"White dune landscape, White Sands National Monument, 2016." by U.S. National Park Service , public domain

White Sands

National Park - New Mexico

White Sands National Park is located in the state of New Mexico on the north side of Route 70 about 16 miles (26 km) southwest of Alamogordo in western Otero County and northeastern Doña Ana County. The park is situated at an elevation of 4,235 feet (1,291 m) in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin and comprises the southern part of a 275 sq mi (710 km2) field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. The gypsum dune field is the largest of its kind on Earth.

maps

Official visitor map of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Visitor Map

Official visitor map of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Detail of the official visitor map of White Sands National Monument (NM) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Visitor Map Detail

Detail of the official visitor map of White Sands National Monument (NM) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the U.S. National Park System. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).National Park System - National Park Units

Map of the U.S. National Park System. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the U.S. National Park System with Unified Regions. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).National Park System - National Park Units and Regions

Map of the U.S. National Park System with Unified Regions. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the U.S. National Heritage Areas. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).National Park System - National Heritage Areas

Map of the U.S. National Heritage Areas. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of National Conservation Lands in Doña Ana County in the BLM Las Cruces District in New Mexico. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).Doña Ana County - National Conservation Lands

Map of National Conservation Lands in Doña Ana County in the BLM Las Cruces District in New Mexico. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

brochures

Park Brochure of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Brochure

Park Brochure of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Map of the Dunes Drive in White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Dunes Drive Map

Map of the Dunes Drive in White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Common Mammals of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Mammals

Brochure about Common Mammals of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about The American Badger in White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - The American Badger

Brochure about The American Badger in White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Ten Common Birds of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Ten Common Birds

Brochure about Ten Common Birds of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Featured Birds of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Featured Birds

Brochure about Featured Birds of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Common Tracks and Scat Found at White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Common Tracks and Scat Found at White Sands

Brochure about Common Tracks and Scat Found at White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Common Arachnids of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Arachnids

Brochure about Common Arachnids of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Common Insects of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Insects

Brochure about Common Insects of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Common Reptiles of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Reptiles

Brochure about Common Reptiles of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Field Notes about A Desert Galapagos at White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico, by William Conrod, with Erica Bree Rosenblum. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - A Desert Galápagos

Field Notes about A Desert Galapagos at White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico, by William Conrod, with Erica Bree Rosenblum. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure 'Desert in Color' about Wildflowers of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Desert in Color

Brochure 'Desert in Color' about Wildflowers of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

Brochure about Native Plants of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert and White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).White Sands - Native Plants of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert

Brochure about Native Plants of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert and White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

