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The El Paso Zoo is a great place to learn more about wildlife native to the Chihuahuan DesertNovember 19, 2014

One of El Paso’s best kept secrets has been in the works and evolving completely on its own for thousands of years. Today, biologists call this unique eco-region the Chihuahuan Desert, an area of North America covering the surface of our planet for nearly 400,000 square miles. During the Pleistocene, not long after the last ice age, the climate changed dramatically in this part of North America. The ensuing aridity made way for a desert landscape. You and your family and friends can discover it and learn more about this important part of our natural heritage when you visit the El Paso Zoo.

At the Zoo you can see many wildlife species native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The Zoo is uniquely divided into three major geographic areas, Asia, Africa and the Americas. To find species from our desert be sure to spend time in the Americas area. Some of these species are extremely rare including the critically endangered black-footed ferret that lives in the El Paso Water Utilities Discovery Education Center near the Zoo entrance and the Mexican wolf. Although both of these species no longer live in the immediate El Paso area, the Mexican wolf is being returned to the wild in the Gila Wilderness area of western New Mexico and Arizona about 3 hours to the west. To the south a similar reintroduction effort is underway to restore the black-footed ferret to the prairie dog towns of the Janos grasslands region of northern Chihuahua, Mexico.

The prairie dogs living at the Zoo across from the Sea Lion Exhibit are black-tailed prairie dogs. The prairie dog is called a keystone species meaning that it plays a very important role in helping the surrounding natural world stay healthy. Prairie dog burrows help to provide ways for water to go underground. All the burrows they dig combined with their droppings and plant materials they bring in with them help to enrich the soil. The diversity of life in the area also benefits as burrows provide habitat for many other species including Burrowing Owls, gopher snakes and black-footed ferrets. Nearly 200 animal species have been observed in or near prairie dog colonies!

Some of our Chihuahuan Desert species at the Zoo are found in the wilder areas in and around our city including the Western Harris Hawk, Western Cattle Egret, Swainson’s Hawk and the Common Barn Owl. Did you know that Harris Hawks will often hunt in groups like a pack of wolves? We have a female Harris Hawk named Sadie and a male named Horizon. A third Harris Hawk shown during animal encounter programs is called Houdini. Watch for them the next time you visit Rio Bosque Wetlands Park in the lower valley.

Our collared peccaries, also called javelinas, live in the area, but are very rare. This pig-like mammal is relatively new to the Franklin Mountains and may be expanding its range from southern New Mexico and parts of West Texas. Javelinas are found throughout much of the tropical and subtropical Americas, ranging from the Southwestern United States to northern Argentina in South America. They feed on fruits, roots, tubers, palm nuts, grasses, invertebrates and small vertebrates.

Another large mammal can be seen on the road to the Guadalupe Mountains after you pass Hueco Tanks State Park and head towards Carlsbad Caverns. Along the way watch for Mexican pronghorn, a very similar subspecies to the endangered peninsular pronghorns we have living in the Americas Lands Exhibit. Pronghorn have survived in North America since the Pleistocene age (10,000 to 1.8 million years ago) when they lived during the time of now extinct ground sloths, short-faced bears, tapirs, camels and mammoths. More than likely they developed the ability to run at high speeds to avoid the American cheetah, Miracinonyx, another extinct species from this period.

In the Reptile House you can see several species of reptiles and amphibians from the Chihuahuan Desert including a diamond-backed rattlesnake, grey-banded kingsnake, Mexican milksnake, barred tiger salamander, and Woodhouse’s toad.

A stones throw away from the Reptile House the America’s Aviary is also a great place to see some of our Chihuahuan Desert birds. As you walk through the aviary watch for the Roadrunner, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, and Blue-winged Teal.

One of the rarest Chihuahuan Desert species at the Zoo is found in the Carbonera pupfish. This endangered pupfish is found in the wild only in the Samalayuca Dunes of northern Mexico, 35 miles south of El Paso in the state of Chihuahua. Since 2004, hundreds of baby pupfish have hatched in El Paso Zoo aquariums. In the wild pupfish eat microscopic algae called diatoms and small invertebrates like amphipods, gastropods and ostracods. The El Paso Zoo and the Dallas Zoo and Children’s Aquarium are the only facilities that have this species. Look for them in the spring exhibit inside the El Paso Water Utilities Discovery Education Center.

To learn more about the Chihuahuan Desert check out the website of the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, one of our conservation partner organizations, at
Every year CDEC helps Franklin Mountains State Park organize the annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta during the third Saturday of September.

