Wildlife in the desert

Late Sunday, October 28

Bridget, Spike, and I sit in our campsite at dusk.  As is typical for this time of day, once the sun slides behind the ridge, a cool, refreshing breeze blows up from the deep wash that borders Owl Canyon Campground.  The campground is almost empty, so the crew is off-leash, relaxing beside me.

I hung up the patio mat for a sun screen.

Suddenly Spike lifts his head to focus intently on something on the other side of the BLT.

The fur stands up on the ridge of his back.  Uh oh.  Not good.  By the time I jump up to see what’s caught Spike’s interest, he darts under the BLT and out the other side.  I run around the back end of the BLT and see what looks like a coyote standing on the other side of the playground.  He’s looking directly at Spike.  Spike starts after it and I start after Spike.  Oh boy.  Here we go again . . . .

It’s almost dark, but the moon is full and bright.

I scoop up Spike.  I hold him in my arms and watch the coyote climb up the side of the rock formation, which is almost a perfectly vertical climb.  Hmm . . .  It’s not climbing like a coyote.  It’s catlike.  But it can’t be a mountain lion with that bushy tail.

Whatever it is, it disappears over the top of the ridge.

I toss the crew into the BLT and immediately trot down to warn the people at the camper a few campsites from us.  The couple is outside.  “Hi! ” I call out as I hurry toward them.  “Do you have any pets?”

The man says that they don’t and I proceed to tell the couple what I just saw.  The man says, “Gee, I would’ve like to have seen that.”  As I’m pointing to where I last saw the animal on the ridge, it reappears, runs along the ridge, and then stops to sit a moment, silhouetted by the glow of the full moon which, from our viewpoint, is positioned above its shoulder.

We three campers stare transfixed at our glimpse of desert wildness.

“Wouldn’t that make a picture,” the man remarks. ” . . . if we had one of those high-powered cameras.”  The animal continues on, down one rock slope and up and over another to descend into the other part of the campground, out of our sight.

Monday, October 29

The scenery is eye-catching, no matter what the angle.

The crew and I board the PTV to drive the loop through Rainbow Basin.  It’s early.  I’ve got my coffee with me.  Of course, I take several photos.  At one point, I park the PTV, grab the camera and walking stick, and let out the crew.

This isn’t the ridge we climbed. Sometimes I’m too much in the moment to take a photo.

“Okay, listen up, you desert rats.  We’re going to climb up to that ridge.” 

I tromp off the road and head up the embankment.  I glance back at my crew.  Spike stands in the road looking at me like I’m nuts.  Bridget is plopped down by the PTV, equally perplexed.

“C’mon up here!  You can do it!”  By the time we reach the top, Bridget and Spike are panting, but exuding confidence.  The three of us gaze across the expanse of desert.

Later that morning I learn more about the couple I met last night. 

They’re Joan and Francois from Vancouver Island.  They’ve explored Central and South America.  I listen with interest as they share some of their amazing experiences in Peru and Bolivia, and their wedding in Antigua.  Francois and Joan travel small and light.  I admire their compact truck camper.

It’s a “Getaway” truck camper that was custom built for a hunter.

We give each other tours of our little homes.

Francois says, “You know, that wasn’t a coyote we saw last night.  That was a kitfox.”

“A kitfox!  I’ve heard about them, but I’ve never seen one.  You’re probably right.  It certainly didn’t move like a coyote.”

“And it had that long, bushy tail,” Francois adds.

“Howdy! Let me get out of your way.”

That evening, as I’m once again sitting in the campsite enjoying the cool breezes that dusk brings, we have a visitor.  A tarantula walks right up to where we are sitting!

I throw the crew back into their pen and watch as the furry, black creature slowly moves through our campsite and out across the camp road.

