Predators

Tonto National Monument is home to 14 species of predators. Learn about each of these species below.
 
badger
Badger

NPS Photo

Badger

Taxidea taxus

Body Length: 18 - 22"
Diet: Rodents

Badgers are wide-bodied and short-legged. They have a shaggy, brown coat and a distinctive white stripe running over its forehead and down its nose. Like skunks, badgers walk flat-footed, giving them a distinctive waddling and shuffling gait. They are well known for their digging abilities. With extremely strong claws and muscular legs, badgers construct deep underground dens and dig to find their food, which includes mice, squirrels, birds, and snakes.
 
Black Bear
Black Bear

NPS Photo

Black Bear

Ursus americanus

Body Length: 5 - 6'
Diet: Berries, carrion, roots, small mammals, etc.

Not all black bears are black; some may be blonde, cinnamon, reddish, or chocolate brown. Black bears in Arizona are mountain creatures, mainly forest dwellers. However, they are known to venture into the desert at times, particularly to seek out prickly pear fruit, a favorite food. They are seen at the Monument only rarely.

Where black bears and humans come into contact, conflicts may occur. Bears fed by humans can become aggressive, and several very serious bear attacks in and near Arizona campgrounds have occurred. Please do not feel the wild bears! It is bad for both people and bears.

 
Bobcat
Bobcat

NPS Photo

Bobcat

Lynx rufus

Body Length: 25 - 30"
Diet: Small mammals (mostly rabbits) and birds

Bobcats are the only cats in Arizona with short tails. They are common and occur throughout the state, through like most cats they are seldom seen. Largely nocturnal, they den in rock crevices and hollow trees and bear litters of two to four kittens, usually in springtime.

As with most cats, bobcats hunt by stealth, often sitting concealed along a game trail, waiting for prey to come to them. Unlike other predators such as coyote and bear, which eat some plan parts, bobcats are almost exclusively meat-eaters. Rabbits are their principal food in most areas, but bobcats are perfectly capable of killing deer with a rapid succession of bites to the throat. Though rarely observed, they probably are found throughout the Monument.
 
Coati
Coati

NPS Photo

Coati (Coatimundi)

Nasua narcia

Body Length: 20 - 25"
Diet: Insects, berries, and rodents

Coatis, a curious-looking animal, are related to raccoons and ringtails. They are longer than a raccoon, with a long nose and facial mask. Their long tail is not as distinctively ringed like a raccoon or ringtail. Although abundant in Mexico, this species occurs in the US only in this state and in western New Mexico. In places where they are common, such as the Chihuahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona, coatis form large bands of up to 20 members. However, solitary males, called "solitarios" in Mexico, are often also seen.

Coatis are rare at Tonto National Monument. It is unlikely that they have ever resided here, but we know that they do pass through from time to time.
 
Coyote
Coyote

NPS Photo

Coyote

Canis latrans

Body Length: 32 - 37"
Diet: Small and large mammals, birds, fruit, etc.

Coyotes are highly adaptable to change and have adjusted to living side-by-side with humans. They can survive eating anything from saguaro fruit to roadkill, and are able to live in any habitat from cactus forest to city. A coyote resembles a medium-sized dog with a long, bushy tail, big ears, and a pointy face. At Tonto National Monument, the song of coyotes may be heard almost every night, particularly in lower desert areas north of the Visitor Center.
 
shrew
Desert Shrew

NPS Photo

Desert Shrew

Notiosorex crawfordi

Body Length: 2 - 2 3/5"
Diet: Arthropods, lizards, small mice

Shrews are the smallest land mammals on earth. An adult weighs 3 - 5 grams (1/10 - 1/7 of an ounce, or less than a nickel), while a newborn is only 1/4 of a gram. They have short legs, a pointed snout, tiny eyes, pale gray fur, and a short tail.

Desert shrews are nocturnal predators with high metabolic rates. In fact, they must hunt and eat frequently or face the possibility of quickly dying of starvation. In fact, they eat up to 75% of the body weight in food every day.
 
