The Franklin Mountains are rich in biodiversity

Rock squirrel by Rick LoBello

by Rick LoBello, Education Curator

Everyone of us living on the planet needs biodiversity and ecosystem services to function. Biodiversity provides the world’s supply of oxygen, clean air and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment and many other ecosystem services. As a result we need to be informed and inspired to protect wild places and biodiversity. Our animals at the Zoo are conservation ambassadors for biodiversity around the world. They remind us that we share the planet with them and if the world becomes a unsafe place for wildlife, it will no doubt be an unsafe place for humans.

At the Zoo many of our animals and plants come from far away places like Asia and Africa. We also have animals and plants from the Chihuahuan Desert and our own backyard. For years the Zoo has encouraged our guests to continue their adventure after they visit the Zoo by exploring the natural world around us in local national parks and nature reserves. More and more parks are reopening and one of the best to explore close to home where you can connect with and learn to value biodiversity, is Franklin Mountains State Park. Franklin Mountains State Park currently summarizes what is known about the biodiversity of the Franklin Mountains on the list below. Next time you visit the park see how many plants and animals you can identify. The free iNaturalist app that you can download to your phone can help. The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition has a FaceBook group where you can post pictures and get help.

Ocotillo flower.

Plants

More than 650 species of vascular plants have been reported for Franklin Mountains State Park.  Among the most common and characteristic species are: creosote bush, Agave lechuguilla, ocotillo, Southwestern barrel cactus, sotol, Texas sacahuista, pricklypear cactus, desert willow, skeletonleaf goldeneye, resinbush, Sneed’s pincushion cactus (endangered species), Texas rainbow cactus and eagle’s claw cactus. 

Tarantula

Invertebrates

Although we do not have concrete research on the number of species of insects and other invertebrates, it is estimated to be in the thousands.  Some of the most characteristic species include walking stick insects (3 different species), desert tarantula, scorpions, millipedes, several species of beetles, grasshoppers and butterflies.

Amphibians

There are only two species of amphibians recorded in Franklin Mountains State Park.

Order Anura – Frogs and Toads

Scaphiopus couchi
 – Couch’s Spadefoot

Family Bufonidae – Toads
Bufo punctatus – Red-spotted Toad

Reptiles

There are about 33 species of reptiles confirmed to inhabit Franklin Mountains State Park.

Order Testudines – Turtles

Family Emydidae – Box and Water Turtles
Terrapene ornata – Western Box Turtle

Order Squamata
Suborder Lacertillia – Lizards

Family Iguanidae – Iguanids
Cophosaurus texanus – Greater Earless Lizard
Crotaphytus collaris – Collared Lizard
Holbrookia maculata – Lesser Earless Lizard
Phrynosoma cornutum – Texas Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma modestum – Round-tailed Horned Lizard
Sceloporus undulates – Eastern Fence Lizard
Urosaurus ornatus – Tree Lizard
Uta stansburiana – Side-blotched Lizard

Family Scincidae – Skinks
Eumeces obsoletus – Great Plains Skink

Family Teiidae – Whiptails
Cnemidophorus exsanguis – Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail
Cnemidophorus inornatus– Trans-Pecos Striped Whiptail
Cnemidophorus neomexicanus – New Mexico Whiptail
Cnemidophorus tesselatus – Checkered Whiptail
Cnemidophorus tigris – Western Whiptail
Cnemidophorus uniparens – Desert Grassland Whiptail

Suborder Serpentes – Snakes

Family Leptotyphlopidae – Blind Snakes
Leptotyphlops humilis – Trans-Pecos Blind Snake

Family Colubridae – Colubrids
Bogertophis subocularis – Trans-Pecos Rat-snake
Diadophis punctatus – Ring-necked Snake
Gyalopion canum – Western Hooknosed Snake
Hypsiglena torquata – Texas Night Snake
Masticophis flagellum – Western Coachwhip
Masticophis taeniatus – Striped Whiptail
Pituophis catinifer – Sonoran Gopher Snake
Rhinocheilus lecontei – Texas Long-nosed Snake
Salvadora deserticola – Big Bend Patch-nosed Snake
Salvadora grahamiae – Texas Patch-nosed Snake
Sonora semiannulata – Ground Snake
Tantilla hobartsmithi – Mexican Blackhead Snake
Trimorphodon vilkinsoni – Texas Lyre Snake

Family Viperidae – Vipers
Crotalus atrox – Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Crotalus lepidus klauberi – Banded Rock Rattlesnake
Crotalus molossus – Blacktail Rattlesnake

Birds

There are at least 100 species of birds recorded by direct sight within the park boundaries.  The most common species are:

Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Gambel’s Quail, Scaled Quail, Greater Roadrunner, Golden Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Western Kingbird, Scott’s Oriole, House Finch, Black-throated Sparrow, Canyon Towhee, Cactus Wren, Rock Wren,  among others.  See complete list below.