https://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Sands_National_Monument White Sands National Park is located in the state of New Mexico on the north side of Route 70 about 16 miles (26 km) southwest of Alamogordo in western Otero County and northeastern Doña Ana County. The park is situated at an elevation of 4,235 feet (1,291 m) in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin and comprises the southern part of a 275 sq mi (710 km2) field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. The gypsum dune field is the largest of its kind on Earth. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world's largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Park preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here. White Sands National Park is located off of US Highway 70 between the cities of Las Cruces and Alamogordo. The park is about 15 miles west of Alamogordo and 52 miles east of Las Cruces. White Sands Visitor Center The visitor center was built in 1936 and is part of the historic district at White Sands. Inside you will find the park store as well as the museum for the park. White Sands National Park is located off of US Highway 70 between the cities of Las Cruces and Alamogordo. The park is about 15 miles west of Alamogordo and 52 miles east of Las Cruces. Backcountry Camping Due to rehabilitation of camping sites, backcountry camping is closed. Backcountry Camping Fee - Per Adult 3.00 Camping fees are in addition to the monument entrance fees. The per adult fee is for any persons 16 years of age and older. Backcountry Camping Fee - Per Child 1.50 Camping fees are in addition to the monument entrance fees. The per child fee is for any persons 15 years of age and younger. Backcountry Camping cBurghart A tent, backpack, and camera equipment at a backcountry camping site. For a primitive overnight experience out in the dunefield, backcountry camping at White Sands is an excellent choice. Sunset White dunes in foreground with sun setting behind mountain. Sunsets are one of the most popular times to visit White Sands. Visitors can experience sunset every day of the year. Aerial of Dunefield Aerial of white sand dunes. The dunes at White Sands cover 275 square miles of the Tularosa Basin. Ripples Close up view of ripples on a dune. The wind shapes and moves the dunes as a whole but gives each individual dune the texture of ripples. Fall Colors Cottonwood trees with orange leaves. Fall is a wonderful time to visit as most of our plants with leaves change beautiful colors. Shaded Dunes Grey shadows on dunes. As the sun changes its angle through the sky it allows shadow to roll across the dunes. White Sands New Mexico: The National Park Service, the US Army and the Atomic Bomb The future of White Sands, and for that matter the nation as a whole, reached a watershed in the spring of 1945. The sequence of events in the Tularosa basin from April to August 1945 created the "atomic age" tensions that bedeviled the monument for the next five decades. Trinity atomic bomb last Arthropod Inventory Survey in White Sands National Monument and Cuatrocienegas in Mexico The purpose of this research is to survey the arthropods of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA, and Cuatrociénegas Protected Area, Coahuila, Mexico, specifically to discover new, unnamed and potentially endemic species. Collecting arthropods at night with an illuminated white sheet. June: A Month of Milestones The times are a changin’, and there’s no better time to honor those moments of change than in June. Over the course of America’s history, the month of June is filled with cultural changes, and some seasonal ones too. So just before the season changes and summer begins, take some time to visit these parks that commemorate extraordinary moments. Painting of suffragist on a horse It’s Alive! Biological Soil Crusts of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts It might come as a surprise to learn that in the sublime expanses of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, some of the most interesting life around can be found in the dirt right in front of your feet! Biological soil crusts form a living groundcover that is the foundation of desert plant life. Soil crust at White Sands National Monument Linking Dune Formation with Atmospheric Processes at White Sands NM Desert sand dunes interact strongly with external drivers, including wind, vegetation, and groundwater. Given the ubiquity of sand dunes on Earth’s deserts and on extraterrestrial environments, this research attempts to understand how dune fields respond to these complex external forces. Sand dune anchored by vegetation Constructing the Dune-Field Pattern at White Sands National Monument Sand dunes cover vast areas of the Earth’s desert regions and are widespread across Venus, Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan. Sand dunes are very sensitive indicators of changing climate and environmental conditions, and landscapes created by sand dunes can provide a detailed record of past surface conditions on the planetary surfaces. LiDAR-derived digital elevation model showing the transition from flat area to dune field Replicated Ecological Speciation in White Sands Lizards When organisms adapt to a novel environment, a possible consequence is speciation (where one species splits into two or more new species). White Sands (the landscape feature) is an ideal system for studying adaptation and speciation. Two little striped whiptails, one lighter and one darker The Hearth Mounds of White Sands National Monument White Sands National Monument has been visited by human groups intermittently over the past 11,000 years. Due to the physical properties of gypsum, remnants of some of those occupations are preserved in a unique form. A map of the hearth mound site distribution Climate Change and the Chihuahuan Desert The Chihuahuan Desert Network is currently developing protocols to monitor several vital signs that may reflect current and future impacts of climate change. This brief offers a summary of how Chihuahuan Desert Network monitoring will detect future change. Smith Springs is one of many springs that serve as a water source for plants & animals in the CHDN. White Sands National Monument Reptile and Amphibian Inventory White Sands NM is located in south central New Mexico in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert and is part of the largest white gypsum dune field in the world. While most of the park consists of gypsum sand dunes, there is an area of desert scrub and a large playa present on the western side of the park. The reptile and amphibian inventory took place in 2003 and 2004. Painted desert glossy snake navigating desert scrub 2011 Freeman Tilden Award Recipients Discover the innovative and exciting programs of the recipients of the national and regional 2011 Freeman Tilden Awards for excellence in interpretation. LIza Stearns White Sands as a Dust Emission Hotspot The Chihuahuan Desert is one of the most intense source areas of dust storms in the Western Hemisphere; and because white gypsum dust is often visible on weather satellite images on dry, windy days, the White Sands are one of the most notable sources of dust in the Chihuahuan Desert. Satellite image of dust blowing from the White Sands out onto the Great Plains Air Quality in the Chihuahuan Desert Three park units in the Chihuahuan Desert Network, Big Bend National Park (NP), Carlsbad Caverns NP, and Guadalupe Mountains NP are designated as Class I air quality areas under the Clean Air Act. Class I areas receive the highest protection under the act, and degradation of air quality must be minimal. Air quality concerns include atmospheric deposition effects and visibility impairment from fine particle haze. Rugged landscape under a partly cloudy sky at Big Bend National Park Dry Season Microbial Diversity and Functional Profiles in Lake Lucero Lake Lucero is a highly saline and seasonally aquatic playa; it is the source of the White Sands National Monument’s gypsum dunes of the Tularosa Basin in Southern New Mexico. Its combination of an acidic hot groundwater and alkaline, highly saline soil profile raises interesting questions on the genetic diversity of the soil microorganisms and their associated metabolic functions, especially related to their distribution with soil depth. Lake Lucero under a bright blue sky Monitoring Upland Vegetation and Soils in the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert Networks Vegetation and soils are two of many natural resources monitored by the National Park Service (NPS) Division of Inventory & Monitoring (I&M). Learning about vegetation dynamics helps us to better understand the integrity of ecological processes, productivity trends, and ecosystem interactions that can otherwise be difficult to monitor. In NPS units of the American Southwest, three I&M networks monitor vegetation and soils using the scientific protocol described here. Quadrat used for biological soil crust sampling How Scientists Study the White Sands National Monument Fossil Tracks Clues from ancient plants and animals litter the shimmering white sands of New Mexico. For decades scientists and curious residents have found and recorded fossils in this area. Their studies add greatly to our knowledge of the animals that lived in this area millions of years ago. sloth trackway Module Conducts Wildland-Urban Interface Projects Throughout the Intermountain Region In 2013, the Saguaro Wildland Fire Module (WFM) managed multiple projects simultaneously in AZ, TX, and NM. WFMs are highly skilled and versatile fire crews that provide expertise in long-term planning, ignitions, holding, prescribed fire preparation and implementation support, hazardous fuels reduction, and fire effects monitoring. With their help, fire fulfills its natural or historic role to meet resource and management objectives and create fire-adapted communities. The Remarkable Endemism of Moths at White Sands National Monument An inventory of moths at White Sands National Monument has revealed a previously unknown concentration of endemic species. Euxoa lafontainei Much More than a Sand Box: Fossil Tracks from the Lakes of the World’s Largest Gypsum Dune Field Beginning in 2009 staff at White Sands National Monument began documenting Late Pleistocene vertebrate footprints. Under the leadership of the monument's chief of resources, David Bustos, thousands of fossil tracks of ice age mammals is now recognized as a megatracksite. A multidisciplinary team of scientists have been working to understand the sedimentology, stratigraphy, chronology and paleoenvironmental of the track