Hannah V. Carey and John D. Wehausen
Approximately 60 species of mammals occur in the White Mountains. The diversity of mammalian species in this mountain range is low compared with lower-elevation areas in the temperate zone. This paucity of species reflects the island-like conditions characteristic of montane regions. The dry valleys on either side of the range present major barriers to colonization for many species, particularly those adapted to high-elevation habitats.
The distinguishing feature of this group of vertebrates is the presence of mammary tissue in females, which provides milk to help the young grow quickly. High metabolic rates enable mammals to maintain high and relatively invariant body temperatures. This allows them to inhabit a wide range of environmental conditions but is costly in terms of energy requirements. Such energy requirements are difficult or impossible to meet at higher elevations during the cold season. Mammals inhabiting these elevations in the White Mountains have evolved a variety of solutions to this problem. Some abandon their high body temperatures by hibernating (e.g., marmots and ground squirrels), thus regulating body temperature at a lower setpoint. Some subsist entirely on stored food through the winter, such as the Pika, or use it as a supplement to what they obtain through foraging in winter, as is the case with some mice. Some, such as deer and Mountain Sheep, migrate to lower elevations. Others simply endure the harsh conditions by subsisting on the limited available food. Such species include the White-tailed Hare, which feeds mostly where wind or sun has cleared snow, and shrews and mice, which can forage beneath the snow.
Insectivores (Order Insectivora)
Shrews,Sorex. Although shrews are active both day and night and are relatively abundant in some areas, they are rarely seen. Their high metabolic rate and small size require continual foraging, especially in cold weather, when body temperature is more difficult to maintain. Their diet includes insects, snails, earthworms, and spiders. Owls and Stellar Jays are known to feed on shrews, but many predators appear to avoid them. The White Mountains are home to three species of shrews.
Water Shrew,S. palustris. (Fig. 12.1) Head and body about 3.3 in (8.4 cm), tail 2.5–3 in (6.3–7.6 cm); black, frosted with gray-tipped hairs dorsally, underparts whitish and tinged with brown; tail bicolored, 70–105% of total body length; hind feet with a conspicuous fringe of hairs along the sides and toes. Water Shrews live near edges of clear, cold streams up to 11,600 ft (3,540 m). The stiff, thick hairs
on the hind feet are effectively used as paddles to propel this relatively large shrew through rushing streams. Thick body fur helps protect this shrew from icy waters as it swims below the surface in search of tadpoles, minnows, and aquatic insects.
Merriam Shrew,S. merriami. Head and body 2.2–2.5 in (5.7–6.3 cm); tail 1.5 in (3.8cm); upper parts light brownish grey, underparts white. The Merriam Shrew has been reported up to 9,500 ft (2,896 m) in the Pinyon-juniper Woodland and in Cottonwood Creek basin. This is the only species of Sorex to occur regularly in arid habitats, far from streams or meadows.
Inyo Shrew,S. tennellus. Body length 2.4 in (6.1 cm), tail about 1.6 in (4 cm); upper surface dark gray, underparts pale, smoky gray. This shrew occurs along streams up to 9,500 ft (2,896 m).
Bats (Order Chiroptera)
Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. This is accomplished by modification of the long bones of the arm and hand into a wing. Also, the hind limbs are rotated such that the knee joint bends backward instead of forward. The small eyes of the bat contribute little to visual orientation; rather, bats have well-developed ears that allow them to use echolocation for orientation as well as for hunting insects in flight. All species of bats that occur in the White Mountains are insectivorous. Two survival mechanisms are exhibited by bats during the winter, when insects are absent. Some species migrate to more favorable regions, returning months later to their summer ranges. Other species hibernate during the winter to minimize energy expenditure when food is scarce. The following bat species are known from records to occur in the White Mountains: Long-eared Myotis (Myotis evotis) , Hairy-winged Myotis (Myotis volans) , Small-footed Myotis (Myotis subulatus) , Western Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus hesperus) , and Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) . Species that are likely to occur at least seasonally in the White Mountains include: Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) (Fig. 12.2), Yuma Myotis (Myotis yumanensis) , Fringed Myotis (Myotis thysanoides) , California Myotis (Myotis californicus) , Leib's Myotis (Myotis Leibii) , Hoary
Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) , Silvery-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) , Pallid Bat (Antrozous pallidus) , Brazilian Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) , and Western Big-eared Bat (Plecotus townsendii) .