Tuesday, October 30

Coming out of the BLT, I see that Joan and Francois have moved to another site.  Later I learn they were inundated with yellow bees.  The bees obviously were seeking moisture as they got into their drinks and cookware.  More and more kept arriving until there were hundreds.  Fortunately, they weren’t the biting kind.  “We had to move.”  Their site was close to the water spigot, which probably didn’t help.

I tell Joan and Francois about Sawtooth Canyon Campground. 

They’re going to stop there for a night or two on their way to Baja California.  Ranger Jim comes by again and picks up the trash.  He reports that “about five hundred rock climbers” were at Sawtooth last weekend, ” . . . but they were all well-behaved.  Didn’t make any trouble.”

The crew and I are going to stay at Owl Canyon at least until Thursday. 

Then I’ll decide whether to continue camping here through the weekend, or move down to Sawtooth Canyon.  If we go to Sawtooth on Thursday only to wake up to hoards of people coming in on Friday, we’ll continue further toward Joshua Tree National Park, a planned destination anyway.


Note:  A reader wrote a comment that what we saw was probably a grey fox.  I believe he is correct.  The animal was large for a kitfox and I think I saw a black stripe on its bushy tail.  BTW, to read or write comments, simply click on the word “comments” at the end of the blog entry.  Thank you, Rand, for teaching me the difference between a kit fox and a grey fox.

Canine Corner:  “A real desert dog” by Spike

Submissive or crouched to attack?

RVSue, the Bridge, and I are on our way to the self-pay station.  I hang back a bit because I have some serious sniffing around to do.

Up ahead, RVSue spots a dog crouched in the roadway, staring at her and the Bridge.  The dog sprints toward them.  This causes RVSue to panic and scoop up the Bridge.  She screams, “No!  Go away!” and runs away.

Well, I could see that this was not a mean canine.  I go up to the poor guy.  He’s wagging his big ol’ floppy tail.  I sniff hello and tell him my name is Spike.

“Gee, Buddy.  I’m sorry about them.  They ran off because you’re a . . . you’re . . .

“A pit bull?  That’s okay.  I get that all the time.  Say, I’m kinda down on my luck right now.  You know where I guy could scrape up some grub?”

At this point I’m thinking what a sorry sight this dog is, out here in the desert by himself, not a house for miles around.  He reminds me of myself, before RVSue took me in.  A plan forms in my razor sharp, canine mind.

“I tell you what you do, Buddy.  I think we’re goin’ into town this morning.  Hang out right here by the entrance where RVSue will see you.  She always has jugs of water on board and a back-up bag of kibble.  It ain’t roast beef, but it’ll fill you up.”

“Gee, thanks!  I’ll do that.  I’m much obliged, Spike.  Much obliged.”

In spite of the fact that the guy says stuff like “much obliged,” he seems like an okay fella.  And a fella’s gotta eat.

Sure enough.  We drive out of the campground, Buddy’s waiting at his station, and RVSue’s foot goes to the brake

Waiting for a handout . . .

Right according to my plan, she scoops out four big heaps of kibble and sets it out with a bowl of water.  As we drive away, I look back and see Buddy scarfing down the kibble.

The hungry traveler fills his belly.

I think about the life I have with RVSue and the Bridge, compared to the life of this homeless, desert dog.

“Safe travels, Buddy.”


About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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37 Responses to Wildlife in the desert

  1. geogypsy2u says:

    It’s gorgeous desert yet I wouldn’t want to mess with its wildlife. The kitfox is cute and I’d say rather shy, as is the tarantula. Why do people abandon dogs? Makes no sense.

  2. Karin says:

    Daisy-dawg says hi to your crew. It’s no fun going hungry. We are so grateful that you had some kibble to spare for “Buddy” the pit bull.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I always keep a back-up bag of kibble in the PTV, and water, of course. When I pull a bag of kibble out of the PTV for the crew, I get a back-up bag as soon as possible.

  3. My doggy loving heart goes out for pit/buddy. If I could, I would take him on. Of course, I already have three and that is the limit in my little town. Thanks for sharing your food and water.