bearing strata at White Sands NM. mural with pleistocene animals Two Lost Hikers Rescued Through Interagency Search and Rescue Two lost hikers were rescued in White Sands National Monument through interagency search and rescue with support from Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. Holloman AFB provided an unmanned aerial vehicle that greatly narrowed the area of search. An Army air search and rescue unit out of White Sands provided additional air support and spotted the lost hikers. man walking towards black helicopter in the desert Southern Basin and Range The Southern Basin and Range is an extension of the Basin and Range Province centered on Nevada and the Great Basin and extending from southern Oregon to western Texas, and into northwest Mexico. Mountains and Desert in Guadalupe Mountains National Park Crystal Formation by Microorganisms in the Dunes and Soils at White Sands National Monument Beneath your feet as you walk across the gypsum dunes and soils of White Sands National Monument is an ecosystem of roots and millions and millions of microorganisms that live in the pore spaces between sand grains. Microbes and crystals Climate Monitoring in the Southern Plains, Sonoran Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert Climate is one of many ecological indicators monitored by the National Park Service (NPS) Division of Inventory & Monitoring (I&M). Climate data help scientists to understand ecosystem processes and help to explain many of the patterns and trends observed in other natural-resource monitoring. In NPS units of the American Southwest, three I&M networks monitor climate using the scientific protocol described here. Kayaking across a fl ooded parking lot, Chickasaw NRA, July 2007. National Park Service Commemoration of the 19th Amendment In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment the National Park Service has developed a number of special programs. This includes online content, exhibits, and special events. The National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems (CRGIS) announces the release of a story map that highlights some of these programs and provides information for the public to locate and participate. Opening slide of the 19th Amendment NPS Commemoration Story Map Series: National Park Service Geodiversity Atlas The servicewide Geodiversity Atlas provides information on <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/geology/geoheritage-conservation.htm">geoheritage</a> and <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/geology/geodiversity.htm">geodiversity</a> resources and values all across the National Park System to support science-based management and education. The <a href="https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1088/index.htm">NPS Geologic Resources Division</a> and many parks work with National and International <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/geology/park-geology.htm">geoconservation</a> communities to ensure that NPS abiotic resources are managed using the highest standards and best practices available. park scene mountains Series: Chihuahuan Desert Network Reptile and Amphibian Inventories In 2003 and 2004, the University of Arizona conducted an inventory of reptiles and amphibians (herpetofauna) in six National Park Service Chihuahuan Desert Network parks. Primary objectives of this inventory were to document reptile and amphibian species, map the distribution of all species found, and determine a rough relative abundance for each species. Trans-Pecos ratsnake Series: Defining the Southwest The Southwest has a special place in the American imagination – one filled with canyon lands, cacti, roadrunners, perpetual desert heat, a glaring sun, and the unfolding of history in places like Tombstone and Santa Fe. In the American mind, the Southwest is a place without boundaries – a land with its own style and its own pace – a land that ultimately defies a single definition. Maize agriculture is one component of a general cultural definition of the Southwest. Series: Park Paleontology News - Vol. 09, No. 2, Fall 2017 All across the park system, scientists, rangers, and interpreters are engaged in the important work of studying, protecting, and sharing our rich fossil heritage. <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/newsletters.htm">Park Paleontology news</a> provides a close up look at the important work of caring for these irreplaceable resources. <ul><li>Contribute to Park Paleontology News by contacting the <a href="https://www.nps.gov/common/utilities/sendmail/sendemail.cfm?o=5D8CD5B898DDBB8387BA1DBBFD02A8AE4FBD489F4FF88B9049&r=/subjects/geoscientistsinparks/photo-galleries.htm">newsletter editor</a></li><li>Learn more about <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/">Fossils & Paleontology</a> </li><li>Celebrate <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/">National Fossil Day</a> with events across the nation</li></ul> skull on the lawn at the national mall Series: Seasonal Inventory of Birds in Low Elevation Chihuahuan Desert Riparian Habitats In 2004, independent researchers began conducting a three-year inventory of birds in low-elevation riparian (stream-side) habitats in the National Park Service’s Chihuahuan Desert Network. The goals of this study were to (1) document the presence, richness, and abundance of bird species; (2) compare results to existing information about park birds and update park checklists; and (3) provide baseline data and site evaluations that may be used to develop bird monitoring programs in the Network. Bird survey site in Guadalupe Mountains National Park NPS Geodiversity Atlas—White Sands National Monument, New Mexico Each park-specific page in the NPS Geodiversity Atlas provides basic information on the significant geologic features and processes occurring in the park. Links to products from Baseline Geologic and Soil Resources Inventories provide access to maps and reports. sand dunes at sunset A New Resource for Researching America's Elephants Mammoths, mastodons, and other proboscideans are among the most familiar fossil organisms. An inventory complied by Jim Mead and others documents the occurrences of these animals in 63 National Park Service units. photo-illustration of a ranger standing next to a mammoth Series: Park Paleontology News - Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring 2021 All across the park system, scientists, rangers, and interpreters are engaged in the important work of studying, protecting, and sharing our rich fossil heritage. <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/newsletters.htm">Park Paleontology news</a> provides a close up look at the important work of caring for these irreplaceable resources. <ul><li>Contribute to Park Paleontology News by contacting the <a href="https://www.nps.gov/common/utilities/sendmail/sendemail.cfm?o=5D8CD5B898DDBB8387BA1DBBFD02A8AE4FBD489F4FF88B9049&r=/subjects/geoscientistsinparks/photo-galleries.htm">newsletter editor</a></li><li>Learn more about <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/">Fossils & Paleontology</a> </li><li>Celebrate <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/">National Fossil Day</a> with events across the nation</li></ul> park ranger in uniform The Intersecting Crossroads of Paleontology and Archeology: When are Fossils Considered Artifacts? Understanding human knowledge and attitudes (human dimensions) towards paleontological resources through the cooccurrence of fossils and artifacts and/or tribal consultation (archeological context) helps us better appreciate those human values, perspectives, and beliefs. This understanding is important to the management, protection, and interpretation of these non-renewable resources.  colorful arrowhead on black background Series: Intermountain Park Science 2021 Integrating Research and Resource Management in Intermountain National Parks Group of National Park Service staff and volunteers standing in front of a desert canyon.
White Sands National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument New Mexico Like a mirage, dazzling white sand dunes shimmer in the tucked-away Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. They shift and settle over the Chihuahuan Desert, covering 275 square miles—the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. White Sands National Monument preserves more than half of this oasis, its shallow water supply, and the plants and animals living here. Como un espejismo, las deslumbrantes dunas de arenas blancas brillan, enclavadas en la cuenca de Tularosa al sur de Nuevo México. Se mueven y se asientan sobre esta porción del desierto chihuahuense, cubriendo 700 kilómetros cuadrados—siendo las dunas de yeso más grandes del mundo. White Sands National Monument conserva más de la mitad de este oasis, su suministro de aguas poco profundas y las plantas y los animales que ahí habitan. Paths to Survival / Estrategias de supervivencia COVER © ROBERT H. CLARK COVER: © ROBERT H. CLARK © GLENN VAN NIMWEGEN © JULIA CHRISTE LIZARD–NPS / BUSTOS; MOUSE–NPS / WILES NPS / WILES NPS / WILES GROW FAST CHANGE COLORS GO OUT AT NIGHT GROW TALL HOLD ON CRECER RÁPIDO CAMBIAR DE COLOR SALIR DE NOCHE CRECER ALTO SOSTENERSE Sand verbena survives because it flowers and disperses seeds in one growing season. It also quickly spreads shallow roots. New plants emerge as passing dunes bury older plants. La verbena sobrevive porque florece y dispersa sus semillas en una sola temporada de crecimiento. También extiende raíces adventicias poco profundas. Las plantas jóvenes emergen mientras las dunas mueven y entierran a las verbenas viejas. The bleached earless lizard and Apache pocket mouse are a lighter color than the same species in the nearby desert. Their lighter color reflects heat, which keeps them cooler and hides them better. Las chivitas de lluvia y los ratones de abazones que viven dentro de las dunas tienen un color más claro que los ejemplares de la misma especie que viven fuera de este ecosistema. Su coloración más clara refleja el calor, los mantiene más frescos y los oculta mejor. A motion-detecting camera shows this kit fox in action, maybe chasing a mouse. Like many desert animals, the fox comes out at night when the air is cooler. Look for its tracks during the day. Una cámara de detección de movimiento muestra a esta zorrita del desierto en acción, tal vez siguiendo a un ratón. Como muchos animales del desierto, la zorrita sale de noche cuando el aire es más fresco. Busque sus huellas durante el día. As sand buries a soaptree yucca, its stem grows longer to keep new leaves above the sand. But after the dune moves on, an