Gray Fox
Gray Fox

NPS Photo

Gray Fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Body Length: 21 - 29"
Diet: Rodents, birds, eggs, fruits, and nuts

The gray fox is smaller than the coyote; they have a grayish coat with red-colored hairs on the ears, neck, legs, and underside. They have a black stripe that runs along the trop of its long, bushy tail. They are most active at night, retreating to rock outcrops, hollow trees, and underground burrows during the day. They are the only canine that are able to climb trees.
 
hognose
Hog-nosed Skunk

NPS Photo

Hog-nosed Skunk

Conepatus mesoleucus

Body Length: 14 - 19"
Diet: Insects and rodents

Hog-nosed skunks, the largest of the four skunks that occur at Tonto National Monument, are the least common. They are entirely white on the top of the head, back and tail and the belly is black. There is also a bare patch of skin on the skunk's long nose. The hog-nosed skunk is often seen with its nose and claws in the first, rooting for insects; extensive areas of disturbed topsoil are a sign that one may live nearby.
 
hooded
Hooded Skunk

NPS Photo

Hooded Skunk

Mephitis macroura

Body Length: 12 - 16"
Diet: Rodents and insects

The hooded skunk has a white stripe down the center of the nose, a ruff of fur around the neck, a white back, and a very long, lush white tail. Hooded skunks occur in the United States only in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southwestern Texas. They appear to be common in the Monument, and may be the most frequently seen skunk.
 
Mountain Lion
Mountain Lion

NPS Photo

Mountain Lion

Felis concolor

Body Length: 42- 54"; tail 30 - 36"
Diet: Mostly deer, other mammals, and tortoises

Mountain lions, also called, pumas, panthers, and cougars, are large animals. Adult males are nearly 5 feet long, excluing the tail, stand close to 3 feet at the shoulder, and weigh up to 190 pounds. They can be readily distinguished from bobcats by their larger size and long tails.

Mountain lions are known for their reclusive lifestyle, and are rarely seen by humans. Nevertheless, photographs taken by hidden, infrared-triggered cameras have revealed that several lions visit Tonto National Monument on a regular basis.

The principal food for mountain lions is deer, and studies show that most prey taken is in poor condition. Nevertheless, this most impressive of Arizona carnivores will somtimes eat other animals, including collared peccaries, cattle, sheep, jackrabbits, and desert tortoises.

 
raccoon
Raccoon

NPS Photo

Raccoon

Procyon lotor

Body Length:18 - 28"
Diet: Fruits, nuts, insects, frogs

Visitors may be surprised that raccoons occur here. In fact, raccoons do quite well in Sonoran Desert, as long as there is water nearby. Raccoons are heavy-bodied animals with a black face mask edged in white and a bushy, ringed tail. Raccoons have grasping hands which are adept at searching for and manipulating food. Such food often includes human food and leftovers, as they can rapidly learn to loosen the lids of food and garbage containers.
 
Ringtail
Ringtail

Photo used with permission from K. Lauzon

Ringtail

Bassariscus astutus

Body Length: 14 - 16"
Diet: Lizards, small mammals, fruit, and insects

Also known as rock cats, civet cats, and miner's cats, ringtails look like cats, but are actually not cats. Their closest relatively are raccoons and coatis. Unlike raccoons, ringtails are desert-adapted and probably do not need to drink water. They prefer rocky areas and climb easily on cliffs; during vertical descents, they can rotate their hind food 180 degrees.

The catlike facial features of this species hint strongly that ringtails are nocturnal and rarely active during the day. Their large eyes can take in extra light at night, and large ears can be directed toward a particular sound. The long nose indicated an acute sense of smell. Whiskers (and tail) are used for feelings around in the dark. During the day, ringtails can be found in caves and crevices. Not surprisingly, they appear to be common around the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument.
 
spotted
Spotted Skunk

NPS Photo

Spotted Skunk

Spilogale gracilis

Body Length: 9 - 13 1/2"
Diet: Rodents, birds, eggs, insects, and carrion

Spotted skunks are no larger than squirrels, and can easily be distinguished from other skunks by their black and white pattern that resembles spots not stripes. Their tail is black at the base and white at the tip. They are the only skunk able to climb trees, which expands their foraging opportunities.
 
striped
Striped Skunk

NPS Photo

Striped Skunk

Mephitis mephitis

Body Length: 13 - 18"
Diet: Seeds, roots, berries, and small mammals

Striped skunks are one of our most widespread and common mammals, occurring throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. They have a black back with a white stripe along the sides and a black tail with a white tip. Skunks are nocturnal animals famous for their ability to spray an offensive odor. They usually have enough fluid for 5 or 6 volleys of spray which they can shoot up to about 12 feet.

Last updated: July 17, 2017

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