in trees or burrows. They feed on seeds, fruit, arthropods, leaves, and fungi.

Red Fox

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes. Red foxes adaprt well to human environments such as farms, suburban areas, and even large communities. At birth the red fox is actually brown or gray. A new red coat usually grows in by the end of the first month. They feed on rodents, rabbits, and birds, but will also eat fruit fish, frogs and even worms. The fox's thick tail aids in balance, serves as a warm cover in cold weather, and as a signal flag to other foxes. They are hunted by man, along with bobcats and coyotes.

Prairie Vole

The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) has long, coarse grayish-brown fur on the upper portion of the body and yellowish fur on the lower portion. They have short ears and a short tail. Prairie voles are active year-round, and make shallow underground burrowsand runways through surface vegetation. In winter, they tunnel underneath the snow. Prairie voles rarely live longer than two years. They feed on grasses, roots, seeds, bark and some insects. Predators include coyotes, hawks, foxes, and snakes.
A fox squirrel stretches to reach for buds to eat in a tree.
Fox squirrels relish newly emerged leaf buds in the spring.

NPS/Dan Morford

Fox Squirrel

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America. The squirrel's total body length measures 18 to 28 inches and it weighs one to two pounds as a full-grown adult. In most areas, they are brownish-gray to brownish-yellow. They have sharp claws to help with climbing. Fox squirrels have excellent vision and well-developed senses of hearing and smelling. They depend primarily on tree seeds for food, but also consume buds, fruits and nuts. Predators include humans, hawks, owls, snakes and bobcats.

Raccoon

The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is 16 to 28 inches long and weighs 8 to 20 pounds. The raccoon is usually nocturnal with a diet of insects, worms, fruits, and nuts. Its grayish coat of dense underfur insulates it against cold weather. Two of its most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws and its facial mask. The most important sense for the raccoon is its sense of touch. Predators include bobcats, coyotes and the great horned owl.

Porcupine

Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) are rodents with a coat sharp spines, or quills, that defend them from predators. They are the third largest rodent and are 25 to 36 inches long and weigh 12 to 35 pounds. They come in various shades of brown, gray, and rarely white. Porcupines eat leaves, twigs, and green plants and in the winter they may eat bark. They are mostly nocturnal, but will forage for food during the day. Predators of the porcupine include eagles and great forned owls.
A plains pocket gopher peers out of its burrow.
A plains pocket gopher peers out of its burrow.

NPS/Eric Grunwald

Plains Pocket Gopher

The Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) is 5 to 13 inches long and weighs 5 to 16 ounces. It has short fur with brown to black coloration. Whitish hairs cover the tops of the feet. The pocket gopher has small eyes and ears and naked or sparsely-haired cheek pouches or "pockets" which give the animals their common name. Their short necks and short fur enables them to move about in their burrow. They lead an almost completely subterranean and solitary existence. The result of the gopher's burrowing are mounds of dirt. During the summer their burrows are only one inch below the surface, but their burrows are deeper in the winter. They can damage crops when they burrow in agricultural areas, but their tunnels also aerate the soil. Predators include badgers, coyotes, domestic cats, hawks and owls.

Last updated: March 10, 2021