Wildlife & Habitat


Wildlife, or evidence of them, can be found on Fallon NWR as the seasons change. Look for signs such as scat (feces), tracks and burrows. Water in the desert determines whether or not wildlife, birds and plants will survive.

  • Water: Summer Drought

    drying pond

    Fallon NWR receives a minor amount of water from a branch of the Carson River that terminates underground within the refuge - hence the name 'Carson Sink'. This is especially noticeable during the summer dry period. Only a few times each decade does significant runoff occur in the Sierra Nevada mountains into the Carson River watershed to the point that water will actually flow from the Carson River onto the refuge. 

  • Water: Spring Flush

    refuge sunset

    There are a few natural springs and artesian wells within the refuge that provide seasonal wetlands and shallow pools of water that enable wetland plants and animals to survive. Look for patches of lush green vegetation in the spring and summer where this water concentrates, and you will have a better chance of observing desert wildlife.

  • Desert Dog - Coyote

    coyote 200

    Coyotes are occasionally seen at Fallon NWR, as they trot through in search of unsuspecting rodents, insects, or the wayward bird. During the hot season, they dig into the sand under shrubs in an attempt to stay cool, and then hunt at night. Coyotes remain active in the winter, often eating seeds and dried plants to supplement their diet.

  • Desert Kangaroo Rat


    Kangaroo rats are strictly nocturnal rodents, with large back legs that propel easily over the loose sands on the refuge. During the day they live in underground burrows near shrubs. These docile rodents rarely drink water, getting all the moisture they need from the plants and seeds they eat. During winter they hibernate with their seed cache in underground colonies.

  • Birds Find Refuge

    kestrel pair

    Depending on the water year, a variety of birds can be found at Fallon NWR, including the American Kestrels pictured here. If enough water remains on the surface long enough in the Spring and Summer, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds may take a short break here on their seasonal journey.

  • Desert Spiny Lizard

    Desert Spiny Lizard

    The Desert Spiny lizard is one of the most common in this area, reaching a length of up to 12 inches.  Males and females both have a black neck ring, and the males exhibit brilliant bluish-green side stripes and yellow throat during mating season. Lizards can be seen when daytime temperatures reach 70F, as they warm up on rocks, posts or tops of shrubs in the morning.  They hide underground or in shaded areas during the hottest part of the day, then re-appear to catch the last rays of sun in the evenings. They feed on a variety of insects, and sometimes flowers and fruit of desert plants.  Winter time finds them hibernating deep under the sand.

  • Desert Hairy Scorpion

    desert hairy scorpion

    A couple of species of scorpions are found in Nevada: the largest and most docile is the Giant Desert Hairy scorpion (also known as the Northern Desert Black scorpion), which has a larger, thicker body and legs, brown to black back and head, and fine hairs on the tail and legs.  The other species is the Bark Scorpion, not usually found north of Las Vegas, and it is much smaller, pale straw-colored with a dark stripe on its back, with thin legs and claws. All scorpions are active at night hunting insects, and spend the day under rocks, in ground burrows, under bark or thick brush piles; be careful where you put your hands!

  • Wildlife Hideouts

    hidey holes

    Desert wildlife are specially adapted to this extreme landscape, and most species will spend a lot of time in underground burrows, when its hot or cold outside.  This is the case for most reptiles, mammals, and insects found at Fallon NWR.  Please use great care when walking in the desert - what looks like a small hole in the sand or snow is very likely the entrance to an animals' home. And remember NOT to put your hands into crevices or holes that you can not see into!