About the Author

Rick LoBello

Rick LoBello has worked in the field of conservation education since 1973 when he started his career as Zoological Curator at the Kansas City Museum of History and Science. He has spent 25 years working as a park ranger and Executive Director at four national parks including Big Bend, Yellowstone, Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks. Since coming to work at the El Paso Zoo in 2002 he has served as Education Curator and has been very active in conservation programs in the region working with organizations like the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition. Over the years his efforts have been honored by Rotary International, the National Park Service and most recently by the Trans Pecos Audubon Society and The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality 2012 Environmental Summit. In 2009 he wrote a guidebook for Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International entitled Guide to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park: Home to Critically Endangered Mountain Gorillas available on

Last Minute LocalNovember 14, 2014


The Steampunk Enthusiasts: Sun City Steam Fest

This free event will include informational panels like Steampunk 101 so you can learn all about what is, and how to Steampunk, and we will have vendors selling jewelry, hats, accessories and artwork, pertaining to the Steampunk genre. PLUS, come and see a sidewalk parade of this sub-genre of science fiction and steam powered technology thru out downtown El Paso! All are welcome to enjoy the Victorian/Science Fiction Sub Culture.


The Three R’s: GRO El Paso

Don’t miss this 1st time fun and informative community event. No entry fee! Learn all about local resources in recycling, composting, solar & wind energy and training, health, wellness and MORE. Plus, there will be fabulous food, stage entertainment and dance. While you’re at it, Adopt a Pet and check out what the El Paso Zoo has to offer! This message is brought to you by the US Green Building Council, in partnership with the Office of Senator Jose Rodriguez and Friends of GRO .

The Mobile Museum: Greyhound Centennial Tour

Celebrating 100 years of service, Greyhound is bringing its Centennial Mobile Museum Tour to El Paso! The tour will feature a bus converted into a mobile museum displaying memorabilia such as signage, vintage driver uniforms and an entire wall of history where guests will be able to see Greyhound’s transformation over the years, as well as view videos via interactive touchscreen displays. The tours will also feature restored classic coaches, such as the 1914 Hupmobile, 1931 Mack, 1947 Silversides and the 1954 Scenicruiser and a new, modern coach featuring amenities such as free Wi-Fi, leather seats, power outlets and extra legroom.

The Family Adventure: El Maida Circus

The El Maida Shrine Circus is a combination of strength & skill, beauty & mystery. With amazing lighting and sound, watch as our human and animal performers* transform you into the magical world of circus. The circus is a fun family adventure that is for everyone.


The Bazaar and Market Mania!

The holiday season kicks off earlier every year, so here are a few ideas to get you in the spirit.

Grace Life Holiday Fair
The Holiday Fair will have homemade arts and crafts, ‘Heavenly Sweet Shop,’ classic car show, face painting, raffle, masseuse and other family activities.

All Saints Christmas Festival
All Saints Episcopal Church will host its Christmas festival with gifts and Christmas decor, the Christmas Store with new and gently used holiday ornaments, decorations, and gift items, games and other activities, music and food.

Mission Trail Art Market
Discover the Mission Trail Art Market, The Mission Valley’s premier art and craft sale. Professional artisans from across the region present an amazing selection of quality art and craft. Choose from delicate pottery, vibrant jewelry, timeless home accents, and seasonal decorations. Painting, sculpture and photography for the connoisseur. Sweet and savory treats for the gourmet.

About the Author

Visit El Paso

Welcome to the official Visit El Paso blog, your leading source for all things El Paso! Last Minute Local is posted every week and provides readers with a variety of "no planning necessary" ideas on things to see and do this weekend.

What's going on this weekend?November 13, 2014

About the Author

Kimber McCarden Foster

Join Destination El Paso's Kimber McCarden Foster every week for a run down on events happening right here in our community.

Last Minute LocalNovember 7, 2014


The Art Lab: Mad Scientist Family Day

The Rubin Center and FabLab invite children of all ages and their families to their upcoming event Mad Scientist Studio Art Lab Family Day. There will be a variety of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) activities inspired by the current exhibition, Alejandro Almanza Pereda: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. Some of the activities will be JIX 3-D Straw Sculptures, LANscape Projection Mapping, foam geometric puzzles and drawing with a Harmonograph spiral machine. Kids will be able to practice the art of Tai chi and enjoy other creative activities in the galleries while learning more about art. Almanza Pereda has developed an international reputation for creating large-scale artworks that often appear to defy the laws of physics. All ages are welcome but this event is especially geared for ages 4-12, and their families. All Rubin Center Family Days are free and open to the public. This event is supported in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The Memorial Plaza: 18th Annual Veterans Parade & Celebration

The Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society and the town of San Elizario, cordially invites everyone to attend our Veterans Event in the San Elizario Historic District. Bring your families and enjoy a day honoring our veterans. The parade will begin at 9 am at the intersection of Thompson Road and Socorro Road. Special Guests and the 2013 Grand Marshall will be introduced, followed by the lighting of the Candles and the POW-MIA table ceremony. Five Veterans will be honored for their military service.

