Visitors to Big Bend National Park are almost guaranteed to see animals like roadrunners, javelinas, deer, even mountain lions, throughout the year. What Ruth & I didn’t know until we got there was that the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is one of the 3 most popular times to visit.
The entire Mesa de Anguila area near the remote town of Lajitas is currently closed because a woman hiker was attacked there by a mountain lion on Friday, November 23. She and her companions were on the Mesa Trail and made the mistake of running when they saw the lion. Because these cats that purr but don’t roar naturally chase running prey, this was not the proper response and resulted in non-life-threatening injuries. In February, 2012, a 6-year-old boy was attacked in the Chisos Basin, the genuinely mountainous part of Big Bend. That lion was killed by park rangers. If there are no further incidents, Mesa Trail will reopen on January 4, 2013.
Animals in Big Bend National Park are more likely to be seen from dusk to dawn although we saw a roadrunner and a javelina in mid-afternoon. Animals tend to spend the heat of the day in brushy shade, caves, or underground.
When hunting, roadrunners truly do rely on leg power. They can run 15 miles per hour in pursuit of snakes, lizards, and other birds. They can also jump to snatch insects out of the air. They get most of their moisture from prey. For roadrunners, exactly like in the cartoons, flying is optional. They seldom take wing for more than a few seconds at a time. This time of year when it’s as cold as it gets in the Chihuahuan Desert, they turn their backs to the sun, spread their wings, and absorb heat through their back skin. The Daniels Ranch area is reportedly the best place to spot roadrunners. In the cartoons Wile E. Coyote is the focused pursuer, but in real life roadrunners are very determined predators. Meep! Meep!
Before we even got to the Park, we saw a wild javelina munching grass by the side of the road. Members of the peccary family, they also called New World and skunk pigs. I didn’t get out the car to take the picture above because javelinas are aggressive and have been known to attack, even kill, humans. They cannot be domesticated. Thanks to nature’s balance, mountain lions often dine on javelinas.