Pikas, Rabbits, and Hares (Order Lagomorpha)
Pika,Ochotona princeps. (Fig. 12.3) Body length 6.2–8.5 in (15.8–21.6 cm); no visible tail; ears round, much shorter than head, with white edges; fur grayish buff to dark brown. Pikas range from about 8,200 ft (2,500 m) to White Mountain Peak summit, at 14,246 ft (4,340 m), but are most common in the upper elevations above timberline. Like the Yellow-bellied Marmot, they prefer to live on talus slopes bordering alpine meadows, where they forage on grasses and forbs. Pikas may be seen carrying food in their mouths from feeding areas to their burrows among the talus; there they stack the food into "haypiles" for subsistence during the winter. Pikas and their relatives, rabbits and hares, are active year-round. Pikas can be located by listening for their distinctive eenk-eenk call. Pika calls may signal approaching predators or represent territorial and mating displays. An annual molt produces a mottled coloration of the fur. Pikas are eaten by weasels, hawks, falcons, Coyotes,
and other predators. Litter size ranges from one to five, and young are born naked with eyes closed in May or June.
Black-tailed Hare,Lepus californicus . (Fig. 12.4) Head and body 18–25 in (46–63 cm), tail 2–4.4 in (5.0–11.2 cm); ears 3.9–5.7 in (10–14.5 cm); weight 3–7 lb (1.4–3.2 kg); upper surface gray, nearly white beneath; ears with blackish tips; upper side of tail black, running up onto rump, buff gray below. The Black-tailed Hare, also known as the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, ranges from the floor of Owens Valley to about 12,500 ft (3,811 m) but is most common in open, brushy vegetation below
the Pinyon-juniper Woodland. Black-tailed Hares eat a variety of herbs and shrubs and have wide habitat preferences. Predators include Coyotes, eagles, hawks, owls, and snakes. An annual molt takes place in late summer or early fall. The new coat is dark grayish brown and thick; with time the fur lightens and becomes thinner, which aids in heat dissipation in hot weather. Black-tailed Hares can be distinguished from White-tailed Hares in areas where they co-occur by their smaller size and the brownish underside of the tail (the tail of the White-tailed Hare is white). As many as seven young can be born to a litter.
White-tailed Hare,Lepus townsendii . (Fig. 12.5) Head and body 22–26 in (56–65 cm), tail 2.6–4.3 in (6.6–10.9 cm); ears 3.7–4.8 in (9.5–12.2 cm); weight 5–10 lb (2.3–4.5 kg); grayish brown in summer, white in winter; tail white. White-tailed Hares (or Jackrabbits) range from about 10,000 ft (3,050 m) up to the summit of White Mountain Peak (14,246 ft, 4,340 m). They are common among sagebrush in open areas and feed on grasses and shrubs. This hare undergoes two annual molts, turning white in winter. This most likely aids in making it less conspicuous to its predators, which include Coyotes, Bobcats, owls, and eagles. One may approach a White-tailed Hare quite easily during the summer months without being aware of it, for its gray-brown coat blends in well with the surrounding rocks and shrubs of the Alpine Zone. As with all hares, the young are born fully furred with the eyes open. Litters can contain eight young and are produced once per year.
Nuttall Cottontail,Sylvilagus nuttalli . (Fig. 12.6) Head and body 13.8–15.4 in (35–39 cm), tail 1.6–2 in (4–5 cm); ears 2.1–2.5 in (5.4–6.4 cm); weight 1.2–1.8 lb (0.5–0.8 kg); grayish brown above, white below; tail hairs white to roots; feet densely covered with long hairs. Also known as the Mountain Cottontail, this rabbit frequents the dense cover of brush in the Pinyon-juniper Woodland and in Sagebrush Scrub. It occurs up to 11,000 ft (3,354 m) and feeds on currants, willows, junipers, sagebrush, and grasses. Predators include Bobcats, hawks, owls, and Coyotes. In
contrast to the hares, the young of rabbits are born naked with the eyes closed. Litter size is about eight.
Rodents (Order Rodentia)
Marmots, Ground Squirrels, and Chipmunks (Family Sciuridae)
Yellow-bellied Marmot,Marmota flaviventris. (Fig. 12.7) Head and body 14–19 in (36–48 cm); tail 4.5–9 in (11–23 cm); weight 5–10 lb (2.3–4.6 kg); upper surface yellowish brown with white-tipped hairs, underside yellow; white band below eyes. Marmots occur from 9,000 ft (2,744 m) to 13,500 ft (4,115 m) elevation. They inhabit rocky terrain near vegetated areas, preferably alpine meadows bordering talus slopes. White Mountain marmots hibernate from September to late April. During the active season they forage on grasses, sedges, and forbs, storing body fat for overwinter sustenance. When not feeding, marmots usually bask in the sun on rocks, which also serve as refuges from predators. Sharp alarm whistles are given when a predator, such as a Coyote or Golden Eagle, is suspected to be nearby. Yellow-bellied Marmots live in colonies of related adult females and their young. Juveniles are born in early June and first emerge aboveground in early July. Litter size averages five to six.