exposed yucca like the one above will soon fall over and die. El tallo de la yuca crece más largo para mantener las hojas nuevas por encima de la arena según la duna lo va enterrando. Pero una vez que la duna se mueve, una yuca expuesta, como la de arriba, pronto caerá y morirá. A few shrubs like skunkbush sumac grow dense, deep roots that help form a pedestal after the dune moves on. Kit foxes dig their dens in pedestals; other animals find shelter here too. Unos cuantos arbustos, como el lambrisco, tienen raíces densas y profundas que les ayudan a formar un pedestal una vez que se desplazan las dunas. Las zorritas del desierto cavan sus madrigueras en estos pedestales. Otros animales encuentran aquí un refugio. People of the Tularosa Basin / Los habitantes de la cuenca de Tularosa NPS / BUSTOS As dunes move, they leave behind areas that soon fill with plants. Here, the shallow water table can rise to the surface after heavy rains, turning the interdune areas into temporary ponds. Al irse moviendo las dunas van dejando áreas que pronto se llenan de plantas. Aquí el manto freático es poco profundo y puede subir a la superficie después de fuertes lluvias, convirtiendo los espacios entre las dunas en charcos temporales. People arrived in the Tularosa Basin after the last ice age ended 11,000 years ago. The Jornada Mogollon were the first to farm the area, and lived here until drought forced them out in the 1300s. American Indians returned in the 1600s and European Americans came in the late 1800s. Soon the railroad rolled in—and so did settlers. Residents of Alamogordo promoted the idea of White Sands National Monument, which President Herbert Hoover proclaimed in 1933. During World War II, the US military tested weapons in the dunefield beyond the park. In 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site, 100 miles north of here. Los primeros pobladores llegaron después de que terminó la última era de hielo hace 11,000 años. La gente de la cultura llamada Jornada Mogollón fueron los primeros agricultores. Vivieron aquí hasta que la sequía los forzó a emigrar durante el siglo XIV. Los indígenas regresaron en el siglo XVII y los euro-americanos arribaron a finales del siglo XIX. Pronto llegó el ferrocarril y con él, los pobladores. Fueron los residentes d
Dunes Drive Map National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Alkali Flat Trail Sendero Alkali Flat 5 miles (8 km) 8mi 12.8km Area 19 Área 19 West Filming Area Área de Filmación Oeste Amphitheater Anfiteatro Horse Area Área de caballos Roadrunner Picnic Area Yucca Picnic Area Área de picnic Roadrunner Área de picnic Yuca Primrose Picnic Area Backcountry Camping Loop Trail Área de picnic Primrose 6mi 9.7km Sendero de sitios remotos para acampar 2 miles (3.5 km) Group Use Area reservations required Zona para grupos requiere reservaciones Sunset Stroll Meeting Area 4.7mi 7.6km Zona de reunión para el Sunset Stroll End of Pavement Fin del pavimento Interdune Boardwalk Sendero tablado elevado 0.4 miles (650m) For general information on White Sands National Monument, visit our website at www.nps.gov/whsa or give us a call at (575) 479-6124. Dune Life Nature Trail Sendero autoguiado Dune Life 1 mile (1.6 km) 2.3mi 3.7km Playa Trail Sendero Playa 0.5 miles (800m) LEGEND For specific information on weddings or other special uses, click on Park Management in the left navigation menu and then select the link for Special Park Uses. CLAVE Parking Areas Estacionamientos Special Use Areas (Reservation Required) Áreas de uso especial (Requiere reservacion) Entrance Gate Portón de entrada Safety Corridor (No Stopping) Corredor de seguridad (No puede parar) Fee Station Taquilla de entrada 0mi 0km Visitor Center Gift Shop Centro de visitantes To Las Cruces (45mi) A Las Cruces (72km) You Are Here Usted está aquí Tienda 70 To Alamogordo (14mi) A Alamogordo (23km) Revised 8/11/2016
White Sands National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Common Mammals of White Sands NPS historic photo of a coyote catching a mouse W hile visiting White Sands National Monument, it is very unlikely that you will see any of our resident mammals. They have adapted to the hot summers of the Tularosa Basin by hiding in their dens until it cools down, leaving behind only their footprints from their nightly hunting. Pallid bats can be found roosting in many areas, such as the visitor center. They are identified by their large ears and light-colored fur. These winged mammals can eat insects in the air like other bats, but locate most of their food on the ground while walking around. Their large ears help them to hear their prey’s footsteps. They eat insects like scorpions and crickets, but also lizards and rodents. The Apache pocket mouse is an endemic subspecies to White Sands and is one of the few residents of the dunes. It is named for the large fur lined pockets in their cheeks that hold hundreds of seeds when the mouse forages. It is light in coloration, which helps it blend with the sand. It is a favorite snack of the kit fox. The Apache pocket mouse extracts all of its water from the food it digests. It can go its entire life without ever drinking water. The kangaroo rat has a few tricks to help escape predators. It uses its long hind legs to distance itself from potential predators . While running, the kangaroo rat will use its long tail as a rudder to change direction suddenly. Mainly found in vegetated areas of the monument, the kangaroo rat is 13 inches in length, eight of which are its tail. This amazing animal is also able to jump up to ten feet high if scared. That is like a three foot child leaping over a six story building! Pocket gophers at White Sands are found in areas that are sparsely vegetated. They will spend most of their life in burrows, occasionally coming out to find a mate or forage. Their diet consists of plants such as four wing saltbush and Indian rice grass. They fall prey to predators who know to look for gopher mounds, such as badgers and coyotes. At White Sands their coat can range from reddish to a sandy brown to yellowish-white. Pallid Bat Antozous pallidus Apache Pocket Mouse Perognathus flavescens Apachii Kangaroo Rat Dipodomys spectabilis Pocket Gopher Geomys spp. To learn more about White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa Porcupine The porcupine is North America’s second largest rodent. The porcupine lives in a variety of habitats. At White Sands, the porcupine lives in the highly vegetated areas at the edges of the dunefield. Porcupines are the only mammal in North America with antibiotics in its skin. This helps the porcupine heal after it falls out of a tree, trying to reach for tender buds, and is poked with its own quills. They eat buds, roots, and bark. The porcupine is not as commonly seen today as it was a few decades ago. The desert cottontail can be found around the visitor center and in the desert scrub habitats of the monument. In the summer they are usually found shading themselves from the heat and are active at night. In the cooler months they can be seen at all hours of the day. The desert cottontail can run half as fast as the jackrabbit (20 mph) but has the comfort of a burrow to hide from predators. They are strictly vegetarians and eat grasses and leaves. The black-tailed jackrabbit is dubbed so because it has a large black line running from the top of its tail to its rump. It can be found where the dunes meet the desert. Sometimes they become a meal for the coyote. It can outrun a coyote at speeds of up to 40 mph. It cannot endure a long flight and since it does not burrow, it has to depend on its speed to outdistance predators. Jackrabbit kits are born fully formed and are able to forage for themselves in about two weeks. Erethizon dorsatum Desert Cottontail Sylvalgus audobonii Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Lepus californicus Kit Fox The Chihuahua-size kit fox is the largest animal that lives in the dunefield. It weighs about five pounds. Unlike other canines, it is not a pack animal. This nocturnal animal eats mostly small animals such as kangaroo rats, Apache pocket mice, insects, lizards, and snakes. It has large ears for listening, also used to dissipate heat. Kit foxes at White Sands have fur in between their toes to help give them traction in the sand. Great horned owls prey on the kit fox. The badger is in the same family as the weasel. These nocturnal animals are found along the outer edges of the dunefield where there is more vegetation. Badgers have a strong sense of smell that helps them locate their prey. They use their huge claws, which can be up to two inches long, to dig burrows and unearth their prey. Rodents, reptiles, and insects are mainstays of the badger diet. Badgers are quite aggressive, but some have been observed playing and even hunting with coyotes! This
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior White Sands White Sands National Monument The American Badger B adgers in the desert? How strange! Well, at least that’s what most people think when they first learn that badgers live right here at White Sands National Monument. Although most people associate them with forests, badgers make their homes in the desert as well The American badger (Taxidea taxus) is found throughout western and central U.S., and in the southwest. They are primarily associated with grasslands and desert scrublands. In Mexico, where this species is also found, it is called tlalcoyote or tejón. The badger eats a variety of burrowing animals, but here at White Sands, it has a more restricted diet that consists mainly of southern plains woodrats, kangaroo rats, and other small rodents, lizards, carrion, as well as young burrowing owls. Badgers are mostly nocturnal, but in remote places, like White Sands NM, they can occasionally be observed during the day. This is especially true of females with young, who tend to forage during the day and spend the nights with the young. Badgers seldom venture above ground unless the temperatures are above freezing. Badgers in this area do not hibernate, but go into a state of torpor (a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature). Because the soil in the monument is very compact and hard due to the high level of gypsum, badgers with their strong muscular legs and long front claws are able to dig burrows, both in search of prey and deeper burrows that are used as their dens. Badger burrows that are abandoned may then be occupied by kit foxes, skunks, desert cottontails, and black-tailed jackrabbits. Abandoned badger burrows also provide readymade homes for burrowing owls. Badgers are not common at the monument, and thus the ones that are here are even more important because they provide homes for all of these other desert animals. Badgers are also solitary, and are only found together during the breeding season (late summer–early fall) and mothers with their pups. Female badgers have two or three pups per litter. Female badgers are unique in that they experience delayed implantation. They delay their pregnancy until the months of American badger eating a snake December through February. This is done so that the young are born during a more favorable time of year between March and April. The families usually break-up between June and August with the juveniles dispersing to new, unoccupied areas. Female badgers do share their mother’s territory. Badgers are aggressive animals, and have few natural enemies. Dispersing juveniles in this area are probably only attacked and eaten by bobcats (which live at the outer edges of the monument). The most important threats to their survival include loss of habitat, and shooting and trapping. Badgers typically live nine to ten years in the wild, and may need as much as 2,000 acres of suitable habitat to have enough food and other resources to live and raise a family. ­ Dr. M. Hildegard Reiser, Ph.D., — Science Advisor, Chihuahuan Desert Network American Badger’s den Originally written Spring/Summer 2015 Revised 04/03/2016
