Diversity, distribution, and natural history of the mammals of Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas



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Texas Tech University


A comprehensive study of the mammalian fauna of Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP), Texas, was conducted. Extensive field work performed during 1994 and 1995, supplemented with the examination of museum specimens and a review of the literature, resulted in the documentation of five orders, 18 families, and 59 species of native mammals in the park. The mammalian fauna of BBRSP was compared to that of eight other areas in the Chihuahuan Desert, and was found to most closely resemble the mammalian fauna of Big Bend National Park. Species composition was determined for bats (Chiroptera) and rodents (Rodentia). Western pipistrelles (Pipistrellus hesperus), ghost-faced bats (Mormoops meqalophylla), and Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) were the three most abundant species of bats, and Chihuahuan Desert pocket mice (Chaetodipus eremicus), Merriam's kangaroo rats (Dipodomys merriami), and cactus mice (Peromyscus eremicus) were the most common rodents in the park. A dichotomous key to all species of mammals treated is included. Using a geographic information system (GIS), the distribution of each of the 59 species of native mammals at BBRSP was mapped. Various aspects of the natural history of these mammals are presented; they include habitat affinities, relative abundance, seasonal and daily activity, reproductive habits, feeding strategies, annual molt, and parasites and diseases. In addition, systematic problems were identified and acknowledged for several taxa. Two nondomestic introduced species, seven domestic species, 27 species of postulated occurrence, and two extirpated species are treated briefly. Finally, a list of recommendations for future research and management is presented.