Forty-four species of mammals, twenty-six species of reptiles, six species of amphibians and nearly 100 families of insects have been recorded within White Sands National Monument. Most animals inhabit the margins of the dune field and the adjacent desert plain.
As in other deserts, most animals that live here are nocturnal. In order to conserve water and avoid extreme heat, many desert animals stay underground during the day, emerging from their burrows after sunset to search for food. Evidence of their activities can be found in the sand the next morning. The Big Dune Nature Trail is a good place to search for animal tracks and sign.
Even at night, dark animals are easily spotted against the white background of the gypsum sand, making them easy victims for predators. Some small animals, including the Apache pocket mouse, the Bleached Earless Lizard, the Cowles Prairie Lizard, and numerous insects, have evolved a white coloration that camouflages them in the dunes.
Animals are rarely seen within the center of the dune field. The extreme temperatures and the lack of food, shelter and standing water combine to restrict their number. But they are here, even in the heart of the dunes. Like plants, most animals are found in the interdune flats. During the day, watch for darkling beetles, lizards and birds venturing onto the sand. At night, pocket mice and kangaroo rats forage for seeds, and kit fox hunt the mice and rats.
The rare White Sands Pupfish, the only fish native to the Tularosa Basin, can be found in Lost River, a stream that originates in the Sacramento Mountains. Lost River enters the eastern part of the dune field and flows through the park about two miles before disappearing in the sand.
The oryx, or gemsbok, is a large (450 pounds) African antelope that now lives in southern New Mexico. Oryx were introduced onto the White Sands Missile Range by the state of New Mexico to establish a huntable big game population. Oryx have successfully adapted to the area and have spread throughout the Tularosa Basin, including White Sands National Monument. The National Park Service considers the oryx to be a threat to the park's native plants and animals and has fenced the monument boundary to exclude the oryx.
CHECKLIST OF MAMMALS (A) Abundant (C) Common (R) Rare Taxidea taxus Badger (C) Tadarida macrotis Bat; Big freetail (R) Tadarida brasiliensis Bat; Brazilian freetail (O) Myotis californicus Bat; California Myotis (O) Antrozous pallidus Bat; Pallid (C) Lasionycteris noctovagans Bat; Silver-haired (R) Lynx rufus Bobcat (R) Sylvilagus audoboni Cottontail; Desert (C) Canis latrans *Coyote (C) Urocyon cinereoargenteus *Fox; Grey (C) Vulpes marcrotis *Fox; Kit (C) Geomys arenarius *Gopher; Desert pocket (C) Pappogeomys castanops Gopher; Yellow-faced pocket (R) Spermophilus spilosoma Ground squirrel; Spotted (O) Lepus californicus Jackrabbit; Blacktail (C) Dipodomys spectabilis *Kangaroo rat; Bannertail (C) Dipodomys merriami Kangaroo rat; Merriam's (R) Dipodomys ordii Kangaroo rat; Ord (C) Felis concolor Mountain Lion (R) Peromyscus eremicus Mouse; Cactus (R) Peromyscus maniculatus Mouse; Deer (C) Onychomys leucogaster Mouse; Northern grasshopper (R) Onychomys torridus Mouse; Southern grasshopper (R) Perognatus penicillatus Mouse; Desert pocket (C) Perognathus flavescens Apachii *Mouse; Apache pocket (C) Perognathus intermedius Mouse; Rock pocket (C) Perognathus flavus Mouse; Silky pocket (R) Reithrodontomys megalotis Mouse; Western harvest (R) Peromyscus leucopus Mouse; White-footed (C) Odocoileus hemionus Mule deer (R) Didelphis virginiana Opossum; Virginia (R) Oryx gazella *Oryx; African (C) Erethizon dorsatum Porcupine (C) Cynomys ludovicianus Prairie dog; Blacktail (R) Antilocapra americana Pronghorn (extirpated) Sigmodon hispidus Rat; Hispid cotton (O) Bassariscus astutus Ringtail cat (R) Notiosorex crawfordi Shrew; Desert (O) Conepatus mesoleucus *Skunk; Hog-nosed (R) Mephitis mephitis *Skunk; Striped (R) Mustela frenata Weasel; Longtailed (O) Neotoma mexicana Woodrat; Mexican (C) Neotoma micropus Woodrat; Southern plains (C) Neotoma albigula Woodrat; White-throated (C) *These frequent both marginal and interior dunes. Others are found mostly on marginal dunes.
