The most common wildlife you may see around town is the Prairie Dog. You can often see these little squirrel related critters in abandoned lots, fields and parks. They are a shy, burrowing creature. Our AAA affiliated minor league baseball team, the Sod Poodles, was named after the Prairie Dogs.
Besides prairie dogs, the Texas Panhandle has many wildlife species. Bison roamed this region grazing on grasses and were hunted by Native Americans. Because of too much hunting in the late 1800s by white market hunters, bison almost became extinct. Laws that regulated hunting and fees paid by hunters for management efforts helped restored the bison. Now bison number in the tens of thousands on protected lands such as national parks and private range lands.
Palo Duro Mouse
The Palo Duro Mouse is a species that lives nowhere in the world except in the Texas Panhandle. These critters live in crevices and cracks in steep canyon walls, especially in the Palo Duro Canyon.
The roadrunners, also known as chaparral birds or chaparral cocks, are two species of fast-running ground cuckoos with long tails and crests. They are found in the southwestern and south-central United States and Mexico, usually in the desert. Some have been clocked at 32 km/h while a few have also been clocked up to 43 km/h.
The nine-banded armadillo can hold its breath for up to six minutes and can swim or “walk” along the bottom of rivers. Their abandoned burrows are utilized by other animals, such as pine snakes, rabbits, opossums, mink, cotton rats, striped skunks, burrowing owls, and eastern indigo snakes.
White tail deer and mule deer are common to the area.
Rattlesnakes live in the Panhandle. Snakes help control the rodent population. Too many rodents would ruin crops, so the snakes helps farmers! Rattlesnakes are venomous and usually rattle their tails before they bite. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot tell the age of a rattlesnake by the number of rattles on its tail! The rattles start to fall off after 10 rattles or segments have been formed. Their forked tongue enables the rattlesnake to smell.
Mountain lions are native to Texas and classified as a nongame species. The largest breeding population of mountain lions in Texas occurs in the Trans Pecos region where there are large undeveloped tracts of land. Smaller populations of mountain lions still inhabit portions of the South Texas Plains, the Balcones Escarpment and rugged canyonlands in the Panhandle of Texas. Contemporary records of mountain lions in other portions of the state are infrequent and probably represent dispersing individuals from main breeding populations.
Opossums are prevalent throughout the Amarillo area, in neighborhoods as well as more natural areas. Many people think of opossums as pests or threatening, but they are actually shy, harmless animals that are beneficial to have around. Opossums do not dig in yards or cause damage to homes. They are known as “nature’s pest control” as they eat things that people typically do not want in their yard such as roaches, ticks, snails, rats and mice. Opossums are solitary, nomadic animals that do not establish a permanent territory. Since they are often severely injured by dogs when passing through a back yard, it is best not to feed them to avoid them returning to a neighborhood.