Thereby Hangs A Tail...

On Nocturnal Neighbors

During this time of year, the hot and dry period before the advent of the eagerly-awaited monsoon rains, many creatures (including myself) live nocturnal lives.

Early in the morning, once the sun clears the mountainous horizon, most birds, reptiles, and mammals retreat to shelter. Birds hide deep within the shade of mesquite trees, while the reptiles and mammals spend their days deep in their burrows and tunnels. Rodents such as Kangaroo Rats even close off their tunnel entrances with dried grass in order to keep the precious humidity in and the heat out.

I’ve never seen a Kit Fox except in Bev Wigney’s game-cam photos. During one of her winters here we discovered that a family of Kit Foxes lived just thirty feet from the cabin.

Before I brought two kittens here several years ago the Kangaroo Rats were almost tame. I’d go outside at night and they would walk right over my shoes. I haven’t seen a live one recently except when driving at night. My cat has made the local population terrorized and very cautious. Now and then my cat leaves the hindquarters of a large Desert Kangaroo Rat on my doorstep. A few months ago I posted a photo of one of those gory gifts on Facebook. Looking at that photo again I decided to crop out the gore and focus on the white-tipped tail:

A few years ago there was a pair of Barn Owls hanging around the place. I’d see them come back to their nest box just as the sun was rising, then leave on hunting forays just after sunset. They liked to perch on a pair of high posts visible from my door. Once I spotted something odd just beneath one of those posts; it was the hindquarters of a larger-than-usual Kangaroo Rat. I think it was part of a Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat. The very bright white tail-tuft contrasting with the black tail led me to that tentative ID. I have never seen that species alive, but they must be out there!