Mammals of Baja

Mammals are more rarely seen in Baja than other animal life due to many factors such as their chosen habitats, human persecution, and the destruction of their biotopes. For instance, larger predators such as mountain lions, black bears, and bighorn sheep have been effectively relocated. However, Baja California does have several smaller mammals that are more frequent sights to visitors  and which enjoy Baja’s unique ecosystem.

 

 

San Quintin Kangaroo Rat

SAN QUINTIN KANGAROO RAT

The San Quintin Kangaroo Rat only lives in a 62 mile stretch of land of the coastal regions of northern Baja California—in particular the region from San Telmo to El Rosario. They enjoy the coastal lowlands because they are flat lands with low vegetation, a terrain which allows them to easily burrow into the well-drained soil. They live in these burrows during the day due to their nocturnal lifestyle, so it’s unlikely to see them hopping around Baja during your daytime adventures. You’ll also rarely see them coming out for water since they seldom need to drink it. Their overly large kidneys allow them to primarily “soak it all in” during the night when humidity is at its highest rather than seeking out the local watering hole.

 These kangaroo rats are also considered “keystone predators” because they prey on large-seeded plants that would have otherwise ecologically overwhelmed the smaller-seeded plants. As such, they effect the plant community balance, and therefore indirectly influence the populations of birds and ants.

FUN FACT:

Kangaroo rats need to bathe in dust or they develop sores and matted hair due to their skin’s natural oily secretions.

Lesser Long-Nosed Bat

LESSER LONG-NOSED BAT

Like other members of its leaf-nosed bat family, this bat also has a distinct triangular shaped noseleaf that protrudes from the end of its nose. Though they are nocturnal, they are usually easy to spot due to their light yellow-brown or gray bodies with rusty underbellies. If you spot them at night, they will likely be enjoying a late-night snack on plants like saguaro and organ pipe cacti with their own night-blooming flowers. They are endangered in both Mexico and the United States, however, as are many of their floral food sources. Because these bats are highly migratory, it is more difficult to ensure their safety despite efforts to create “safe roost sites.”

Baja California Rock Squirrel

BAJA CALIFORNIA ROCK SQUIRREL

This small, bushy-tailed squirrel is all about volcanoes. In Baja, it favors desert shrub and mountain forests that grow from terrain of volcanic origin. Not shockingly in such dry climates, you can find them by water holes in the Sierra de San Francisco and Gigantas Sierra and munching on Datil plants. However, its secluded and non-cohesive populations have resulted in this species being poorly known by both scientists and those seeking the sights. Moreover, it’s already fragmented populations are decreasing as they are frequently hunted as farmers consider them a pest to squash and Datil crops.