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel,Spermophilus lateralis. (Fig. 12.8) Head and body 6–8 in (15–20 cm), tail 2.5–4.8 in (6–12 cm); head and shoulders golden; one white stripe bordered by two long black stripes on each side of back. Golden-
mantled Ground Squirrels occur from about 7,000 ft (2,130 m) to 14,000 ft (4,270 m) in most habitats within this range. Their diet consists primarily of seeds, nuts, and fruits. In winter these hibernators subsist on body fat stored during the summer months, and may also eat food cached in their burrows during periodic arousals. Hawks, eagles, Coyotes, and weasels are their main predators. Young appear above-ground in July; litter size is two to six.
Antelope Ground Squirrel,Ammospermophilus leucurus. (Fig. 12.9) Head and body 5.5–6.5 in (14–16.5 cm), tail 2–3 in (5–7.6 cm); grayish brown with one stripe on each side and no dark stripes; tail usually held closely over the back while running, exposing white underside. This fast-moving desert ground squirrel occurs from the floor of Owens Valley to 8,300 ft (2,530 m) in the White Mountains. Whereas most other rodents that live in such hot and arid environments are nocturnal, the Antelope Ground Squirrel is day-active and avoids overheating by allowing its body temperature to rise up to 109°F (43°C) — higher than that of any other nonsweating mammal. Once it reaches this high body temperature, the Antelope Ground Squirrel cools itself by going into an underground burrow, where it dissipates the excess body heat. Highly efficient kidneys and evaporative cooling by fur licking also help this rodent maintain body temperature and water balance in a hot environment. Its diet consists mainly of seeds and fruits, but some animal matter is also eaten. Litter size is six to eight.
Chipmunks,Eutamias . The chipmunk has alternate dark and light stripes on the body that extend to the head, in contrast to ground squirrels, which lack head stripes. Sides are yellowish to reddish brown, with the undersurface whitish. There are three species of chipmunks in the White Mountains. Identification of individual species requires careful observation of physical characteristics as well as locality and habitat type.
Sagebrush Chipmunk, E. minimus . Head and body 3.7–4.5 in (9.3–11.4 cm), tail 3–4.5 in (7.6–11.4 cm); short, grayish fur with contrasting stripes — dorsal stripe black, outer light stripe white, all stripes extending to base of tail; tail held vertically when moving, yellowish underneath. Occurs from 7,000 ft (2,134 m) to at least 11,800 ft (3,598 m) in sagebrush, mixed Pinyon-juniper Woodland, and Alpine Fell-field habitats.
Panamint Chipmunk, E. panamintinus . Head and body 4.5–4.7 in (11.4–11.9 cm), tail 3.5–4 in (8.9–10.2 cm); crown of head noticeably gray; shoulders and back reddish; outer dark stripes, below the outer white stripes, are inconspicuous; other dorsal dark stripes are reddish or grayish. Occurs above 5,900 ft (1,800 m) to 9,500 ft (2,900 m) in Pinyon-juniper Woodland.
Uinta Chipmunk, E. umbrinus . (Fig. 12.10) Head and body 4.5–5 in (11.4–12.7 cm), tail 3.5–4.6 in (8.9–11.7 cm); back of neck and crown grayish; outer light stripes pure white, dorsal stripes well demarcated, outer dark stripes indistinct. Distribution restricted in the White Mountains to the Bristlecone Pine Forest, 9,500–11,500 ft (2,900–3,510 m).
Chipmunks store large caches of seeds and fruits in their burrows for sustenance during the winter. They may hibernate in some years, but their periods of torpor are not as predictable as those of ground squirrels and marmots. Chipmunks also eat insects and fungi and are themselves eaten by hawks, weasels, Coyotes, snakes, and other carnivores. Litter size is three to six, and young are generally active aboveground by June or July.
Pocket Gophers (Family Geomyidae)
Pocket Gophers,Thomomys. Head and body 4.8–7 in (12–18 cm), tail 2–3.8 in (5–9.5 cm); yellowish brown-gray fur; head small and flattened; neck short; shoulders and forearms broad and muscular; eyes small; fur-lined internal cheek pouches on either side of mouth. Two species of pocket gophers inhabit the White Mountains: the Northern Pocket Gopher (T. talpoides ), which ranges from the floor of Owens Valley to 8,200 ft (2,500 m); and the Valley Pocket Gopher (T. bottae ) (Fig. 12.11), occurring from the valley floor to about 10,500 ft (3,200 m). Preferred habitat for both is around meadows in soft soil, rarely in densely wooded or rocky areas. Pocket Gophers are strictly herbivorous, feeding on a wide range of foods including roots and succulent vegetation. The long, curved claws and chisel-like incisors are used to excavate tunnels below the ground surface. Gopher activity is apparent from the characteristic fan-shaped pile of soil marked by concentric rings where soil has been pushed up from below. Predators include owls, hawks, Badgers, Coyotes, and weasels. Young are born in the spring, and number three to six to a litter.