The Native American Month: Third Annual, Native American “Celebration of our Culture”

The celebration will includes Historic Talks of the Pueblo, Navajo, Apache and Taino. Native dances by the War Kui Dance Group, Danca Nunutzi, Danza Matachin Pavo Real and Danca Azteca Omecoatel. Native American Arts & Crafts and more. Music and Food. Special appearance by the Pistoleros de San Elizario. Native American Arts & Crafts, Music & Food. Special appearance by the Pistoleros de San Elizario.


The Shopping Extravaganza: “A Christmas Fair" by the Junior League of El Paso, Inc.

The event features shopping and special events for all ages. Over 150 merchants from across the country will be present. Bring your family to visit Jolly Old Saint Nick and have your photos taken with him in Santa’s Whimsical Wonderland! Stick around for Storytime with Santa on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. where children will enjoy a holiday favorite along with cookies and milk. Santa is a graduate of Santa University!

About the Author

Visit El Paso

Welcome to the official Visit El Paso blog, your leading source for all things El Paso! Last Minute Local is posted every week and provides readers with a variety of "no planning necessary" ideas on things to see and do this weekend.

Franklin Mountains Holiday Cheer November 6, 2014

We have much to be thankful for around here at the Franklin Mountains State Park, and one of the biggest appreciations is for our amazing volunteers! We recently held our two-day 2014 Volunteer Orientation and Campout which was presented to over 20 volunteers. Park rangers and special guest speakers provided educational programs and fun interactive activities covering a wide array of topics including: Botany of the Franklin Mountains, Bug Appreciation, Geology of the Franklin Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert Reptiles, Birding 101, Dutch Oven 101 – Camp Cooking, Wilderness First Aid, and a great presentation from one of our speakers’ expeditions on Mt. Everest!

Some of our newest volunteers have already jumped head first into developing new outreach programs and assisting us with our hikes and tours – we could not have the impact that we have without all of these incredible people and to them we express our greatest gratitude.

As the holidays draw near, we are all filling with festive cheer and have some great holiday programs planned for you all, including the return of our Yoga On the Rocks programs.

November 2014
Sat., Nov. 8: 9:00 a.m. – Beginner’s Mountain Bike Ride
Sun., Nov 9: 9:00 a.m. – Yoga on the Rocks – “Give Thanks to Nature”
Sat., Nov. 15: 7:00 a.m. – Peak Fitness Challenge Hike – North Franklin Peak
Sat., Nov. 15: 10:00 a.m. – Photography 101 Workshop with Wayne Pope
Sun., Nov. 16: 9:00 a.m. – Intermediate Mountain Bike Ride
Sun., Nov. 16: 9:00 a.m. – Nature Walk Trail (John Miller)
Sat., Nov. 22: 9:00 a.m. – Women’s Beginner’s Hike – Lower Sunset Trail
Thurs., Nov. 27: 9:00 a.m./12:00 p.m./2:30 p.m. – Turkey Trail Trilogy (3 hikes, back to back)

December 2014:

Take a break from the holiday rush and experience the beauty of the Franklin Mountains – and remember to wear your festive attire and Santa Hat for all of our December events!

Sun., December 6: 9:00 a.m. – Beginner’s Mountain Bike Ride
Sat., December 13: 9:00 a.m. T’was the Hike Before Christmas –Mundys
Sun., December 14: 9:00 a.m. Intermediate Mountain Bike Ride
Sat., December 20: 9:00 a.m. T’was the Hike Before Christmas – Upper Sunset
Sun., December 21: 9:00 a.m. Jingle Dogs Hike – Lower Sunset
Thurs., December 25: 10:00 a.m. Christmas Mine Tour

January 2015

Thursday, January 1st, 2015: 9:00 a.m. – The Maze Trail

Yup, we’re already gearing up for the New Year! C’mon over, work up a sweat and burn some calories, take in the splendors of the Franklin Mountains State Park, and start your New Year’s Resolutions off on the right hiking foot. If you have a dog and a leash, bring your pooch, too.

We hope to see many of you out on the mountain and to spend some of the holidays with you. Until next time, happy trails and happy holidays!

About the Author

Adrianna Weickhardt

Park ranger, adventure chaser, environmentalist. As a park ranger with Texas Parks & Wildlife, I help people connect w/ the outdoors & have a lot of fun doing it!

Weickhardt is a graduate of Arkansas State University and has been with Texas Parks and Wildlife since 2011.

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