What Animals Live in West Texas Desert Holes?

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The West Texas deserts may appear to be "miles and miles of miles and miles," but scratch those dry, dusty surfaces, and you'll find a world as busy and teeming with life as any major urban city. Underneath all that sand and packed dirt, dozens of varieties of mammals have burrowed homes to rest in cool comfort during the heat of the day.

Armadillo: Little Armored One

Though it's rare to find this nine-banded, leathery mammal in the far West Texas deserts, they do thrive in eastern portions of West Texas. Sleeping up to 16 hours a day, these armored insect-eaters -- cousins to the anteater and sloth -- burrow into holes and create elaborate tunnels with their impressive front claws. They use their long, sticky tongues to hunt for bugs of all kinds and will eat plants, fruit and the occasional small vertebrate or mammal.

The Nomadic Badger

This nomadic mammal keeps on the move in its search for food and safe shelter. Burrowing a new hole every day or two, the fierce badger digs mounds of dirt rapidly, uncovering tiny ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice and rats for food and defending its prey against larger mammals with vice-like jaws and sharp, pointy teeth. The badger's skin is tough and hard to pierce, which works to its advantage in battles against even the deadliest predators.

Fox: Sleep by Day, Hunt by Night

Several varieties of fox inhabit the desert areas of West Texas. Though common red or gray foxes are less abundant in this area and are more likely to be found in greener parts of the state, you'll find plenty of kit (swift) foxes here. These cat-sized creatures have long, slender ears that help them radiate heat and warn them to the approach of predators. Their grayish coat provides an effective camouflage in the rocks and sand, and their furry paws provide protection against the scorch of the desert floor. They feed primarily on small rodents or mammals, preferring to sleep during the heat of the day and hunt at night.

Gopher: Diggers and Hermits

Pocket gophers are abundant in the deserts of West Texas. They are hermits who burrow deep holes and elaborate tunnel structures in the sand, gnashing their pointy teeth and wheezing when disturbed. They feed mostly on root vegetables and grass and eliminate small pellets after digestion. They can be gray, beige, or a combination of grayish brown and have a long, sporadically haired tail.

Ground Squirrel Live in Elaborate Tunnels

There are more than five species of small-bodied ground squirrels found in Texas, including the rock squirrel, the Mexican ground squirrel, the spotted ground squirrel, the thirteen-lined ground squirrel and the Texas antelope squirrel -- though the latter two varieties prefer the grassier terrain of Southern and Central Texas to West Texas deserts. All ground squirrels are prolific burrowers who can create elaborate tunnels with separate entrances and exits -- a talent that helps protect them against predator mammals. They are omnivorous and will dine on roadkill, leftovers from a larger predator, or seeds, nuts or vegetation. Their fur is brown, reddish-brown or gray and may contain white stripes.

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    I am a freelance writer/photographer living in Hunterdon County. Since graduating from Columbia University in 1999, I have written and photographed extensively for newspapers, magazines and online publications including Courier News, The Observer, Garden State Town & Country Living (article on Somerset Art Association, Spring issue), The Independent and The Asbury Park Press. From 1999-2001, I worked as the news and features editor for Youthline-USA, a Web site, national weekly newspaper and monthly magazine for 8-12 year-olds. Prior to that, I was the Web editor and editor-in-chief of Quarto, the literary journal for the School of General Studies, at Columbia University. I am interested in Web producing, writing and photographing for your publication. Please let me know if there are any job opportunities or freelance assignments available. Thank you!- Tammy McKillip 908-574-5134 tammymckillip@tammymckillip.com