FAMILY CATHARTICAE

Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura 

FAMILY ACCIPITRIDAE
SUBFAMILY ACCIPITRINAE
Mississippi Kite – Ictinia mississippiensis
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus
Sharp-shinned Hawk – Accipiter striatus
Cooper’s Hawk – A. cooperii
Northern Goshawk – A. gentilis
Harris’ Hawk – Parabuteo unicinctus
Swainson’s Hawk – Buteo swainsoni
Red-tailed Hawk – B. jamaicensis
Ferruginous Hawk – B. regalis
Golden Eagle – Aquila chrysaetos

FAMILY FALCONIDEA
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Merlin – F. columbarius
Prairie Falcon – F. mexicanus
Peregrine Falcon – F. peregrinus

FAMILY ODONTOPHORIDAE
Scaled Quail – Callipipla squamata
Gambel’s Quail – C. gambelii
“Scramble” – Scaled – Gambel’s Quail Hybrid

FAMILY COLUMBIDAE
Rock Dove – Columba livia (I)
Band-tailed Pigeon – C. fasciatta
White-winged Dove – Zenaida asiatica
Mourning Dove – Z. macroura
Eurasian Collared Dove – Streptopelia decaocto (I)

SUBFAMILY NEOMORPHINAE
Greater Roadrunner – Geococcyx californianus 

FAMILY TYTONIDAE
Barn Owl – Tyto alba 

FAMILY STRIGIDAE
Flammulated Owl – Otus flammeolus
Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus
Burrowing Owl – Speotyto cunicularia
Long-eared Owl – Asio otus
Short-eared Owl – A. flammeus
Northern Saw-whet Owl – Aegolius acadicus

FAMILY CAPRIMULGIDAE
SUBFAMILY CHORDEILINAE
Lesser Nighthawk – Chordeiles acutipennis
Common Nighthawk – C. minor

SUBFAMILY CAPRIMULGINAE
Common Poorwill – Phalaenoptilus nuttallii
Whip-poor-will – Caprimulgus vociferus

FAMILY APODIDAE
SUBFAMILY CYPSELOIDINAE
Black Swift – Cypseloides niger

SUBFAMILY CHAETURINAE
Vaux’s Swift – Chaetura vauxi

SUBFAMILY APODINAE
White-throated Swift – Aeronautes saxatalis

FAMILY TROCHILIDAE
Black-chinned Hummingbird – Archilochus alexandri
Costa’s Hummingbird – Calypte costae
Calliope Hummingbird – Stellula calliope
Broad-tailed Hummingbird – Selasphorus platycercus
Rufous Hummingbird – S. rufus

FAMILY PICIDAE
SUBFAMILY PICINAE
Red-naped Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus nuchalis
Ladder-backed Woodpecker – Picoides scalaris
Northern Flicker – Colaptes aurantus 

FAMILY TYRANNIDAE
SUBFAMILY FLUVICOLINAE
Say’s Phoebe – S. saya

SUBFAMILY TYRANNINAE
Ash-throated Flycatcher – Myiarchus cinerascens
Cassin’s Kingbird – Tyrannus couchii
Western Kingbird – T. vociferans

FAMILY ALAUDIDAE
Horned Lark – Eremophila alpestris 

FAMILY HIRUNDINIDAE
SUBFAMILY HIRUNDININAE
Violet-green Swallow – T. thalassina
Cliff Swallow – Hirundo phrrhonota
Barn Swallow – H. rustica

FAMILY CORVIDAE
Western Scrub Jay – Aphelocoma californica
Pinyon Jay – Gymnorhinus cyanocaphalus
Chihuahuan Raven – Corvus cryptoleucus
Common Raven – C. corax 

FAMILY REMIZIDAE
Verdin – Auriparus flaviceps    

FAMILY TROGLODYTIDAE
Cactus Wren – Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
Rock Wren – Salpinctes obsoletus
Canyon Wren – Catherpes mexicanus
Bewick’s Wren – Thryomanes bewickii
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon

FAMILY MUSCICAPIDAE
SUBFAMILY SYLVIINAE
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher – P. melanura

SUBFAMILY TURDINAE
Western Bluebird – Sialia. Mexicana
Mountain Bluebird – S. currucoides
Townsend’s Solitaire – Myadestes townsendi
Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus
American Robin – Tardus migratorius

FAMILY MIMIDAE
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Sage Thrasher – Oreoscoptes montanus
Curve-billed Thrasher – Toxostoma curvirostre
Crissal Thrasher – T. dorsale

FAMILY BOMBYCILLIDAE
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum

FAMILY PTILOGONATIDAE
Phainopepla – Phainopepla nitens 

FAMILY LANIIDAE
SUBFAMILY LANIINAE
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus

FAMILY VIREONIDAE
Solitary Vireo – Vireo solitaries
Hutton’s Vireo – V. huttonii
Warbling Vireo – V. gilvus
Philadelphia Vireo – V. philadelphicus 

FAMILY EMBERIZIDAE
SUBFAMILY PARULINAE
Yellow Warbler – Dendroica petechial
Yellow-rumped Warbler – D. coronate
Wilson’s Warbler – Wilsonia pusilla

SUBFAMILY THRAUPINAE
Western Tanager – Piranga. lucoviciana

SUBFAMILY CARDINALINAE
Pyrrhuloxia – Cardinalis sinuatus
Black-headed Grosbeak – P. melanocephalus
Blue Grosbeak – Guiraca caerulea

SUBFAMILY EMBERIZINAE
Green-tailed Towhee – Pipilo chlorurus
Spotted Towhee – P. maculatus
Canyon Towhee – P. fuscus
Cassin’s Sparrow – Aimophila. Cassinii
Rufous-crowned Sparrow – A. ruficeps
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerine
Clay-colored Sparrow – S. pallida
Brewer’s Sparrow – S. breweri
Field Sparrow – S. pusilla
Black-chinned Sparrow – S. atrogularis
Vesper Sparrow – Pooecetes gramineus
Lark Sparrow – Chondestes grammacus
Black-throated Sparrow – Amphispiza bilineata
Sage Sparrow – A. belli
Lark Bunting – Calamospiza melanocorys
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow – Melospiza melodia
Lincoln’s Sparrow – M. lincolnii
White-crowned Sparrow – Zonotrichia leucophrys
Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis

SUBFAMILY ICTERINAE
Brewer’s Blackbird – Euphagus cyanocephalus
Brown-headed Cowbird – Molothrus ater
Bullock’s Oriole – Icterus bullockii
Scott’s Oriole – I. parisorum

FAMILY FRINGILLIDAE
SUBFAMILY CARDUELINAE
House Finch – Carpodacus mexicanus
Pine Siskin – Carduelis pinus
Lesser Goldfinch – C. psaltria
American Goldfinch – C. tristis

FAMILY PASSERIDAE
House Sparrow – Passer domesticus 

Bobcat, NPS Photo

Mammals

There are about 30 species of mammals within Franklin Mountains State Park.

Order Insectivora – Insectivores
Order Chiroptera – Bats
Family Vespertilionidae – Vespertilionid Bats
Lasiurus  cinereus – Hoary Bat
Myotis californicus – California Myotis
Pipistrellus herperus – Wetern Pipistrelle
Plecotus townsendii – Townsend’s Big-eared Bat

Family Molossidae – Free-tailed Bats
Tadarida brasiliensis – Brazilian Free-tailed Bat

Order Lagomorpha – Hares and Rabbits
Family Leporidae – Hares and Rabbits
Lepus californicus – Black-tailed Jackrabbit
Sylvilagus auduboni – Desert Cottontail

Order Rodentia – Rodents
Family Sciuridae – Squirrels and Allies
Ammospermophilus interpres – Texas Antelope Squirrel
Spermophilus spilosoma – Spotted Ground Squirrel
Spermophilus variegatus – Rock Squirrel

Family Geomyidae – Pocket Gophers
Thomomys bottae – Botta’s Pocket Gopher

Family Heteromyidae – Pocket Mice and Kangaroo Rats
Chaetodipus intermedius – Rock Pocket Mouse
Chaetodipus nelsoni – Nelson Pocket Mouse
Dipodomys ordii – Ord’s Kangaroo Rat

Family Muridae – Mice and Rats
Mus musculus – House Mouse (introduced)*
Neotoma albigula – White-throated Woodrat
Peromyscus eremicus – Cactus Mouse
Peromyscus maniculatus – Deer Mouse

Order Carnivora – Carnivores
Family Canidae – Canids
Canis latrans – Coyote
Urocyon cinereoargenteus – Common Gray Fox

Family Procyonidae – Procyonids
Bassariscus astutus – Ringtail

Family Mustelidae – Mustelids
Mephitis mephitis – Striped Skunk
Mustela frenata – Long-tailed Weasel
Spilogale gracilis – Western Spotted Skunk
Taxidea taxus – American Badger

Family Felidae – Cats
Felis concolor – Mountain Lion
Felis rufus – Bobcat

Order Artiodactyla – Even-Toed Ungulates
Family Tayassuidae – Peccaries
Tayassu tajacu – Javalina, Collared Peccary

Family Cervidae – Cervids
Odocoileus hemionus – Mule Deer

Taken from elpasozoo.home.blog – El Paso’s number one Conservation Education news source.

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