Pocket Mice, and Kangaroo Rats and Mice (Family Heteromyidae)
Pocket Mice,Perognathus. Head and body 2.5–4.8 in (6.4–12.2 cm), tail 3.2–4.8 in (8.1–12.2 cm); upper surface yellowish brown, white below; ears small; an external fur-lined pouch at each side of mouth; forelegs and feet small, hind feet and tail long; hind feet without hair. Two species of these nocturnal rodents are present in the White Mountains. The Long-tailed Pocket Mouse (P. formosus ) (Fig. 12.12) ranges up to 7,100 ft (2,165 m) and is common in rocky areas. It is distinguished by its bicolored tail that is heavily crested with a tuft at its end and darker than the rest of the body. The Great Basin Pocket Mouse (P. parvus ) occurs in sagebrush and Pinyon-juniper Woodland up to about 8,300 ft (2,530 m). Pocket Mice are quadrupedal except for isolated bipedal leaps away from danger. Their cheek pouches serve to transport seeds to underground food caches. During times of extreme weather conditions or food scarcity, Pocket Mice go into torpor, (i.e., lower their body temperature, heart
rate, and metabolic rate to conserve energy). Their main predators include owls and Coyotes. Litter size is two to six, and young are born in June or July.
Kangaroo Rats,Dipodomys. Head and body 4–5 in (10.2–12.7 cm), tail 5–7.3 in (12.7–18.5 cm); body yellowish brown above, whitish below; ears small; external cheek pouches; hind legs large; tail always longer than head and body, has dark dorsal and ventral longitudinal bands with lateral longitudinal stripes and is tufted with long hairs. The White Mountains contain three species of kangaroo rats: Ord's Kangaroo Rat (D. ordii ) (Fig. 12.13) ranges up to 6,500 ft (1,982 m); Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (D. merriami ) occurs up to 7,200 ft (2,195 m); and the largest of the three species, the Great Basin Kangaroo Rat (D. microps) , has been reported up to 7,100 ft (2,165 m). Kangroo Rats are bipedal, foraging at night mostly on seeds. The Great Basin Kangroo Rat is also known as Chisel-tooth, because it uses its flattened incisors to shave off the salty outer layers of saltbush (Atriplex ) leaves before consumption. Kangaroo Rats are noted for their highly developed water conservation ability. Water is derived solely from oxidation of carbohydrates, fats, and protein and is conserved by kidneys that are able to dispose of wastes with an extremely small output of water. Their large auditory chambers help to alert them to attack by owls and Coyotes, their main predators.
Mice, Rats, Lemmings, and Voles (Family Cricetidae)
Western Harvest Mouse,Reithrodontomys megalotis. Head and body 2.8–3 in (7.1–7.6 cm), tail 2.3–3.2 in (5.8–8.1 cm); upper parts and sides buffy, underparts grayish brown; tail indistinctly bicolored; no external cheek pouches. Western Harvest Mice have been reported up to 6,700 ft (2,040 m) in the White Mountains, inhabiting damp grassy meadows and marshy areas, but they may occur in other habitats during population peaks. They eat mainly seeds and fruits, with some insects, and they are preyed upon by owls, snakes, and a number of mammalian predators. They commonly use the runways of meadow mice (Microtus spp.) during their nightly foraging periods. Litters are produced several times per year and average four to six young.
Deer Mice,Peromyscus. There are three species of Deer Mice present in the White Mountains. They can be distinguished from other mice by several characteristics, including their large, membranous ears, lack of external cheek pouches, and a tail exceeding 70% of the head and body length. Their diets consist of seeds, fruits, and insects, particularly butterfly and moth larvae. They are active year-round and store caches of food for winter consumption. Deer Mice are preyed upon by many avian and mammalian predators.
Pinyon Mouse, P. truei . Head and body 3.6–4 in (9.1–10.2 cm), tail 3.4–4.8 in (8.6–12.2 cm); brown to dark brown above, creamy white underneath; feet whitish; tail bicolored, whitish below, length exceeds 90% of head and body length; ears very large. Pinyon Mice have been documented up to 9,500 ft (2,896 m) and are common in the Pinyon-juniper Woodland, where they feed on juniper berries and Pinyon Pine nuts. Much of their time is spent in trees.