CHECKLIST OF REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
(A) Abundant (C) Common (R) Rare
Sonora episcopa Ground snake (R) Arizona elegans philipi Painted desert glossy snake (R) Tantilla n. nigriceps Plains blackheaded snake (C) Pituophis melanoleucus affinis Sonora gopher snake (A) Rhinocheilus lecontei tessellatus Texas long-nosed snake (R) Hypsiglena torquata texana Texas night snake (C) Masticophis flagelllum testaceus Western coachwhip (C) Heterodon nasicus Western hognose snake (R) Gylopion canum Western hook-nose snake (R)
Sistrurus catenatus edwardsi Desert massasauga (R) Crotalus viridis viridis Prairie rattlesnake (A) Crotalus atrox Western diamondback rattlesnake (C)
Crotaphytus collaris Collared lizard (C) Sceloporus undulatus consobrinus Southern prairie lizard (C) Sceloporus undulatus cowlesi *Cowles prairie lizard (A) Uta stansburiana stejnegeri Desert side-blotched lizard (A) Sceloporus magister bimaculosus Desert spiny lizard (C) Holbrookia texana scitula *Greater earless lizard (A) Holbrookia maculata ruthveni *Bleached earless lizard (A) Cnemidophorus inornatus Little striped whiptail (C) Crotaphytus wislizenii wislizenii Long-nosed leopard lizard (C) Cnemidophorus tigris marmoratus +Marbled whiptail (A) Cnemidophorus neomexicanus New Mexican whiptail (C) Phrynosoma modestum Round-tailed horned lizard (C) Phrynosoma cornutum Texas horned lizard (C)
Terrapene ornata luteola Yellow box turtle (R)
Ambystoma tigrinum mauertium Barred tiger salamander (R)
Bufo cognatus Great plains toad (C) Bufo punctatus Red-spotted toad (R) Spadefoot toads Scaphiopus couchi Couchs spadefoot (C) Scaphiopus bombifrons Plains spadefoot (C) Scaphiopus hammondi Western spadefoot (C) +(Animals found primarily on the bajada west of Lake Lucero.)
*(Animals found only within the dune field.)
Frequency of occurrences refers only to the frequency these animals are encountered and does not indicate the actual abundance of the animal. Special thanks is given to Robert McKeever for his assistance in the preparation of this list.