White Sands National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Ten Common Birds of White Sands © FRY T here are over 220 recorded species of birds within White Sands National Monument. High temperatures during the day, especially throughout the summer months, make it unlikely that you will come across these creatures in the heart of the dunefield. However, many of these species are commonly seen in the desert scrub vegetation around the visitor center and entrance station. The largest wren species in the United States, the cactus wren is a year-round resident of both the dunefield and desert scrub. It has a long white “eyebrows,” a cluster of black spots on its breast, and makes a somewhat ratchety call. The intelligent bird is known for building its nests in cacti, which provides protection from predators. The cactus wren is likely to be spotted hopping under shrubs, hunting insects, but it has even been seen picking insects off the radiator grills of parked cars! Noted for its ability to imitate the songs of other birds, this highly territorial yearround resident may be heard before it is seen. The mockingbird is 10 inches long and has gray coloration with conspicuous white wing patches. The mockingbird’s diet consists of prickly pear cactus, fruits, and other plants. This bird also likes to prey on ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. The northern mockingbird is important to many ecosystems as a seed disperser. The bird also controls insect populations by feeding on them. The loggerhead shrike is distinguished by a black mask around the eyes, and a short powerful bill. Although small in size, the loggerhead shrike feeds on insects, rodents, lizards, and other small birds. This bird often impales its prey on sharp thorns or barbed wire for a future meal, giving it the nickname “butcher bird.” At White Sands, the bird may leave lizards and insects harpooned on the sharp leaves of the yucca. The solitary shrike is a fierce predator and is the only songbird that commonly hunts other vertebrate animals! This species is in decline due to pesticides and loss of habitat. The western kingbird is a member of the flycatcher family. It has a pale grey breast and head, yellow belly, and a black tail with narrow, white sides. The western kingbird mainly feeds on flying insects but can also feed on seeds and small fruit. The bird is usually solitary but may also be found in pairs. In some instances several of these birds may be spotted fending off larger birds of prey from their nests. This bird is referred to as “king” because of its defensive attacks towards much larger birds of prey, such as hawks , crows, and ravens. Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus © Noll Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos © Noll Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus © Noll Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis To learn more about White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa © Noll Characterized by the small, black tufts on its head, the horned lark is a yearround resident of the dunefield and dune margins, where you are likely to see its delicate tracks. Horned larks are ground foragers, primarily eating seeds and feeding small insects to their young. Their nests tend to lay within depressions at ground level and are made of grasses and other plants. The horned lark is one of the most resilient birds of North America, inhabiting and flourishing in arid, alpine, and Arctic regions. New Mexico’s state bird, the roadrunner, is a member of the cuckoo family and a year-round resident of the vegetated parts in the monument. It is a large, long-tailed bird with a shaggy, streaked appearance, and a short, ragged crest, which is often raised. Its preferred prey include lizards, snakes, and rodents. You may see this solitary bird darting across a desert road, reaching speeds of about 15 mph! Despite the roadrunner’s incredible ability to run, the roadrunner can fly to and from elevated perches, which help the roadrunner spot its prey from up high. This large, black bird with a long, stout bill is a common sight in desert settings, including the White Sands area. Chihuahuan ravens are often seen in pairs or small groups soaring, playing in the wind, or perched on bushes and utility poles. The Chihuahuan raven can be identified by white feathers on the back of the neck when ruffled. Their diet includes road kill, rodents, young birds, lizards, insects, seeds, and fruits. Although smaller than the common raven, the Chihuahuan raven is still an impressive sight, with a wingspan of up to three and a half feet! This versatile hawk can hunt from a perch, while soaring, or while walking on the ground. Its diet consists of rodents, snakes, grasshoppers, and other insects. Usually solitary, like other hawks, it joins large flocks while migrating. During migration, Swaison’s hawks fly about 125 miles per day until reaching their destination in South America. Similar to the red-tailed hawk, it occurs i
White Sands National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Featured Birds of White Sands W hite Sands National Monument is home to a wide variety of bird species. Some birds make White Sands their home all year, while other species are migratory. One key factor that influences the types of migratory birds in the area is rainfall and the amount of standing water. Keep in mind that the dunes provide unique homes to only some of our bird species. Many of the birds listed here prefer the Chihuahuan Desert shrub on the outer edges of the monument boundaries. Others migrate here when there is a lot of standing water in places such as Lake Lucero. Whether you are an experienced birder or just taking that extra step to familiarize yourself with our flying friends, this list will provide you with a general overview of the birds in and around the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. American Avocet Recurvirostra americana American Coot Black-throated Sparrow Crissal Thrasher Brewer’s Blackbird Dark-eyed Junco Amphispiza bilineata Toxostoma crissale Fulica americana Euphagus cyanocephalus American Kestrel Eared Grebe Falco sparverius Broad-tailed Hummingbird American Robin Cactus Wren Gambel’s Quail Selasphorus platycercus Junco hyemalis Podiceps nigricollis Turdus migratorius Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus Ash-throated Flycatcher Chihuahuan Raven Barn Swallow Common Merganser Great Egret Hirundo rustica Mergus merganser Ardea alba Black-necked Stilt Cooper’s Hawk Great Horned Owl Accipiter cooperii Bubo virginianus Corvus cryptoleucus Myiarchus cinerascens Himantopus mexicanus Callipepla gambelii Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias Great-tailed Grackle Mallard Snowy Plover Greater Roadrunner Mourning Dove Solitary Sandpiper Zenaida macroura Tringa solitaria Northern Flicker Spotted Towhee Colaptes auratus Pipilo maculatus Northern Harrier Swainson’s Hawk Circus cyaneus Buteo swainsoni Northern Mockingbird Turkey Vulture House Sparrow Northern Oriole Western Kingbird Passer domesticus Icterus galbula Tyrannus verticalis Killdeer Northern Shoveler Western Meadowlark Anas clypeata Sturnella neglecta Ladder-backed Woodpecker Pyrrhuloxia White-crowned Sparrow Lesser Nighthawk Red-tailed Hawk Quiscalus mexicanus Anas platyrhynchos Geococcyx californianus Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca Horned Lark © Noll Eremophila alpestris Charadrius nivosus House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus Charadrius vociferus Mimus polyglottos Cardinalis sinuatus Picoides scalaris Chordeiles acutipennis Loggerhead Shrike Cathartes aura Zonotrichia leucophrys Buteo jamaicensis White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica Sandhill Crane Wilson’s Warbler Grus canadensis Cardellina pusilla Say’s Phoebe Sayornis saya Yellow-headed Blackbird Long-eared Owl Scott’s Oriole Yellow Warbler Asio otus Icterus parisorum Lanius ludovicianus Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus Setophaga petechia Note: This is not a comprehensive bird list. For more information on White Sands National Monument, visit www.nps.gov/whsa Revised 2/1/16
