Home Animals 12 Desert Carnivores with Pictures: A Comprehensive List

12 Desert Carnivores with Pictures: A Comprehensive List

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When I was younger, my ideas about carnivores were naive and misinformed. I assumed they were all dangerous creatures that preyed on other animals, living in only forests. I quickly discovered this wasn’t completely true when I started researching more about carnivores.

I even found an old paper from elementary school where I had been asked about desert carnivores. It turns out there are plenty of fascinating and varied carnivorous animals that live in the deserts, from small scorpions and tarantulas to larger predators like coyotes and bobcats.

Further digging revealed a comprehensive list of twelve desert carnivores that have become some of the most iconic inhabitants of their environment. Educating myself on these animals truly showed me the beauty and balance found in nature, and pushed me to explore beyond my initial misconceptions.

List of Desert Carnivores 

Roadrunners 

Desert Carnivores

Scientific Name: Geococcyx
Type of Animal: Bird

The Roadrunner is a fascinating bird with an even more interesting history. Not only does it share the name of a cartoon character, but both the cartoon and real-life versions of the Roadrunner share one thing in common – speed. Roadrunners are a part of the cuckoo family, which can be found primarily in the arid lands across the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. 

While they are considerably smaller than their cartoon counterparts, being just 56 centimetres long, they make up for it with their enormous appetite. Whether it’s insects, small mammals, spiders or even snakes, roadrunners love to feast on them all! 

They are so quick that they can outrun rattlesnakes and be one of the few animals that can catch them. Truly an odd bird, but no doubt remarkable!

Bobcats

what do bobcat sound like

Scientific Name: Lynx rufus
Type of Animal: Mammal

Bobcats, also known as red lynxes, are carnivorous desert predators found in North America. These felines have several distinguishing features such as black bars on their forelegs and a short (bobbed) tail. While they may appear to be a combination of domesticated and wild cats, bobcats thrive in the wild and their conservation status is of least concern. 

They can adapt to different climates and are often found in forests, swamplands, and wooded areas. As for food choices, these cats mainly hunt hares and rabbits but also prey on birds, small rodents, deer, chickens and even insects. 

Fortunately for them, bobcats are adaptive hunters that have successfully adapted to the changing behaviour of their prey over time. Like most felines, bobcats are solitary animals that live alone for most of their lives and only form bonds with other likely mates during mating season.

Scorpions

georgia scorpion

Scientific Name: Scorpiones
Type of Animal: Arachnid

Scorpions are dangerous predators native to the desert, but they have evolved over time and learned to adapt to different environments all around the world, with Antarctica as the only exception. 

These animals have a segmented tail that ends in a stinger, containing venom that can be painful or even fatal. 

They mainly consume insects and invertebrates for sustenance, yet some species also hunt vertebrae in a strategic manner; using their pinchers to make sure their prey isn’t able to escape. 

All in all, scorpions can be seen as surprisingly versatile animals – as well as dangerous.

Gray Foxes

Scientific Name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Type of Animal: Mammal

The exciting thing about gray foxes is they have fur that cannot be accurately described as entirely gray. Their coat has different shades of orange – usually spotted around their neck, nape, legs, and underneath the tail – giving them varied hues and patterns in each individual animal.

Gray foxes usually inhabit regions found in Northern America, Venezuela, and Colombia; but many have started to adapt to cityscapes due to human civilization impinging on their natural habitats. As omnivores, gray foxes tend to eat a carnivore-predator diet of rodents and rabbits. 

But there is an interesting point: It was observed in parts of the Western United States that gray foxes are regressing back to being herbivores or insectivores rather than predators.

Mountain Lions 

Mountain Lions

Scientific Name: Puma concolor
Type of Animal: Mammal

Although not all of us will ever encounter a mountain lion, it is still quite a worrisome thought. Not only are they considered to be some of the most powerful and fearsome predators known in the wild, but they also inhabit both rocky mountainous regions and desert areas. 

These animals come with their own unique identifying features – a sandy beige-tan fur – as well as various nicknames like puma, cougar and panther. The diet of the mountain lion mainly consists of deer, elks, sheep and other small mammals such as raccoons. Occasionally, though very rarely, these felines have even been known to hunt humans. 

Coyotes 

coyotes in wild

Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Type of Animal: Mammal

Coyotes have long held a special place in North American nature. These canines have a distinctive fur coat that usually appears red, light grey, white and black, often giving them the false appearance of a wolf – due to their close relationship. 

Their large population does not represent any real problem to the continent’s ecosystem, allowing them to roam freely in various habitats such as grasslands, semi-arid terrain and deserts do long as wolves are kept away. 