Deer Mouse, P. maniculatis . (Fig. 12.14) Head and body 2.8–4 in (7.1–10.2 cm), tail 2–5 in (5–12.7 cm); yellowish brown to grayish above, pure white below; feet white; bicolored tail usually less than 90% of head and body length. The Deer Mouse, probably the most common mammal in North America, has the greatest elevational range of any mammal in California. The same subspecies of Deer Mouse that lives on the floor of Death Valley also occurs on White Mountain Peak (14,246 ft, 4,340 m). Deer Mice live in nearly all habitat types.
Canyon Mouse, P. crinitus . Head and body 3–3.4 in (7.6–8.6 cm), tail 3.5–4.3 in (8.9–10.9 cm). Fur long and soft, pale yellowish buff above and creamy white below; long hairs on tip of tail; feet white; tail usually longer than the head and body, with a broad, light brown dorsal stripe, creamy white below. Canyon Mice frequent rocky areas up to 8,250 ft (2,515 m) in the White Mountains.
Southern Grasshopper Mouse,Onychomys torridus. Head and body 3.5–4 in (8.9–10.2 cm), tail 1.6–2 in (4–5 cm); light cinnamon above, white below. The Grasshopper Mouse has been found up to 5,000 ft (1,524 m), most commonly in canyons. The diet is 90% animal matter, most of which is arthropods. These nocturnal rodents emit high–pitched calls and usually nest in burrows dug by other mammals. Predators include snakes, weasels, owls, Bobcats, and other carnivores.
Wood Rats,Neotoma. The scaly tail of the largely nocturnal Wood Rat is covered by overlying hairs. Wood Rats eat mostly vegetation and are preyed upon by Coyotes, foxes, owls and large snakes. Litter size is three to four, and young are born in the spring. There are two species of wood rats present in the White Mountains.
Desert Wood Rat, N. lepida . Head and body 5.8–7 in (14.7–17.8 cm), tail 4.3–6.4 in (10.9–16.3 cm); fur grayish, mixed with black hairs above, underparts white or buffy; tail hairs short. Also known as the Pack Rat, this species occurs up to 8,000 ft (2,440 m) in Sagebrush Scrub and Pinyon-juniper Woodland and frequents rocky areas in these regions. It uses cactus for water and nesting material.
Bushy-tailed Wood Rat, N. cinerea . (Fig. 12.15) Head and body 7–9.4 in (17.8–23.9 cm), tail 5.2–7.4 in (13.2–18.8 cm); fur cinnamon brown to buffy, some tipped with black above; white or grayish below; tail with hairs over 2 cm long. Bushy-tailed Wood Rats have been recorded up to 10,300 ft (3,140 m) in the White Mountains; however, a single individual was collected from the summit hut on White Mountain Peak (14,246 ft, 4,340 m) during the summer of 1983. Whether this is an accurate representation of their usual range in these mountains is uncertain.
Sagebrush Vole,Lagurus curtatus. Head and body 3.8–4.5 in (9.6–11.4 cm), tail 0.6–1.1 in (1.5–2.8 cm); fur long and fine, light grayish above and almost white below. Sagebrush Voles occur up to 12,500 ft (3,810 m) in Sagebrush Scrub and Pinyon-juniper Woodland. Similar to meadow voles, they are active both day and night. They feed on nearly anything green and do not require additional drinking water. This species is endemic to the Great Basin. Litters average five young.
Meadow voles,Microtus. There are three species of meadow mice or voles in the White Mountains. All are active both day and night and are preyed upon by hawks, owls, falcons, Coyotes, weasels, and snakes. They feed on stems and leaves of forbs and grasses. The litter size usually ranges from five to eight young.
Montane Vole, M. montanus . Head and body 4–5.5 in. (10.2–14 cm), tail 1.2–2.6 in (3–6.6 cm); fur dark brown, some reddish tinged; undersurface dark gray; tail usually less than one-third of total body length, nearly unicolored. The Montane Vole occurs up to at least 12,500 ft (3,810 m), commonly in alpine meadows or other high-elevation grassy areas. It builds conspicuous runways through grasses and sedges, and it tunnels beneath the snow during the winter. It feeds chiefly on succulent stems and leaves of forbs, rarely grasses.
Long-tailed Meadow Vole, M. longicaudus . (Fig. 12.16) Head and body 4.5–5.3 in (11.4–13.5 cm), tail 2–3.5 in (5–8.9 cm); dorsal band of reddish brown fur with grayish sides and bluish gray underparts; tail usually more than one-third of total body length and more or less bicolored. The Long-tailed Meadow Vole is common along streams and in wet meadows in higher elevations up to 11,500 ft (3,510 m). Unlike the Montane Vole, it does not construct extensive runways.
California Meadow Vole, M. californicus . Head and body 4.6–5.7 in (11.7–14.5 cm), tail 1.6–2.8 in (4–7.1 cm); buffy or dark brown above, commonly with a reddish tinge on the middle of the back; undersurface blue-gray to white; ears project well above fur. This species has been recorded up to 4,500 ft (1,370 m) in Silver Canyon, but occurs mostly along the Owens River.