White Sands National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Common Tracks and Scat Found at White Sands W ild animals are shy and try to avoid us. Most animals in the desert are nocturnal. During the day you can see evidence of these animals from the tracks they leave behind in the sand. Tracks, which tell the stories of night activity in the dunes, are awaiting your discovery! If you do encounter an animal, make sure you respect its space and do not try to feed it. The images and tracks below are not to scale, but they will help you identify animal signs you might find in the dunefield. The length of the buck moth caterpillar can vary from one to four inches. In the monument, spring is the best time to see them because that is when they hatch. The best place to find this caterpillar is Nevada Buck Moth Caterpillar Hemileuca nevadensis on a cottonwood tree, which is their preferred food source. Once they cocoon, they turn into the Nevada buck moth, which is black, white, and red in coloration. tracks The darkling beetle, also known as the stinkbug, can be found anywhere in the monument and is most prevalent in the summer months. The length of the beetle can be over one inch. The name stinkbug comes from their defensive spray, which smells like kerosene. Being dark in color, the beetle is very easy to spot on the white sand. The dark color of the body acts as a sunscreen, protecting the beetle from the damaging rays of the sun. Darkling Beetle Eleodes obcurus sulcipennis tracks The bleached earless lizard can range in length from four to six inches, with a width of half an inch. Lizard tracks can be distinguished from others by the tail track between the footprints. This lizard enjoys eating insects, spiders, and small plants that are abundant at White Sands. The white coloration of the lizard is an adaptation to camouflage with the white sand. Bleached Earless Lizard Holbrookia maculata ruthveni or Lesser Earless Lizard Horned Lark tracks The horned lark’s height is around seven inches. Their preferred foods are seeds and insects. While a year-round resident in the monument, they are most prevalent when wildflowers are in bloom. The horned lark prefers to run rather than hop, so its tracks are continuous and in a line. The length of one print can be up to one and a half inches. The lark is a ground nester. The name horned lark refers to feather tufts at the top of the head, which look like two horns. Eromophila alpestris tracks To learn more about White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa The greater roadrunner can get up to 23 inches tall and run up to 18 mph. The roadrunner likes to eat snakes and lizards but will also eat scorpions and spiders. Its tracks are always in the shape of an X because the roadrunner has two back toes in addition to the two front ones. The length of one print is three inches. Look for roadrunners near the visitor center where there is a lot of vegetation. Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus Apache Pocket Mouse Perognathus flavescens Apachii tracks Fur-lined inner cheek pouches earned the Apache pocket mouse its name. Their diet consists of seeds found in the interdunal areas, and they never drink water. They get all the water they need from the seeds they eat. Their scat is rice shaped and crystal-like because of their efficient use of water. The total length of a pocket mouse varies from four to seven inches with a tail length from two to three inches. The length of their back feet is about one and a half inches with their front foot being much smaller. tracks scat The kangaroo rat gets its name because of its large hind legs. If scared, it can jump up to 10 feet high. Just like the Apache pocket mouse, they get all the water they need from the seeds they eat, so the scat is the same shape and texture. The total length of the kangaroo rat is about 13 inches with a tail length of eight inches. The tracks are very similar to the Apache pocket mouse in size, but the kangaroo rat will rest its tail when still, leaving a tail imprint. Kangaroo Rat Dipodomys spectabilis scat Desert Cottontail tracks Having a white fluffy tail, the cottontail is aptly named. Their diet is strictly vegetarian. They only eat grasses, fruits, and leaves. The scat is round and about half an inch long. At 15 inches tall with a tail length of about two inches and ears up to three inches long, the cottontail is no bigger than a domesticated rabbit. Their front foot track can be one to one and a half inches long and the back foot can be three to three and a half inches long. Cottontails, like many other mammals, can only be seen in the highly vegetated areas of the park. Sylvilagus audobonii scat Kit Fox The kit fox can be up to 30 inches long. Average weight is three to six pounds, similar to a Chihuahua. Their diet consists of kangaroo rats, desert cottontails, and Apache pocket mice. Their scat can have fur in it, which will
White Sands National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Dr. Lightfoot Image Common Arachnids of White Sands T Dr. Lightfoot Image here are over 500 different species of invertebrates that live at White Sands. Though rarely seen during the day, sometimes their tracks and burrows are evidence of their activity in the sand. While most arachnids do bite or sting, most of those at White Sands have weak venom and are not life threatening to humans. Remember though, White Sands is their home and you are just a guest. Wind scorpion Dr. Lightfoot Image Eremobates spp. Sand scorpion Paruroctonus utahensis Tarantula Aphonopelma spp. This arthropod goes by many different names including the wind scorpion, camel spider, sun spider, and solpugid. They are not dangerous to humans and have no venom. Not especially large creatures, the biggest ones have a leg span of only a couple inches. They are very fast and active nocturnal predators, running rapidly over the ground at night in search of prey. The first pair of leg-like appendages are not actually legs but pedipalps with five segments each. These appendages function partly as sense organs, like insects’ antennae. They also assist in feeding and fighting. They have large pinching mouthparts called chelicerae they use to overpower and chew prey. Scorpions, like their spider relatives, have eight legs. However, they additionally have greatly enlarged pedipalps attached to the head, in the form of appendages, with large pinchers used for grasping prey. They also have a characteristic long tail or telson, with a single large stinger at the end. Scorpions use their pinchers to grasp other invertebrates, and then use the stinger at the end of the tail to inject venom into their prey. They chew their prey with mouthparts, or chelicerae, equivalent to the fangs of spiders. Some scorpions have powerful venom that is dangerous to humans. However, like all the scorpions that live at White Sands, the sand scorpion has mild venom and is not dangerous. The sting is painful, similar to a bee sting. Sand scorpions live in burrows they dig in the sand, and they come to the surface at night to search for prey. The sand scorpion lives on sandy soils throughout the Southwest. These large, hairy spiders can be six inches across with their legs fully extended. Their bite is not dangerous to humans but can be painful and may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tarantulas make their homes in burrows and crevices. They will lay in wait and ambush instead of using a web to ensnare their prey. Anything that the tarantula can subdue is a potential meal, including insects, small rodents, and reptiles. The tarantula’s mouth acts like a tube that sucks up liquids. They coat their food in digestive fluids to predigest it outside of the body before they eat. Tarantulas have terrible eyesight and rely mostly on their sense of touch to perceive the world around them. Male tarantulas can be seen in the evenings after summer rains going in search of female tarantulas. Dr. Lightfoot Image Western black widow spider Dr. Lightfoot Image Latrodectus hesperus Funnel-web spider Agelenopsis longistylus Apache jumping spider Dr. Lightfoot Image Geolycosa rafaelana Burrowing wolf spider Dr. Lightfoot Image Latrodectus mactans Sand wolf spider Arctosa littoralis The female black widow is all black with a distinct hourglass mark on the bottom of her abdomen. Females are about as big as a quarter, and males are less than half that size. The male widow is a brown-yellow color with a yellow hour glass mark and white strips along his abdomen. Adolescent females have the same markings and color as adult males. These spiders live in dark, damp places like the thatch at the bases of yucca plants and old rodent burrows. They only bite when disturbed and are generally not lethal to healthy adults. When mating the male spider wraps the female in a thin layer of silk. If he cannot get away fast enough after he is finished, the female may eat him. In the summer, females can lay four to nine egg sacs, each filled with hundreds of eggs. Funnel-web spiders build flat-spreading webs close to the ground that have a descending cylinder (funnel) near the center or on one side, which leads down into a dark retreat. The webs have two layers, a thicker, base layer that supports the entire web, and a thinner, upper layer which transmits the vibrations of insects that fall onto the web to the spider, who resides inside the funnel entrance. When the spider detects the vibration of an insect or other small arthropod, it will run out on the web to the insect, tackle it, bite it, and drag it into the funnel to feed on. These spiders have mild venom, are not dangerous to humans, and should not be confused with the unrelated and dangerous “funnel-web” spiders of Australia. As their name implies, jumping spiders are avid jumpers. They hunt and behave much like cats, watc
White Sands National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Common Insects of White Sands Dr. Lightfoot Image T he desert is a harsh place to live, but that doesn’t stop the insects at White Sands National Monument from making homes in the dunefield. Some of the most common insects can easily be spotted at the right time of year. At White Sands, you are a guest in their home, respect all-big and small-wildlife. Yucca moth Tegeticula elatella White-lined sphinx moth Dr. Lightfoot Image Hyles lineata Bleached skimmer dragonfly Dr. Lightfoot Image Libellula composita Tarantula hawk wasp Pepsis grossa The yucca moth is solely responsible for the pollination of yucca plants. The moth pollinates the flowers by scooping up a sticky ball of pollen with specialized mouthparts from the stamens of one plant and inserting the pollen into the pistol of a yucca flower of another plant; no other creature performs this task. After pollination, the moth will lay eggs in the bottom of the flower. The pollinated flower then turns to fruit, encasing the moth’s eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the seeds as they make their way out. Not all of the seeds are consumed as some must be left behind for the next generation of yucca. After emerging from the fruit, the larvae drop to the ground and burrow down a few inches where they go into a cocoon stage and wait until Spring to emerge as adult moths. There are several species of yucca moths in the Southwest that specialize on different yucca species. Sphinx moths are often mistaken for hummingbirds as they hover around flowers feeding on nectar with their long tongues. They feed on and pollinate a number of plants including evening primrose, four o’clocks, and desert willow. From April through October, the best time to see these moths feeding is around dusk or dawn, though they have also been observed flying in the middle of the day. Some of the plants in the monument they lay their eggs