Fascinating Wildlife: 9 Mammals You May See in Las Cruces - LasCruces.com
Mule deer are a common type of wildlife seen in and around Las Cruces.

If you’re wondering what wildlife you may encounter while exploring Las Cruces, New Mexico, here’s a round-up of some of the most commonly seen mammals in the area. There are many more mammals that live in our area, including porcupines, skunks, bats, gray foxes, and many species of mice and rats, but they’re mostly nocturnal, so it’s not likely you’ll observe them on a hike. Let’s focus on animals you may see, or worry about seeing, when you’re out adventuring.

We’ll discuss local birds and reptiles in other stories because there are so many to see. But first, keep in mind that wild animals are, indeed wild and their behavior can be unpredictable. If animals feel threatened, or especially if they fear their young are being threatened, they can attack. Binoculars are a great tool for seeing animals while keeping your distance. Don’t feed wildlife and don’t leave trash behind that pollutes their living spaces.

Wildlife: Mammals of the Las Cruces Area

Desert cottontails are among the most commonly seen wildlife in and near Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Desert Cottontail. Photo by Cheryl Fallstead.

Desert Cottontail

Take a walk through the desert and you’re very likely to spot a desert cottontail. These shy desert denizens will probably freeze when they spot you in hopes you won’t notice them. They survive by eating desert plants like prickly pear cactus and sometimes finding delicious fare in somebody’s garden.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

If you spot a rabbit that is larger than the cottontail with big back legs and long, black-tipped ears, it’s a black-tailed jackrabbit. Their powerful back legs help them speed away from predators like coyotes and bobcats and their long ears help keep them cool during dry, hot summers.

Rock Squirrel

Rock squirrels will get your attention with their piercing warning cry. These bushy-tailed squirrels with a white eye ring are ground dwellers, as their name implies, but they do climb trees. They can be seen around the area, including the Organ Mountains.

Coyotes are among the wildlife that can be seen in and around Las Cruces.
Coyote. Photo by Cheryl Fallstead.


These medium-sized members of the canid family are iconic desert dwellers, although they live throughout most of the United States and thrive in cities. Coyotes are about the size of a small German shepherd, have pointy ears, and long, black-tipped tails. They are unlikely to bother people but keep your dogs leashed while hiking to avoid a coyote-dog interaction.

During spring and summer when they are raising pups, you may find a coyote “escorting” you until you are out of its territory. Do not feed or approach coyotes as it is safer for everyone for them to have a healthy respect of humans. If they get too close, be loud and wave your arms or even toss rocks in their direction.

Mule Deer

If you’re hiking someplace like Dripping Springs Natural Area or the area behind the Las Cruces Dam, you may spot a herd of mule deer browsing on grass, yucca, or cactus. They have long ears that inspired their name. Mating season is in late fall and early winter, with fawns born in spring or early summer. Please keep your dogs leashed so they don’t chase any deer you encounter.

Oryx were introduced from Africa and have thrived.
Oryx. Courtesy photo.


Wait, you say. Aren’t oryx an African antelope? Why would I see them in Las Cruces? You’re right, oryx aren’t native to the United States. They were introduced to the Tularosa Basin on the other side of the Organ Mountains for hunting decades ago and due to the lack of natural predators, they have thrived. These are very large, hoofed mammals with long horns. If you see them, perhaps at Soledad Canyon or Dripping Springs, count yourself lucky and keep your distance!


The only predator of the oryx, besides humans, is the cougar or mountain lion. Cougars are not commonly encountered here, but they do live in the mountains and help keep the deer and oryx populations under control. These very large cats are tawny colored with long, black-tipped tails.

If you see a cougar, again, keep your distance. If it approaches you, the National Park Service recommends you get big by waving your arms or holding your coat or backpack over your head. Speak firmly and loudly and, if necessary, throw stones or sticks toward it, but not at it. However, don’t lean over to pick up items as you will then appear small and vulnerable. Chances are, unless you are hiking in isolated, mountainous areas, you will never see this top predator.


A smaller wild cat that is more commonly seen is the bobcat. Like a large, spotted, stub-tailed housecat, bobcats may even be found lounging in sunlit rural backyards. They are significantly smaller than mountain lions and the short tail and spots help distinguish the two. While they’ve been occasionally spotted in residential areas of Las Cruces like Sonoma Ranch, they’re more commonly seen near the Organ Mountains. If you see one, enjoy the experience while keeping your distance.

Javelina are among the wildlife that can be seen in the area.


These peccaries, somewhat like a small wild boar, are common throughout the desert Southwest, but that doesn’t mean you’re likely to run across one anyplace you go. They are more likely to live in desert washes and riverside areas, such as Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park or behind the Las Cruces Dam. They’re seen in the area east of “A” Mountain and up at Dripping Springs, too. They live in large family groups and are mostly herbivorous, although they’ve been known to eat lizards, birds, or small rodents. They’d rather stay away from you, but don’t get between a mother and her young.

These are just some of the fascinating wildlife you can see in the Las Cruces area. Sometimes you won’t see the animals, but their tracks or scat will alert you to their presence. Enjoy your time in nature and getting to know the local fauna!

Visiting the Four Corners? Read about the wildlife you may see on your travels.

Story by Cheryl Fallstead

The footprints an animal leaves behind let you know they've been there.
Who was here? Photo by Cheryl Fallstead.

Posted by LasCruces.com

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