Animals and Plants

White lizard on white sand.

NPS Photo

White Sands National Park has unusually harsh environmental conditions, even for the desert. But that hasn't stopped animal and plant species from adapting, surviving, and even thriving here. These species have developed very specialized means of surviving in this harsh environment and play a vital role in the ecosystem. Hundreds of species of plants and animals call White Sands National Park home and have adapted to survive here. Learn more about the native flora and fauna by downloading and reading some of the following publications.
Coyote laying on white sand.

NPS Photo

Common Mammals of White Sands
While visiting White Sands National Park it is very unlikely that you will see any of our resident mammals. They have adapted to the hot summers of the Tularosa Basin by hiding in their dens until it cools down, leaving behind only their footprints from their nightly hunting.
American Badger digging a hole.

NPS Photo

The American Badger
The American badger is found throughout western, southwestern, and central U.S. They are primarily associated with grasslands and desert scrublands. The badger eats a variety of burrowing animals. At White Sands it has a more restricted diet that consists mainly of southern plains woodrat, kangaroo rats, and other small rodents, lizards, carrion, as well as young burrowing owls.
Large black bird on a metal roof.

NPS Photo

Ten Common Birds of White Sands
There are over 220 recorded species of birds within White Sands National Park. High temperatures during the day, especially throughout the summer months, make it unlikely that you will come across many birds in the heart of the dunefield. However, many of these species are commonly seen in the desert scrub vegetation around the visitor center and fee station.
Brown and white bird on white sand.

S. Noll Photo

Featured Birds of White Sands
This brochure offers a comprehensive overview of many of the most common bird species of White Sands. Whether you are an avid bird-watcher or are just interested in learning more about the feathered friends of White Sands, this brochure will get you started on the adventure.
Roadrunner Tracks on white sand.

NPS Photo

Common Tracks and Scat Found at White Sands
Wild animals are shy and try to avoid us. Most animals in the desert are nocturnal. During the day you can see evidence of these animals in the tracks they leave behind in the sand. Tracks tell the stories of night activities in the dunes and are awaiting your discovery.
Black spider on white sand.

Dr. Lightfoot Photo

Common Arachnids of White Sands
There are over 500 different species of invertebrates that live at White Sands. Though rarely seen during the day, sometimes their tracks and burrows are evidence of their activity in the sand. While most arachnids do bite or sting, most of those at White Sands have weak venom and are not life threatening to humans. Remember though, White Sands is their home and you are a guest, so if you see one keep a distance and enjoy from afar.
Large wasp on white sand.

Dr. Lightfoot Photo

Common Insects of White Sands
The desert is a harsh place to live, but that doesn't stop the insects at White Sands National Park from making homes in the dunefield. Some of the most common insects can easily be spotted at the right time of year. At White Sands, you are a guest in their home, respect all wildlife, both big and small.
Gray speckled snake on white sand.

NPS Photo

Common Reptiles of White Sands
Many people believe the desert is a barren dry place with little life. Although deserts do have a scorching sun and very little rain, many animals both survive and thrive within White Sands National Park. Learn more about most common lizards and snakes that you may see within the park.
Aerial view of Lake Lucero with standing water.

NPS Photo

Desert Galapagos
White Sands National Park is a unique environment. Much like the discoveries made by Darwin in the Galapagos, the animals and plants here show remarkable adaptations to this harsh environment. White Sands is quickly becoming a popular place to research the science of evolution.
Cactus with pink flowers.

NPS Photo

Desert in Color
There is no single "best time" to see desert wildflowers. Different types of plants bloom at different times. At White Sands National Park, flowers bloom later than those in the surrounding desert foothills due to the pool of cold air from the mountains that settles into the basin at night. Learn more about the flowering plants of White Sands.
Mesquite bean pod on the tree.

R. Burghart Photo

Native Plants of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert
Although the desert may seem like an empty wasteland at first glance, a closer look will quickly dispel that notion as many things grow in the desert soil. In fact, many of the native plants that thrive in the arid landscape of White Sands have long been used by American Indians for a variety of purposes.
Plant garden in front of the visitor center.

NPS photo

Native Plant Garden Field Journal
Deserts are teaming with life that has adapted to harsh environmental conditions. Desert plants are incredibility resilient and thrive in arid environments. This field journal will help you observe and learn more about the native plants of the Chihuahuan desert. The field journal may be used in conjunction with the native plant garden guide below and audio tour.
Plant garden in front of the visitor center.
Native Plant Garden Guide
More than just colorful flowers or interesting shapes outlined by toasty sunsets, the native plants of the Chihuahuan Desert have met the needs of the people who have crossed this harsh desert’s path. The native plant garden in front of the White Sands National Park Visitor Center provides a tiny sample of the many plants that form the unique Chihuahuan Desert landscape. This guide will lead you through the native plant garden and share how humans have used these plants through the years.

Last updated: January 15, 2020

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 1086
Holloman AFB , NM 88330


575 479-6124

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