on are the desert four o’clock and the evening primrose. When the eggs hatch, the larva will feed on the host plant, growing to about the size of an index finger. They have a sharp horn at the top rear-end of their bodies and are called hornworms. The color of sphinx larva can range from pale yellow to dark green with varying highlights of red and black. After getting their fill, the larva will drop off the plant and burrow into the ground and pupate, emerging as a moth 2 to 3 weeks later. Several other species of sphinx moths live at White Sands. Bleached skimmer dragonflies make their homes in saline and alkaline waters of the Southwest desert. While in their larval stage of development they look more like toads, and they live at the bottom of saline ponds where they wait to ambush other aquatic insects, larvae, and even tadpoles! Mature dragonflies feed on soft-bodied insects they can catch, such as mosquitoes and other small flies. They hunt by waiting on a perch,darting out and grasping insects with their spiny legs, and returning to their perch to feed. Skimmers mate mid-flight during their flying season which can last from May to September. Dragonflies are among the most accomplished flying animals on earth. The tarantula hawk is one of the largest wasps in the world. The taratntula hawk has a painful sting, but they are not aggressive or likely to sting humans. The female wasps hunt for tarantula burrows during the daytime, and use their stinger to paralyze the tarantula in order to drag it back to her burrow. A single egg is laid onto the top of the spider’s abdomen, and the larva burrows into the spider after hatching. The larva will then feed on the tarantula’s internal organs saving the vital organs for last. Adult tarantula hawks feed on nectar, and like other wasp species, the male tarantula hawk does not have a stinger. Pepsis grossa is also the official state insect of New Mexico. Dr. Lightfoot Image White Sands Interdune sand-treader camel cricket Daihiniodes larvale Darkling beetle Dr. Lightfoot Image Eleodes obscurus sulcipennis Toothpick grasshopper Paropomala pallida Minor ground mantis Litaneutria minor Walking stick Dr. Lightfoot Image Diapheromera velii Harvester ants Pogonomyrmex maricopa Two species of sand treader camel crickets live only at White Sands, where they are adapted to live in the gypsum sand. These crickets are called “sandtreaders” because they have specialized spines on their hind and fore-legs for digging in the sand. Like dogs they dig in the sand with their front legs and then use their hind legs to kick the sand several inches behind them.They are only active at night, which is when they come to the surface of the sand to forage on dead plant material. During this time, they are also hunted by scorpions and other nocturnal insectivores. In the daytime, they burrow into the sand where it can be many degrees cooler than the outside air temperature and much moister. These crickets
White Sands National Park Service Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Common Reptiles of White Sands M any people believe the desert is a barren, dry place with little life. Although deserts usually have a scorching sun and little rain, many animals both live and thrive within White Sands National Monument. The reptiles of White Sands show us their strategies for survival in the most unique desert of all. At about four inches long, the bleached earless lizard isn’t really earless or bleached. Its name comes from the lighter variation of the Common Lesser Earless Lizard. The term “earless” comes from the fact that these lizards do not have external ear openings. Found throughout the dunefield, these lizards like to bury themselves just under the surface in loose, sandy soil. They are identifiable by two black spots on each side. They feast on a variety of insects and spiders. Have you ever seen or experienced adaptation? The image to the left shows how “survival of the fittest” really works! There is some debate whether the little white whiptail (bottom lizard) is its own species or a subspecies of the little striped whiptail lizard (top lizard). Researchers love coming to White Sands to learn about and study the unique species that inhabit the gypsum dunes. The little white whiptail is prey to many birds and mammals. This lizard will detach itself from its tail as an escape strategy. Found throughout White Sands, the Southwestern fence lizard can be black to light brown to white, depending on where it’s found. Males are easy to identify since they have bright blue belly patches, as well as blue or green chin patches. Although diurnal, this lizard prefers to avoid the mid-day heat of summer and is most active midmorning and late afternoon. Instead of actively hunting, it sits and waits for prey to wander by. Insects are its favorite meal, but it will eat wasps, spiders, snails, and other small lizards. At about 5.5-inches and found throughout the monument, this is the only lizard at White Sands that is apt to be active on warm days yearround. It is identifiable by a single dark blotch just behind each foreleg. The males roam throughout an area of about 2,500-square yards and can be very territorial, especially during breeding season. This lizard is found in a wide-range all throughout the United States, but varies in coloration and pattern depending on its environment. Bleached Earless Lizard Holbrookia maculata ruthveni Little White Whiptail Aspidoscelis gypsi ©B. Burghart Southwestern Fence Lizard Sceleporus cowlesi Common Side-Blotched Lizard Uta stansburiana To learn more about White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa Coachwhip Harmless to humans, the coachwhip is a long, slender tan or brown snake that can reach up to seven feet in length. Most of the coachwhips at White Sands have a pink color on the belly that becomes more pronounced under the tail. This snake shows a nasty temper when capture is attempted. In captivity, while holding its own head still, the coachwhip will whip its tail back and forth around the edges of its cage to dislodge any lizards hiding there. When the lizard moves, it becomes a meal. It is believed the same technique is used in the wild. The desert massasauga is characterized by two white stirpes on its face with brown, dorsal patches outlined in white. The desert massasauga is usually paler than the eastern and western subspecies. When compared to other rattles, the massasauga’s is more high- pitched. Although the massasauga can use undulating waves like most snakes, it prefers to move on loose sand by using the “sidewinding” technique. Like most other creatures at White Sands, the massasauga prefers to come out during the cooler times of day. This large, heavy-bodied snake averages about four feet in length but can grow up to seven feet. The underbelly of those in White Sands is often creamy as opposed to yellow, beige, or tan as it is in other areas. A constrictor, the Sonoran gopher snake is harmless to humans and eats small mammals, birds, bird eggs, and even lizards. However, the preferred prey of choice at White Sands is the pocket gopher. A diurnal creature, this snake is most active at dusk and dawn. It prefers to avoid the mid-day heat by hiding in rodent burrows. Reaching lengths of up to four feet, the prairie rattlesnake is found mostly in desert scrub habitats. Hibernating in winter, prairie rattlers often return to the same den year after year. When awake during warm months, they establish hunting territories and eat mainly lizards and small mammals. This snake can be a variety of colors, such as tan, grey, or olive green. The oval blotches that run down the torso may be clear or indistinct. Due to poor eyesight, prairie rattlesnakes use their forked tongues and heat-sensitive pits to find food. The Western Diamond-backed rattlesnake can range from two to six feet in length! Characterized by the diamond-shaped b
Field Notes A Desert Galápagos By William Conrod, with Erica Bree Rosenblum Some animals inhabiting the white gypsum sand dunes of New Mexico shed their colors in less than 7,000 years. A flash of movement caught my eye. If the lizard had stayed still, I might have stepped on it: its color perfectly matched the dazzling expanse of white sand. Good thing, I thought, that rattlesnakes here in south-central New Mexico aren’t white too. Three different species of white lizards can be spotted on the dunes from May through September. That is, if you’re looking for them. I was standing on the world’s largest gypsum dune field, at White Sands National Monument, where I have worked as a biologist and land manager for nine years. Looking up from my feet, I gazed out across a sea of snow-white dunes to a rugged skyline of bare limestone mountains. The dune field covers an area of 275 square miles, about half of which is open to the public and managed by the National Park Service. The other half is military land, shared by a missile range and Holloman Air 16 n at u r a l h i s to ry May 2008 Force Base. Recent findings indicate the dunes formed within the past 7,000 years—a geological blink of the eye. And that gives a useful time frame for the rapid evolution of lizards, like the one I saw skittering across the sand. Other creatures that, like the lizards, are small and easily preyed upon, have also tended toward lighter colors. With a permanent change of coloration, they can improve concealment on the gypsum dunes and thereby improve their chances of survival, as well as their chances of producing future generations that will inherit the advantage. You can see this on a short stroll from a park road in New Mexico G ypsum is the stuff of plaster and drywall: a common mineral also known as hydrated calcium sulfate. Why then have some 8 billion tons of it collected in a series of dunes up to forty feet tall? The “white sand” of White Sands had its distant origin when marine deposits were left by an evaporating shallow sea in the Permian period, 250 million years ago. Some of those deposits were uplifted about 10 million years ago into mountain ranges that ring an area known today as the Tularosa Basin. Water leached gypsum out of those mountains and carried the dissolved mineral down into the Basin, where a large saline lake formed during the cooler and wetter times of the Pleistocene, within the past 2 million years. The environment ultimately changed about 10,000 years ago to arid desert: the lake dried up, and mineral residue was left on the valley floor, forming crystalline gypsum. The same process continues today to a lesser extent, with mineralized groundwater reaching the valley floor, drying, forming gyp- sum, and blowing away to further