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Desert Diary
Mammals/Wolf Mouse


We tend to toss animals into categories merely to have some easy handle to visualize them with. Foxes are carnivorous, bears are omnivorous, and deer and squirrels are herbivorous. Very neat, except that comes a long way from telling the whole story. True, Gray Foxes are carnivores, meaning they belong to the order Carnivora, but even casual inspection of their scat, or fecal deposits, would quickly dissuade you from the thought that they eat only meat. On the other hand, that bears—and of course, humans and pigs—are omnivorous does pretty much tell the story, and the name is apt. "Omni" means "everything or universal", and "vore" means "to devour". And yes, bears, pigs, and one group or another of humans will eat just about anything available.

Where most people are shocked, however, is with the presumed herbivorous mammals. All, or nearly all, will eat meat if given the opportunity; yes, including Bambi and Rocky, your favorite squirrel. But among our desert rodents, the Grasshopper Mice are top villains, likened by some to miniature wolves, complete with a mouse-sized howl.

Listen to the audio.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of KTEP, National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

painting of Onychomys

Painting of Onychomys leucogaster by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. After Nelson, 1918.



Web Resources

The Mammals of Texas Online