Tonto National Monument is home to nine species of rodents. Learn about each of these species below.
Bailey's Pocket MouseChaetodipus baileyi
Body Length: 3 -4"
Diet: Seeds and green plants
This mouse has a long, tufted tail and coarse, grayish fur. They are nocturnal, burrowing animals with external fur-lined cheek pouches used for storing and transporting seeds. They are well-adapted to dry, desert conditions and do not need to drink water. Through behavior and physiology (concentration of urine), they sustain themselves solely on the moisture they metabolize from their diet of seeds.
Cactus MousePeromyscuc eremicus
Body Length: 3 1/5 - 3 3/5"
Diet: Seeds, insects, and possibly green vegetation
This brownish to cinnamon colored mouse has a white belly, a long, sparsely furred tail, and big ears. They are skilled climbers of cacti, trees, and cliffs, using their long tails for balance and support as they move about at night searching for food. Under ideal conditions, which seem to coincide with extremely wet winters, female cactus mice can give birth at approximately 29-day intervals for two years of more.
Cliff ChipmunkTamias dorsalis
Body Length: 5 - 6"
Diet: Plant seeds, stems, and flowers
The extremely agile Cliff Chipmunks are gray with a black stripes running down their backs. They have bold white stripes on their heads and a bushy gray tail. They are frequently observed at the Lower and Upper Cliff Dwellings, where than can be seen running up sheer cliff walls.
Harris' Antelope SquirrelAmmospermophilus harrisii
Body Length: 6 - 6 1/4"
Diet: Seeds, green vegetation, insects, and carrion
This gray squirrel has some brown on its upper front and back legs, a white stripe on its side, a white belly, and a bushy black tail. They are remarkably desert-adapted, and can often be seen dashing about when the temperature exceeds 100° F. To shade themselves, they carry their tail over their heads like an umbrella.
Merriam's Kangaroo RatDipodomys merriami
Body Length: 5 - 6"
Diet: Seeds and some greens
Kangaroo rats have long, dark-tipped tails and large feet with 4 toes. They have large heads with big eyes, small ears, and external, fur-lined cheek patches. Like the Bailey's Pocket Mouse, these nocturnal animals use these cheek-pouches for storing and transporting seeds. They are well-adapted to dry, desert conditions and do not need to drink water. Through behavior and and physiology (concentration of urine), kangaroo rats sustain themselves solely on the moisture they metabolize from their diet of seeds.
Body Length: 18 - 22"
Diet: Inner bark or trees, buds, cacti
Porcupines are the second-largest rodent in North America. They are slow-moving with sharp quills on their backs. Quills are an effective defense against predators such as dogs, although mountain lions can learn to roll them over and kill them by slashing at their unprotected underside. Porcupines cannot throw their spines, but they come out readily when the animals is touched. Desert porcupines feed on the bark of mesquite and the fruit of prickly pear cactus.
Rock SquirrelSpermophilus variegatus
Body Length: 10 - 11"
Diet: Seeds, vegetation, insects, and vertebrate animals
These large squirrels can grow to nearly a foot length, not including their long, bushy tails which are nearly as long as their bodies. They are grayish-brown and have light colored rings around their eyes. They are often seen sitting on rocks or the cliff dwelling walls. When alarmed, they give a high pitched whistle.
Rock squirrels like to dig, and may be the primary source of damage to the ancient walls and floors of the Upper Cliff Dwelling. In some cases, squirrel activity has destroyed archeological artifacts beneath the surface. However, rock squirrels have undoubtedly inhabited the cliff dwellings for a long time because their bones are found in some of the earliest Salado deposits.
Southern Grasshopper MouseOnychomys torridus
Body Length: 3 1/2 - 4"
Diet: Insects, scorpions, other mice, lizards, and seeds
Grasshopper mice have been described as the wolves of the mouse world. This medium sized mouse is gray, brown, or cinnamon colored with a short, white-tipped tail. Grasshopper mice are predators; although insects are their principal food, grasshopper mice also eat spiders, scorpions, and lizards, and are legendary for killing and eating other mice in captivity. At times when these foods are scarce, grasshopper mice will also eat seeds. They may even "howl" or call like a wolf; they stand on their hind legs, throw back their head, and howl.
White-Throated Woodrat (Packrat)Neotoma albigula
Body Length: 7 1/2 - 8 1/2"
Diet: Cactus, mesquite beans, and seeds
This medium-sized rat has big ears and eyes,a short tail, gray fur on their back, and white fur on their throat. They are nicknamed "packrats" for their habit of gathering wood, cactus parts, stones, cow dung, bones, litter, etc- just about every movable object in the vicinity- to build its large nest. They forage at night and carry items back to their house a night for later use or to incorporate right into the house structure.
Last updated: July 14, 2017