Vegetation and Wildlife - Flora and Fauna
Despite it's desert surrounds, Grand Canyon National Park is surprisingly wooded. The drastic elevation change of 8,000 feet from the Colorado River on the canyon floor to the high North Rim allows for approximately 1,737 known species of plants, 167 species of fungi, 64 species of moss and 195 species of lichen! A dozen of these are endemic (known only within the park's boundaries), and the most comon being the ponderosa and pinyon pine forests which grow on both the rims.
The aspect, or direction a slope faces, also plays a major role in adding diversity to the Grand Canyon. North-facing slopes receive about one-third the normal amount of sunlight, so plants growing there are similar to plants found at higher elevations, or in more northern latitudes. The south-facing slopes receive the full amount of sunlight and are covered in vegetation typical of the Sonoran Desert.
Arguably, the most famous animal in the park is the rare California condor, which can occasionally be seen flying near the Grand Canyon Village. Other common bird life includes the dusky Canyon wrens, the beautifully cobalt blue colored Stellar's jays with their adorable peaked caps, swallows, hummingbirds and the playful and entertaining raven.
Some of the largest elk in North America can be found in the National Park, as well as Mule deer and the occasional Desert Bighorn sheep in the Inner Canyon. You'll spot coyotes no matter where you are in the park, and if you're lucky, you'll get to hear them sing. Other predators are cougars, bobcat and Black bears, though these are rare and generally stay away from inhabited areas.
Some of the smaller creatures are the Ringtail Cat (not actually in the cat family, more of a raccoon), which like to live in the rafters of some of the historic buildings on the rim. They are quick and stealthy, but they often forget how visible that tail is, and you'll see it hanging out over a beam! A favorite with visitors are the chipmunks and the Abert's squirrel with their tufted ears. They seem tame and like to beg for food but heed the warnings, one of the most common injuries in the park are squirrel bites! You might also see the common Striped skunk, or the rarer Western Spotted skunk (usually at lower elevations), which also may seem tame but will react as all skunks do, so don't come up on them suddenly!
For the reptile family, there are variety of small lizards, and a few snakes. The most striking is the Grand Canyon rattlesnake; with its reddish almost pink coloring, it neatly blends into the rocky terrain.