INSECTS OF WHITE SANDS
ORDER - THYSANURA (Bristletails)
F. Machilidae Jumping bristletails F. Lepismatidae Silverfish
ORDER - COLLEMBOLA (Springtails)
F. Entomobryidae Common springtails
ORDER - ODONATA (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
F. Libellulidae Common skimmers F. Aeshnidae Darners F. Coenagrionidae Narrow-winged damselflies
ORDER - ORTHOPTERA
F. Gryllacrididae Camel crickets F. Blattidae Cockroaches F. Gryllidae Crickets F. Tettigoniidae Long-horned grasshoppers F. Mantidae Mantids F. Acrididae Short-horned grasshoppers F. Phasmatidae Walking sticks
ORDER - DERMAPTERA (Earwigs)
F. Labiidae Little earwigs
ORDER - HEMIPTERA (Bugs)
F. Notonectidae Backswimmers F. Nabidae Damsel bugs F. Belostomatidae Giant water bugs F. Coreidae Leaf-footed bugs F. Miridae Leaf or Plant bugs F. Pyrrhocoridae Red bugs F. Corizidae Scentless plant bugs F. Lygaeidae Seed bugs F. Scutelleridae Shield-backed bugs F. Pentatomidae Stink bugs F. Corixidae Water boatmen F. Gerridae Water striders
ORDER - HOMOPTERA
F. Aphididae Aphids F. Cicadidae Cicadas F. Cicadellidae Leafhoppers F. Dictyopharidae Planthoppers F. Flatidae Planthoppers F. Cercopidae Spittlebugs or Froghoppers
ORDER - NEUROPTERA
F. Myrmeleontidae Antlions F. Chrysopidae Green lacewings
ORDER - COLEOPTERA (Beetles)
F. Anthicidae Antlike flower beetles F. Meloidae Blister beetles F. Silphidae Carrion beetles F. Cleridae Checkered beetles F. Elateridae Click beetles F. Tenebrionidae Darkling beetles F. Dermestidae Dermestid beetles F. Oedemeridae False blister beetles F. Carabidae Ground beetles F. Histeridae Hister beetles F. Coccinellidae Ladybird beetles F. Chrysomelidae Leaf beetles F. Cerambycidae Long-horned beetles F. Bupresitidae Metallic wood-boring beetles F. Dytiscidae Predaceous diving beetles F. Scarabaeidae Scarab beetles F. Curculionidae Snout beetles F. Malachiidae Soft-winged flower beetles F. Cicindelidae Tiger beetles F. Hydrophilidae Water scavenger beetles F. Bostrichidae Branch and Twig borers
ORDER - LEPIDOPTERA (Butterflies and Moths)
F. Nymphalidae Brush-footed butterflies F. Gelechiidae Gelechiid moths F. Saturniidae Giant silkworm moths F. Lycaenidae Gossamer-winged butterflies F. Danaidae Milkweed butterflies F. Noctuidae Noctuid moths F. Hesperiidae Skippers F. Sphingidae Sphinx or Hawk moths F. Papilionidae Swallowtails F. Pieridae Whites, Sulfers, and Orange-tips F. Incurvaridae Yucca moths
ORDER - DIPTERA (Flies)
F. Bombyliidae Bee flies F. Calliphoridae Blow flies F. Tipulidae Crane flies F. Sarcophagidae Flesh flies F. Syrphidae Flower flies F. Tabanidae Horse and Deer flies F. Dolichopodidae Long-legged flies F. Culicidae Mosquitoes F. Otitidae Picture-winged flies F. Asilidae Robber flies F. Ephydridae Shore flies F. Tachinidae Tachinid flies
ORDER - HYMENOPTERA (Ants, Bees, Wasps)
F. Formicidae Ants F. Apidae Digger, Carpenter, Honey and Bumble bees F. Cynipidae Gall wasps and others F. Ichneumonidae Ichneumons F. Megachilidae Leafcutting bees F. Halictidae Mining bees F. Scoliidae Scollid wasps F. Sphecidae Sphecid wasps F. Pompilidae Spider wasps F. Tiphiidae Tiphiid wasps and others F. Mutillidae Velvet ants F. Vespidae Vespid wasps F. Colletidae Yellow-faced and Plasterer bees
Arthropods Other Than Insects
ORDER - SCHOLOPENDROMORPHA
F. Scolopendridae Giant desert centipedes
ORDER - PEDIPALPIDA Whip-scorpions Vinegeroon
ORDER - SCORPIONIDA Scorpions
ORDER - SOLPUGIDA Wind-scorpions or Solpugids
ORDER - CHELONETHIDA Pseudoscorpions
ORDER - ACARINA Mites and Ticks
ORDER - ARANEIDA Spiders
F. Theridiidae Comb-footed spiders (Black Widows) F. Thomisidae Crab spiders F. Salticidae Jumping spiders F. Araneidae Orb-weavers F. Theraphosidae Tarantulas F. Lycosidae Wolf or Ground spiders
Separate checklists of birds and plants of the white sands are available at the monument bookstore.