Beavers (Family Castoridae)
Beaver,Castor canadensis. Beavers were introduced to the east side of the White Mountains in the Cottonwood Creek area about 1950. Environmental damage caused by beavers led to an apparently successful program to remove them in the mid-1970s. Remnants of their dams may still be visible on some creeks.
Porcupines (Family Erethizontidae)
Porcupine,Erethizon dorsatum. (Fig. 12.17) Head and body 18–22 in (46–56 cm), tail 7–9 in (18–23 cm); weight usually 9–15 lb (4–7 kg); yellowish to blackish above; stiff quills and spines, especially on rump and tail. Porcupines exhibit a distinct habitat and diet shift with season. In winter they inhabit wooded areas, where they consume tree bark; a variety of habitats and foods are used in summer. During the summer they may range up to 13,500 ft (4,115 m), where they forage on flowers and leaves of alpine forbs. The spines of these slow-moving rodents are actually modified hairs that are loosely attached to the body. When under attack by a Mountain Lion, Bobcat, or Coyote, a slap of the tail is enough to drive the quills into the predator.
Carnivores (Order Carnivora)
Coyote,Canis latrans. (Fig. 12.18) As large as a medium-sized dog, with long, bushy tail; 3–5 ft (1–1.5 m) long, including tail; adults 20–30 lb (9–14 kg); pelage nonuniform in color due to color banding of the hairs, usually appearing grayish with reddish tint, the red commonly more noticeable around the erect ears and neck. Coyotes are distributed throughout the White Mountains at all seasons. Although they are primarily predators of rodents, hares, and rabbits, their diet may include berries, grasshoppers, and carrion. Coyotes generally pose little threat to adult Mule Deer, Mountain Sheep, Pronghorn Antelope, and Tule Elk, but they can prey on the young of these species. Most Coyotes in the White Mountains occur singly or in family groups of a mother with young pups. Most hunting occurs at dawn and dusk,
but it is nevertheless common to observe Coyotes during the day. Young are born in the spring.
Gray Fox,Urocyon cinereoargenteus. (Fig. 12.19) As large as a small dog, head and body about 2 ft (60 cm), tail about 1 ft (30 cm) long; weight 9–11 lb (4–5 kg); pelage pepper and salt gray with black on tip of long, bushy tail and tips of prominent, erect, pointed ears. The Gray Fox is uncommon in the White Mountains, probably distributed mostly at middle to low elevations on both sides of the range. Its diet
includes rodents, hares, rabbits, birds, insects, and fruit, depending on availability. Young are born in spring, usually three to five in a litter.
Ringtail,Bassariscus astutus. (Fig. 12.20) Head and body length 14–17 in (36–41 cm), tail 15 in (38 cm); weight 2–2.5 lb (0.9–1.1 kg); body pelage tan, somewhat lighter beneath, with black-tipped hairs on back; dark eyes conspicuously ringed with white; light spot in front of each ear. A small, very agile relative of the raccoon, with a long, bushy, banded tail, pointed face, and prominent, erect ears, Ringtails commonly have been called the Miner's Cat (although not a cat at all) due to their propensity to take up residence in and around cabins. Ringtails occur in canyons of the White Mountains, living mostly near water. They are very nocturnal, and thus rarely seen by people. Their diet is highly varied, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, carrion, insects, spiders, and fruit. Litters are usually born in late spring.
Marten,Martes americana. About the size of a house cat, but longer and narrower, with bushy tail and sharply pointed face; head and body 14–17 in (36–43 cm), tail 7–9 in (18–23 cm); weight 1–2.5 lb (0.4–1.1 kg); pelage golden brown with yellowish patch on throat and chest. The Marten is apparently a rare inhabitant of timberline coniferous forests, probably occcuring mostly in Limber Pine on the east side of the White Mountains. An opportunistic predator that can climb trees, it preys on birds and small mammals as large as hares but also eats berries and carrion when available. The Marten commonly hunts beneath the snow in winter and is largely solitary. Young are born in spring and litter size is generally two to four.
Wolverine,Gulo luscus. A large, stocky member of the weasel family; head and body 29–32 in (74–81 cm), tail 7–9 in (18–23 cm); weight 35–60 lb (16–27 kg); shaggy, blackish brown pelage, with pale stripe from shoulder to rump on each side, joining at the base of bushy tail; pale patch from eye to ear on either side of head. The Wolverine is a rare inhabitant of the White Mountains, reported on only three
occasions in over 30 years. Its range is probably the crest and east side of the range. Wolverines are known to eat virtually any animal matter, including carrion, and will eat berries in summer. Young are born in late winter or spring, usually numbering two to four.