Like many predators, coyotes feed on animals such as bison and deer but they also prey on smaller game like rabbits and birds. During winter they rely heavily on finding carcasses in order to maintain their sustenance.

Tarantulas 

Tarantulas 

Scientific Name: Theraphosidae
Type of Animal: Arachnid

Tarantulas are something that many of us have been taught to fear, but contrary to popular belief these animals are actually harmless and often misunderstood. While their eight hairy legs can be disconcerting, a tarantula’s bite is no worse than a sting or pinch and will cause only slight discomfort. 

These animals use their thick-bodied exoskeleton to appear intimidating in order to ward off potential predators, and also as a great way to surprise their prey; insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and spiders. In rare cases, tarantulas have even been known to capture lizards with skilful hunting techniques. 

Despite our initial fear, we can begin to change our perception of these fascinating creatures by learning more about them and their place in the natural world.

Gila Monsters

Gila Monsters

Scientific Name: Heloderma
Type of Animal: Reptile

Gila monsters are incredibly unique reptiles found living in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. These desert carnivores can grow up to 60 centimetres in length, have a venomous bite and have a distinctive look that includes yellowish, orange or pink patterned scales with a black background.

Despite looking like formidable predators, they are actually sluggish and docile animals that pose no real threat to humans – indeed, they usually go out of their way to avoid people. When food is scarce however they will show their prowess as hunters by using their keen sense of smell to locate prey such as rodents, snakes, lizards and even birds or tortoises.

With remarkable climbing abilities, Gila monsters can search on a variety of surfaces guaranteeing access to enough nutrition while staying safe from potential predators – making them fascinating yet misunderstood creatures.

Diamondback Rattlesnakes

eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in open

Scientific Name: Crotalus atrox
Type of Animal: Reptile

Diamondback rattlesnakes are an intimidating species of large snakes that can be found almost anywhere, from deserts to grassy plains. 

Their superior senses, triangle heads and large bodies, as well as their diamond-patterned back, provide them with the skills they need to successfully take down various prey like rabbits, gophers, rats and birds. 

Despite their formidable capabilities, diamondback rattlesnakes have many predators; mostly deer and horses that see them as a threat and so attempt to stomp or kick them. It’s amazing how these creatures are able to overcome such unwelcoming conditions and still manage to survive, even if sometimes attacked by their own predators.

African Wild Dogs

Scientific Name: Lycaon pictus
Type of Animal: Mammal

Often called the “painted dogs” or “Cape hunting dogs”, African wild dogs have a fascinating creatures with intricate and distinct physical features, making them instantly recognizable. 

Their coats are yellow, black, brown, red and white., making them one of the most admired and exotic canines in the world. Living in savannas, woodlands, mountains and deserts, the African wild dog is a unique species of hypercarnivores who rely on meat for an astonishing 70% of their diet. 

Their survival depends on their incredible pack cooperation; they are known to take down large prey like antelopes and wildebeest but also share an appetite for smaller animals such as rodents and birds.

Golden Jackals

Golden Jackals

Scientific Name: Canis aureus
Type of Animal: Mammal

The golden jackal is an opportunistic, small carnivore found across arid grasslands, open savannas, and deserts. In particular, golden jackals are more specialized in desert habitats than their black-backed cousins which primarily occupy savannas and woodlands. 

This species has developed a unique adaptation that helps it survive the cold desert nights: in winter its fur thickens, thus providing protection against the chilly breeze. 

This tough species relies mainly on its hunting prowess with over 50% of its diet composed of meat from rodents, rabbits, young gazelles, lizards, fish, birds, and their eggs (among other things). 

Furthermore, they hunt in packs like other canines; as a pack, they are quite successful at gathering enough sustenance from their environment despite adverse conditions.

Horned Lizards

Horned Lizards

Scientific Name: Phrynosoma
Type of Animal: Reptile

The horned lizard is a unique animal as it lives in deserts and other arid regions, managing to survive in extreme temperature changes. Their ability to blend into their environment means that they can be surprisingly hard to spot, yet they still have a few tricks up their sleeve. 

If they are ever threatened or attacked, they are able to squirt streams of blood from their eyes within a five-foot radius! 

Whether they’re horny toads or horn toads, these harmless critters prefer an easy meal of ants over squeezing the life out of some small prey. Although you wouldn’t expect it, these picky eaters can flick out a long sticky tongue like that of any frog when presented with something tasty.

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Author Profile
Rahul M Suresh

Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.

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Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.

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