  4. Glenda Cornwill says:

    OH my, that poor dog……..homeless and depending on handouts from kind people like you, Sue. Good for you Spike, letting hime know where to be for his hadnout from Sue. You know her so well!! One can never be too careful Sue with stray animals that approach….especiallyw hen you have small vunerable dogs. I know from experience and it didn’t end well, sadly, what can happen!!
    Loved the photos of this incredible place you are now camped!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Usually I’m pretty good at “reading” a dog’s movements and body language. In this case, he was quick and I wasn’t sure, so I grabbed Bridget and took off.

    • Dominick Bundy says:

      Hi Sue, Read and enjoy your blog everyday, But I’m very concerned about that poor dog.. Is the park ranger aware of him? What will happen when water and kibble is all gone.? Is there someone or place that could be called to help rescue him? I sure hope so.. happy trails to you Cheers…Dominick

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Hi Dominick,

        It’s tough to know what to do. Calling animal control leads to a high probability of him being euthanized as pit bulls are hard to place in homes. I’m hoping a local person or Ranger Jim will know what to do. I doubt there’s a pit bull rescue organization anywhere near this sparsely populated desert location.

        Nice to hear from you again.

        • Dominick Bundy says:

          I went to bed last night thinking about that poor little guy, i hope god will here my prayers and some kind soul will give him a good home.. Pit Bulls aren’t bad , It’s some people who make them that way.. There is a Cable show about a little person named Shorty who will go way out of his way to rescue pit bulls.. I think I’ll try to get in touch . And see if he has any ideas.. Bless you for giving him water and some food..

          • rvsueandcrew says:

            Please do what you can, Dominick. I know you’re in NY and there’s only so much you can do. Buddy is still here. My internet connection is very weak this morning — don’t know why. I’ll try to post more details and photos about Buddy as soon as I can.

  5. Kim says:

    I bet someone will adopt Buddy before long.

    Nice homestead there, RVsue!

  6. Llanos says:

    Good for you Sue. I am a sucker for strays. If I live to be 100, I’ll never understand why people abandon animals.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Llanos! I could tell you why people abandon animals, but I’m sure my language would be unsuitable for public airing. Great to hear from you again . ..

  7. lynne says:

    Never heard of a kitfox…thanks for the education!
    I’m so excited that you are going to Joshua Tree! We stayed at Indian Cove last January and had the whole place to ourselves during the week. Climbers showed on the weekend but not many.
    It had pit toilets, water at the ranger station and a very reasonable price. Loved the rocks!

  8. Ed says:

    Buddy looks very much like my American Staffordshire, Patches. Pit Bulls and Staffys are cousins so to speak and look VERY similar so Patches get a bad rap also. She is dog reactive but absolutely loves people. I got her from a shelter a year ago and hope Buddy can find a new home.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Ed! Good for you, taking your Patches out of a shelter. I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I’ll ask anyway. Is Buddy a pit bull or an American Staffordshire?

      • Ed says:

        Just looking at the pictures I can not tell. Even IF I had him standing side by side with Patches I’m not sure that I could tell. Because the Staffy and Pit have the same ancestors (some are even dual-registered), they have a similar look and similar personalities. The only dogs that can properly be called American Staffordshire Terriers are those from AKC-registered bloodlines. Therefore, my Patches probably can not ‘properly’ be called a Staffy but that is what the shelter and the vet listed her as so that is what I say she is.
        Here is one of the few distinctions: Staffys may be stockier than American Pit Bull Terriers and will NEVER have a red nose. If the dog has a red nose, it is most likely to be a Pit or Pit mix.
        To me a Staffy has an American Bulldog (also a cousin) shaped head more so than a Pit does ie more square.

  9. Rand says:

    Hi.. Sue
    You are an animal lover.. between the fox and the dog you are going to need another bag of cruchies.. Always interesting setting up a water station to see the variety of tracks in the morning.

