The Grand Canyon is home to several major ecosystems and these combine to support a large biological diversity. The canyon is home to five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types found in North America. The Grand Canyon is a biological hotspot with plenty of wildlife for enthusiasts to spot.
Another great biological hotspot is Yellowstone - go in different seasons to see different animal behavior. One of the best ways to explore the Grand Canyon is with a mule ride down to the bottom of the canyon.
The Grand Canyon Ecosystem
The five life zones are the Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. The range of zones represented here is the equivalent of traveling from Mexico to Canada - much of the variation is due to the differences in elevation.
- Life Zones: Five of Seven North American Life Zones
- Mammals: Over 90 Species of Mammals
According to the National Park Service, over 90 species of mammals live in the national park. In fact, this gives the park a higher mammalian species diversity than Yellowstone. The park has everything from the largest land animal in North America to some of the highest bat species diversity anywhere in the United States.
Most people who visit the canyon just see mule deer, elk, squirrels, and the like, but many of the Grand Canyon's mammals are secretive or otherwise nocturnal.
Bats In the National Park
Around 22 species of bats inhabit the Grand Canyon National Park. That is one of the greatest diversities anywhere in the United States for the little flying mammals. Many of these bats eat insects while others feed on fish, still, others eat the nectar of fruit-producing plants found in the canyon and aid with pollination.
- Little Brown Bat: Is Able to Eat 1,200 Mosquito Sized Insect In An Hour
Unfortunately, bats are under threat in the United States. Across much of the country is the White Nose Syndrome that can prove fatal to the bats. At the moment it hasn't reached Arizona, but it is likely to in the next few years. Come and see the bats of the canyon before this disease takes its toll.
While in the Grand Canyon, look into the evening and night skies and see these little critters flying in search of their quarry. They are the only mammals capable of true flight.
The Canyon's Larger Grazing Animals
Bighorn Sheep: One of the canyon's and most charismatic residents is the desert bighorn sheep. It is the largest native animal in the park (two larger non-native species are larger in the park - the bison and the elk).
- Largest: Largest Native Animals In The Park
- Weight: Males Can Weigh Up to 300 lbs or 135 Kilograms
The Grand Canyon provides an excellent habitat for these sure-footed animals with the canyons providing remote refuges. It is the only non-reintroduced population of desert bighorn.
American Bison: American Bison is the largest living mammal in North America and can reach some hefty weights of over 2000 lbs or 900 kg. If one would like to see these iconic American beasts, then one will need to be on the North Rim - there are no bison on the South Rim.
- Largest: American Bison Are The Largest Mammal In North America
- Location: The Live on The North Rim
Elk: Elk are the largest member of the deer family living in the Grand Canyon. The Rocky Mountain elk descent from 303 individuals who were introduced back between 1913-1928 from Yellowstone National Park.
- Introduced: Between 1913 and 1928 From Yellowstone
Remember that these wild animals can be dangerous and one is recommended to stay at a distance of at least 100 feet.
Mule Deer: Mule Deer are one of the most commonly seen animals in the national park. They are very common throughout western North America. Their name comes from their large ears resembling those of mules. Their narrow tail distinguishes them from white-tailed deer (while white-tailed deer are common in the United States, they are not found in the Grand Canyon National Park).
Other Animals In the Canyon
Another animal one may like to see but not scare is the Hog-nosed skunk and it is the world's largest species of skunk. They are mostly found in the south but it seems they are now present in the canyon with a breeding population on both sides of the river.
Mountain lions (puma concolor) are the largest predators found in the area - although humans in the canyon do not need to fear these large kitties as they do not see humans as prey. There are plenty of names of the mountain lion - some 18 native South American, 25 native North American, and 40 English names (the most common are cougar, puma, panther, and catamount).
- Danger: Mountain Lions Pose Little Danger to Humans
Other animals include bobcats, coyotes, ringtails, rabbits, many lizards, many snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, salamanders, scorpions, much more. There are many kinds of birds including the endangered California condor, cuckoo, owls.