Badger,Taxidea taxus. (Fig. 12.21) Head and body 18–22 in (46–56 cm), tail 4–6 in (10–15 cm); weight 13–25 lb (6–11 kg); stature broad and low such that the body fur appears to drag on the ground; pelage yellowish brown to silver gray, with white stripe down middle beginning at nose and sometimes extending to base of the tail; face with upturned snout and black and white patterning. Badgers are distributed throughout the White Mountains, up to at least 12,000 ft (3,660 m). Their feet and legs are adapted for digging out burrowing animals, which are its main food (especially ground squirrels). Insects and other terrestrial animals are eaten opportunistically, but vegetative matter is virtually absent from the diet. Litters of one to five are born in spring.
Long-tailed Weasel,Mustela frenata . (Fig. 12.22) Head and body 8–10.5 in (20–27 cm), tail 4–6 in (10–15 cm); weight less than 0.75 lb (0.34 kg); pelage whitish underneath and brown above, with black on tip of tail; upper pelage usually changes to white in winter in snowy environments. A small, voracious carnivore, whose long and slender body is adapted for hunting small animals in burrows and rocks, this weasel is distributed throughout the White Mountains. Long-tailed Weasels have been recorded as high as 12,500 ft (3,810 m) but probably occur higher. Their diet
consists mostly of small mammals but may include insects, reptiles, birds, and eggs. Litters of six to nine are born in spring.
Skunks. Two skunk species inhabit the White Mountains. The Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis ) (Fig. 12.23) is about the size of a house cat, with a conspicuous bushy tail, weighing 6–14 lb (2.7–6.4 kg). It is glossy black with two conspicuous white stripes on either side of its back that meet at the neck. The Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius) (Fig. 12.24) is considerably smaller, weighing 0.8–2.5 lb (0.4–1.1 kg). Its black pelage is broken by numerous white stripes and spots, including a white tip on the tail. Striped Skunks occur up to about 7,000 ft (2,130 m) and Spotted Skunks to 10,500 ft (3,200 m) in the White Mountains. Both species consume a highly varied diet consisting of invertebrates, small vertebrates, bird eggs, and some fruit, nuts, grains, and roots. Young are generally born during May for both species, with litters of three to six for Spotted Skunks and four to eight for Striped Skunks.
Mountain Lion,Felis concolor. (Fig. 12.25) A large cat with a long tail; head and body 42–54 in (107–137 cm), tail 30–36 in (76–91 cm); adults 80–150 lb (36–68 kg); pelage tawny with white underside, black on back of ears and on tip of long, prominent (but not bushy) tail; kittens spotted with banded tail. The primary food of Mountain Lions is deer, which they hunt by stalking and ambushing. Hares
may be eaten if locally abundant, and other ungulates, such as Mountain Sheep and Tule Elk, are generally hunted only where their ranges overlap the deer range. Mountain Lions occur throughout the White Mountains where Mule Deer are present. Their dependence on concealment for hunting keeps them mostly in canyons, where vegetation and rocks meet this need. They are extremely shy of humans and hence rarely seen. They usually occur singly or as a mother with young. Young can be born any month of the year, and litter size is generally two to four.
Bobcat,Lynx rufus. (Fig. 12.26) About twice the size of a house cat with proportionately longer legs, especially rear legs, and a short tail; head and body 25–30 in (63–76 cm), tail 5 in (13 cm); weight 15–35 lb (7–16 kg); pelage yellowish to reddish brown and variously streaked and spotted; tail with dark bands toward the tip; prominent ears pointed with tufts of black hair at the tips. Like Coyotes, Bobcats feed mostly on rodents, hares, and rabbits, occasionally catching larger prey. They differ from Coyotes in their method of hunting, using only stealth to stalk and ambush, never running down prey. Consequently, like their relatives the Mountain Lions, Bobcats mostly inhabit areas where they can hide. They occur throughout the White Mountains but rarely use the high, open slopes where the visitor might hope to see one. Bobcats are generally solitary, except when a female is accompanied by kittens. Litter size is usually three to five. Young are generally born in spring and summer.
Even-Toed Ungulates (Order Artiodactyla)
Tule Elk,Cervus elaphus. (Fig. 12.27) Large, standing well over 3 ft (1 m) at the shoulders; adult males up to about 700 lb (320 kg), females about three-quarters the weight of males; pelage light reddish brown with dark brown neck and large, cream-colored rump patch; males carry antlers that are cast and regrown each year and may become very massive with numerous branches in prime adults. Tule Elk are native only west of the crest of the Sierra Nevada in the foothills, Great Valley, and Coast Ranges. They were introduced to Owens Valley in 1933 and 1934 in an attempt to establish a large, free-roaming population. At the time, this subspecies (nannodes ) numbered fewer than 300, and most were in enclosures. The Owens Valley population now extends from Owens Lake to Laws and numbers about 500. The west slope of the White Mountains is used by Tule Elk up to about 8,000 ft (2,440 m) in the region from the Westgard Pass Road to just south of Silver Canyon. This area is used largely in winter and spring and includes calving grounds.
