Above Moab’s Mill Canyon, a sandstone cliff holds an art gallery. Its images range from petroglyphs left by the ancient Fremont people to cowboy inscriptions. One stands out—a bull bison, complete with hump and horns. Nearby, painted Ute warriors carry shields, a form of body armor crafted from the animal’s skin.
Each spring, common black hawks soar into Arizona skies from their wintering grounds in Mexico. These large, coal-black raptors, with distinctive white-banded tails, spend the warmer six months of the year here breeding, nesting and raising young.
As cliff swallows return to the Colorado Plateau this spring, they set about building mud nests on cliffs – or, just as often, on manmade structures like bridge abutments or under wide eaves. That takes a lot of work—more than a thousand beakfuls of mud for a new nest.
Cliff swallows live communally, and they’ll sometimes fast-track the nest-building process by stealing mud from neighbors or laying an egg or two in a nearby nest.
For wildlife biologists, animal droppings are like nuggets of gold, packed with what they value most: information. Rather than spending weeks lurking in bushes hoping to dart an elusive animal with a tranquilizer gun, setting traps, or trying to catch it in a net, researchers have become poop detectives.
Arizona wolf biologists have even used specially trained tracking dogs to sniff out the information left behind by these secretive animals.
Many visitors discover Goblin Valley by chance on their way between marquee national parks like Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. But this Utah state park received unwanted publicity in 2013 when two men were caught on video toppling rocks off the weirdly rounded hoodoos that give the park its name.
That act of vandalism spurred a big idea: why not expand the park? Goblin Valley currently consists of about 3,500 acres of outlandish geology. But that may soon grow to about 10,000 acres under a State Parks plan.
No one is neutral about snow. Depending on whether we’re planning to play in it or drive in it, go shopping or skip school, we hope either that it’ll fall or that it won’t.
The higher elevations of the Colorado Plateau can get lots of snow, with more than 200 inches recorded in a single winter at many mountain locations.
Major winter storms can pose big problems for animals such as deer, elk, and pronghorn, which can be trapped by heavy snowfalls and driven to starvation. But for smaller animals snow can be a blessing.
What yelps, purrs, cackles putts, kee-kees, and gobbles? Yes, your teenagers might do all of these things, but we’re talking turkey. Turkeys yelp to call their children, while lost youngsters kee-kee piteously. Like cats, turkeys purr when they’re content. In early spring toms gobble and strut to attract hens.
After mating, the hen scratches a nest under a big pine or in a brush pile, laying one speckled egg a day until she has a clutch of ten to twelve. She’ll incubate them alone for nearly a month. Chicks are out of the nest and following mom within 24 hours of hatching.
The Colorado pinyon pine, the tree that covers millions of acres of the Colorado Plateau, bears hard-shelled, wingless seeds in stubby cones. And people in the Southwest have harvested and eaten those delicious nuts for thousands of years.
But the pines produce nuts only every five to seven years. When there was a good crop in the fall, whole families trekked to the woodlands to gather the protein- and calorie-rich nuts, which nourished them through the winter.
The American beaver is an appealing animal, with dexterous paws, curious eyes and paddle-shaped tail. But, these rodents, the largest in North America, were nearly wiped out by the early 1900s as trappers sent mass quantities of the thick brown pelts back East for stylish top hats.