The California condor, black with white spots under its wings and a bald head, is the largest bird in North America with a wingspan of 9.5 feet. Populations declined during the 20th century due to hunting, egg-collection and lead poisoning, landing them on the endangered species list in 1967. Reintroduction efforts began in 1992 and today Grand Canyon is home to one of three wild condor populations.
Rocky Mountain Elk
Introduced to Arizona in the early 1900s, the Rocky Mountain elk made their way into Grand Canyon National Park over the decades and approximately 100 of them have taken up residency in the park. Adult bull elk weigh up to 700 pounds, while adult females may weigh up to 500 pounds. They are comfortable looking for water and grazing near Mather Campground and Grand Canyon Village, but they should never be approached. Their rut is from late August through October, and the males can be heard bugling during this mating season.
Although it is the state mammal of Arizona and a common animal at the Grand Canyon, the ringtail is rarely seen by humans because it sleeps during the day and is active only at night. Ringtails have great hearing and eyesight for nighttime hunting, and their black and white striped tails are used for balancing as well as distracting predators. They are solitary animals, except during mating season, and are timid toward humans.
Adapted for the desert climate, bighorn sheep at Grand Canyon National Park can be seen easily bounding up steep terrain and cliffs, thanks to their flexible, spongy hooves. They are the largest native animal in the park, and rams can weigh up to 250 pounds. Both males and females have horns, but ram horns are larger and are more curved. Rams battle each other for dominance, butting their horns until one of them surrenders.
The Grand Canyon has acted as a genetic barrier between Abert’s squirrels on the South Rim and Kaibab squirrels, a subspecies, on the North Rim. Both are recognizable by their gray fur, tufted ears and fluffy tail. They spend most of their lives in or around ponderosa pine, living high in the trees, eating cones, buds and sap from the tree and using its twigs to make their nests.
Little Brown Bat
These little creatures are one of the 22 bat species at the Grand Canyon. They are nocturnal and most active right after dusk and before dawn. Little brown bats can eat up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects an hour, and at the Grand Canyon they can be found in ponderosa pines, cracks in cliffsides, human structures and old mine caves. Unfortunately, their numbers are declining due to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that can kill hibernating bats.