Mule Deer,Odocoileus hemionus. (Fig. 12.28) Shoulder height about 3 ft (91 cm); weight about 100 lb (45 kg) for females and 130 lb (59 kg) for males; gray-brown pelage with small white rump patch covered by tail; conspicuous, large ears; males carry antlers that increase in length and degree of branching with body size and are cast and regrown each year. Mule deer are widely distributed in the White Mountains. Similar to Mountain Sheep, they migrate seasonally up and down the mountain to obtain the best yearly diet, occurring as high as 14,000 ft. (4,270 m) in summer. They are long-legged and fleet and escape predators by outrunning them. Habitats used by Mule Deer include the open Desert Scrub and alpine communities, as well as the more closed Pinyon Pine, Limber Pine, Bristlecone Pine, and Mountain Mohogany belts in the middle elevations. Common to all habitats is topography that allows fleetness in escaping predators. Consequently, Mule Deer rarely are present on the steep, rocky slopes preferred by Mountain Sheep.
Pronghorn Antelope,Antilocapra americana. (Fig. 12.29) Shoulder height about 33 in (85 cm): weight about 75 lb (34 kg) for females and 110 lb (50 kg) for males; pelage rusty brown on back, with conspicuous white belly, rump patch, and neck stripes; females with very short, inconspicuous (some lacking) horns; males with black horns rarely exceeding 16 in (40 cm) with a short, forward-protruding branch in the middle and hooked tips; horn sheaths are cast and regrown each year in males, unlike
any other horned mammal in the world. Pronghorn Antelopes were once common residents of valleys surrounding the White Mountains. They probably used the lower slopes of the range in spring and migrated to high sagebrush flats in summer. An attempt beginning in 1982 to reintroduce these antelopes to Adobe Valley northwest of Benton has resulted in populations that winter at the base of the White Mountains from Hammil Valley to Queen Valley; occasionally they have been observed high in the range in summer.
Mountain Sheep,Ovis canadensis. (Fig. 12.30) Shoulder height about 36 in. (91 cm); maximum weight about 140 lb (64 kg) for females and 200 lb (91 kg) for males; gray pelage with large, conspicuous white rump patch; females with short, narrow horns that curve back and outward toward tips; adult males with massive horns that grow back and then curve forward to form an arc. Mountain (Bighorn) Sheep are usually found in rugged topography due to their need for steep rocks to escape predators. They also use less rocky terrain if visibility is good and safe rocks are within running distance. Consequently, Mountain Sheep range is usually discontinuous. Where possible, Mountain Sheep exhibit seasonal altitudinal migration in order to
feed on the greenest, most nutritious forage. In the White Mountains they range in elevation from 5,700 ft (1,740 m) to 14,000 ft (4,270 m). Their main predator in the White Mountains is the Mountain Lion, with Coyotes and Bobcats possible predators on lambs. Historically, Mountain Sheep occurred in scattered localities in the southern White Mountains, including Wyman Canyon and the Cottonwood Creek basin, and all west-side canyons from White Mountain Peak to Montgomery Peak in the northern half of the range. Loss of part of this range was probably due to diseases introduced from domestic livestock. Today, Mountain Sheep remain only in the most rugged and inaccessible portion of their original range, from White Mountain Peak to Montgomery Peak. These canyons become less steep and rocky as they approach the crest of the range. Consequently, Mountain Sheep are uneasy and very flighty when feeding high in the mountains in summer. They usually flee into the canyons at such great distances from people that few untrained observers ever see them. There is concern that increased human use north of White Mountain Peak in summer might cause serious displacement of this species from its nutritious summer range.
Odd-Toed Ungulates (Order Perissodactyla)
Wild Horses,Equus caballus. Like Tule Elk, Wild Horses are a nonnative species. Their origin, however, is unintentional, stemming from escaped domestic horses. Their range encompasses the canyons on the east side of the White Mountains from around Cottonwood Creek to the northern end of the range. They range in elevation from the alluvial fans of Fish Lake Valley to high alpine flats, such as Pellisier Flats. A U.S. Forest Service policy to regulate their numbers has been only partially implemented. There is concern over the potentially detrimental impact these large animals may have on fragile alpine ecosystems. Wild Horses live in year-round harems, with bachelor males living in separate groups until dominant enough to obtain a harem.