    I think you saw a Grey Fox.. The black stripe down the bushy tail is an easy identifier. They can climb trees. We’ve had one cruising the edge of Mission Valley in the middle of San Diego this summer.. Neighbors have seen the 3 kits (babies). I have made the canyon offlimits for walks at night for my terrier. A terriers favorite sport.
    grey fox wiki

    The Kit Fox is a cutie. Watched a litter of 3 playing when I was hiking the volcano across the border from Organ Pipe NP. They tossed and teased on a rock 30ft away. I assumed they hadnt had much contact w humans. They seemed so incongruous in the inhospitable lava flows.
    kit fox video

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Rand! I want to set up a water station to see who comes by, but I know that will attract hundreds of bees.

      I made a note at the end of today’s entry wherein I agree with you… The animal could possibly have been a grey fox. Thanks for the information and the links. I’ve seen red foxes in the northeast but never a grey fox. So now I need to see a kitfox!

  10. Sherry says:

    Your campsite is just gorgeous! What a wonderful place to be. I never cease to be amazed at what great places you find. I think it must be a natural talent.

    Nice Story Spike and well written…………..makes my heart go out to your wandering friend.

  11. gingerda says:

    You see all kinds of things in the desert. I am not a fan of spiders of any kind, or snakes. We have the occasional scorpion here in the Las Vegas desert and I don’t like them either. lol.
    Loved your pictures.

  12. Love your stories of the desert wildlife! Thanks so much from this animal lover for taking care of “Buddy”!! My husband and I always carry extra water and cat food/dog food in our truck. We have used this to help feed many strays along our paths. Please give Spike and Bridget a hug for me! Happy, Safe Travels!!

  13. Karen says:

    What an interesting post, Sue. The pictures are wonderful, as always. I’m glad that you were able to help poor Buddy and that Spike was kind enough to tell Buddy where to be to get his handout. Thank you so very much for sharing your stories. Hubby and I love them.

  14. Barb says:

    It just breaks my heart to see an animal obviously dumped out in no where… So glad you were able to help it for a time.
    Love your tales of the road!

  15. cinandjules says:

    ^^^ I’m with Barb. Obviously someone dumped him….poor feller. He doesn’t look too skinny.

    But what if……he’s lost?

    Trantulas?? Oh hell no! They are known to cross the road in droves….in case you didn’t know they can “jump” up…after doing what appears to be “push ups”.

  16. Teri says:

    I hope that Ranger Jim will help that poor dog, it’s heartbreaking to me thinking of what will happen when he has no water or food.

  17. Sue says:

    I totally get why you picked up Bridget when the desert dog came a running. One day I putting some things in my car to get ready to leave. I had the door open and two of the Jr. High boys who walk home past my house were right next to me when we saw a pit bull come running. The boys grabbed and got behind me (thanks boys I am an old woman, you should be hiding me!) Anyway I just prayed “Jesus give me strength.” Well the dog came right up to me at full speed sat down real close and started wagging his tail. I heard a big sigh from all three of us. We petted him and he went home. Man they look mean but are so sweet. I am so thankful you fed and watered him. What a blessing you are.

  18. LuAnn says:

    Great post Sue. I had never heard of a kitfox so I learned something new. Loved Canine Corner.

  19. Chuck says:

    Another great post. Hope Ranger Jim finds a home for Buster and the Hound Herd agrees! Thank you for feeding and watering him though he looked to be in good shape with nice markings. Anorther GREAT post! Chuck n Geri n Hound Herd

  20. rvsueandcrew says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I always read every comment. My internet connection has been spotty the past few days. That’s why I didn’t respond to each comment the way I usually do.

  21. Carol says:

    thank you and bles you Sue for giving Buddy food and water.
    ii you Google “pit BullRescue, you’ll find quite a site, a friend sent it me on FB.

    My daughter had a Pit follow her home from a walk once, she is swee, a little food dominant, but sweet and loving with people.

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