expand the dune field. Deposits of pure crystal gypsum are unusual because the substance is water-soluble: streams or rivers carry most of it away. But the Tularosa Basin has no surface outlet. Strong spring winds scour out the valleyfloor gypsum deposits and move them downwind to where the dunes formed as wind velocity abated. The dunes are still very much on the move: frequent plowing is required every windy spring to keep the national monument’s dune road open, just as snow is plowed in colder areas. In 2006, a geological team from the University of Texas at Austin and the Physical Research Laboratory of Navrangpura, India, determined a precise date for the formation of White Sands. In a core-sampling project, the team drilled down through the gypsum and collected lakebed sediment samples from directly beneath the white sand. Carbon material in the topmost lake sediment was dated to 7,000 years before the present. That date marks the drastic environmental change from lake to desiccated dune field. K nowing when the sand dunes began to accumulate tells us when animals could have begun to adapt to living in a white environment. Between the 1920s and the 1960s, biologists documented seven animal species that had permanently white coloration on the gypsum dunes, with darker forms living nearby in the desert off the dunes: three lizard species, the Apache pocket mouse, the White Sands woodrat (a subspecies of the southern plains woodrat), and two species of camel cricket. With lizards, rodents, and insects making a color change in a few thousand years, something evolutionary was definitely happening. In the last decade, interest has grown in using White Sands as a natural laboratory—it is a regular desert Galápagos. Stephen B. Hager made the first detailed study of the lizard species at White Sands for his Ph.D. at New Mexico State University, investigating color differences and temperature regulation of lizards on and off the dunes. Erica Bree Rosenblum, with the University of California at Berkeley at the time, next set out to understand differences among populations in an evolutionary context. Rosenblum quantified the gradient from light to dark in lizards of thre
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior White Sands White Sands National Monument Desert in Color Bloom T here is no single “best time” to see desert wildflowers. Different types of plants bloom at different times. At White Sands National Monument, flowers bloom later than those in the surrounding desert foothills due to the pool of cold air from the mountains that settles into the basin at night. Annual Wildflowers Most wildflowers begin blooming around the middle of April. The most common early bloomers in the dunefield include the sand verbena, Hartweg’s sundrops, desert mentzelia, and White Sands mustard. In midMay, these are joined by gypsum centaury, white evening primrose, and greenthread. Some plants may continue to produce flowers throughout the summer, especially after monsoon-season rains. Pepperweed, a white-flowered mustard that is often overlooked, grows throughout the residential area and dune margins. It is the hardiest wildflower in the park and is the first plant to bloom in the spring, usually around the first of March, earlier in warmer years. It blooms throughout the summer and into the fall. Pepperweed has been seen in bloom in the monument every month of the year. Spring Wildflowers Spring is when all of the small wildflowers begin to bloom and the grasses and bushes begin to turn green. Soaptree yucca is the star of the spring flowers. It grows tall and can easily be spotted throughout the dunes. Its flowers are white and have the appearance of upside down tulips. Another big contender in the spring is prairie gentian. This wildflower is easiest to spot at the beginning of the Dune Life Nature Trail. There is also a white version of the plant that will bloom next to the purple one. Summer Wildflowers Many wildflowers are seen in the summer but few are robust enough to bloom during the high temperatures. These plants have smaller flowers like the gypsum centaury and desert mentzelia. They can be found growing in the interdunal areas throughout the entire dunefield. Fall Color Even though most of the plants at White Sands bloom in the spring and summer, there is still color to be seen in the fall. The fall colors can begin to appear as early as October and last through November. This is the time when the Rio Grande cottonwood trees begin to turn a beautiful orange and the skunkbush sumacs start to turn a vibrant red. These plants can be found throughout the first five miles of Dunes Drive. For more information on White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa. Desert Mentzelia Gypsum Centaury Globemallow Blooms: Late spring - late summer Blooms: Early summer Blooms: Late summer - early fall Mountain Pepperweed Rubber Rabbitbrush Hartweg’s Sundrops Lepidium montanum Ericameri nauseosa Calylophus hartwegii Blooms: Early spring - late summer Blooms: Late fall - early winter Blooms: Early spring - late summer Tree Cholla Catchfly Prairie Gentian Cowpen Daisy Mentzelia multiflora Centaurium maryannum Cylindropuntia imbricata Blooms: Late summer - early fall Soaptree Yucca Yucca elata Blooms: Late spring - late summer Eustoma exaltatum Sphaeralcea sp. Verbesina encelioides Blooms: Late spring - summer Blooms: Late summer - early fall Rio Grande Cottonwood Skunkbush Sumac Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni Color: Early fall Rhus trilobata Color: Late fall Note: Blooming seasons may vary due to more or less rainfall. Revised 04/03/2016
White Sands National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior White Sands National Monument Native Plants of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert A lthough the desert may seem an empty wasteland at first glance, a closer look will quickly dispel that illusion, as many things grow in the desert soil. In fact, many of the native plants that thrive in the arid landscape of White Sands have long been used by Native Americans for a variety of purposes. The soaptree yucca uses stem elongation to stay above the advancing dunes. This yucca produces cream-colored blooms in May. The yucca is a virtual “store” in the desert as American Indians used most parts of the plant. The young flower stalks are rich in vitamin C. The flower pods can be boiled or roasted like a potato. The leaf fibers were used for the fabrication of rope, matting, sandals, baskets, or coarse cloth. The roots were chopped and boiled to produce soap to wash hair, blankets, and rugs. The hoary rosemary mint, an aromatic shrub in the mint family, is usually less than three-feet tall. Depending on the time of year, the plant will smell more like rosemary, mint, or a combination of the two. The plant has silvery hairs that cover its leaves and stems to help prevent the plant from drying out. It produces pale purple to white flowers in clusters from April through June. American Indians used the plant for seasoning foods. The perennial purple sand verbena is a member of the Four o’clock family and is often the only conspicuous wildflower in the heart of the dunes. This low-growing plant produces pale pink to purple flowers with white centers and blooms from late April into May. Sand grains stick to its oval hairy leaves, giving it a silvery appearance. The purple sand verbena was used by American Indians as a mild sedative, which had a calming effect and was useful in reducing nervousness, anxiety, and tension. The tree cholla sprouts new plants from a parent, creating colonies of many plants of varying heights. Magenta flowers are followed by yellow fruit, which remain on the plant all winter and are often mistaken for flowers. Its fruits can be eaten raw or cooked but are fairly dry and tasteless. The flower buds were used by early Americans as a diuretic. A hair tonic was made from the roots that had been soaked in water. Soaptree Yucca Yucca elata Hoary Rosemary Mint Poliomintha incana Purple Sand Verbena Abronia angustifolia Tree Cholla Cylindropuntia imbricata To learn more about White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa The skunkbush sumac, also known as squaw bush or lemonade bush, forms pedestals by binding gypsum sand grains into a compact mass around its roots, branches, and trunk. In the spring before the leaves appear, clusters of yellow and white flowers make the plant stand out. The plant also produces red and orange berries used by American Indians to make a tart lemonade-like drink. The flexible stems of the plant were used for basketry and binding. The branches contain tannin, which is useful in producing dyes. Crushed leaves were used as an astringent to treat stings, bites, rashes, and sunburn. cylinders for drums. Strips of the branches and bark were woven into baskets. The tree’s buds and flowers are edible. The bark has purported curative powers and was used for treating bruises, strains, and sprains. A tea made from the bark is an antiinflammatory agent and mild diuretic. Rio Grande Cottonwood The Rio Grande cottonwood often appears stunted because much of its trunk is buried by the sand. A member of the willow family, its presence here indicates a dependable water source. Its wood is soft and valued for its workability and texture. It was used by American Indians for masks and American Indians. Early pioneers used the stems to brew a weak tea for medicinal purposes. The plant contains traces of ephedrine, which is a stimulant and decongestant effective in countering symptoms of the common cold. The twigs were also used to dye wool. Mormon Tea/Longleaf Jointfir Mormon Tea is a short, spiny, sticklike shrub with thin green stems. The leaves are like tiny scales and grow only at the plant’s nodes, giving it the appearance of a tiny bamboolike plant. Small pale yellow flowers appear in the spring. Both the stems and the roots are high in flavonoids and were used as medicines by The cactus can reach huge sizes with older individual plants growing up to five feet in diameter with more than 75 stems. The fruits of the claret cup cactus are some of the sweetest of any desert plant. The fruits are covered with spines as they develop but shed the spines as the fruit ripens. Claret Cup Cactus The claret cup cactus, also known as strawberry hedgehog, is primarily found north of the dunes in the Tularosa Basin. The claret cup cactus blooms in late spring with gorgeous crimson chalices that give the plant its name. These bright flowers cover large clumps of the cactus, making it easy to spot. The Chihuahuan Desert

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