It takes about four hours to hike to the highest point in Oklahoma and back down, but it’s worth it. On top of this beautiful mesa are many animals that call it home. Are you ready to discover some animals you may discover on Oklahoma’s highest point? Follow along to learn about the animals that lurk atop Black Mesa.
What is the Black Mesa?
The Black Mesa is a mesa in Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It’s the 23rd-highest point in the United States. The Black Mesa starts from the Mesa de Maya in Colorado and ends near Kenton in Oklahoma. The highest point in the Black Mesa is in Colorado and reaches 5,705 feet. However, Black Mesa is also the highest point in Oklahoma with an elevation of 4,973 feet. The Black Mesa is unique because of its plateau at the top. Interestingly, the Black Mesa in Oklahoma is dry, cold, and harsh. In Kenton, the highest recorded temperature was 109 °F, and the coldest was -23 °F.
Apart from reaching the top of the mesa, you can also visit Black Mesa State Park and the Black Mesa Nature Preserve. Camping is permitted in Black Mesa State Park. Camping though isn’t allowed in the nature preserve, which means if you hike to the top, it needs to be completed in a day.
Animals That Lurk Atop Black Mesa
Now that we know a little more about Black Mesa, we can discuss some animals that call this place home. One of the largest predators in the area is the mountain lion. However, small birds are also common.
Starting our list of animals that lurk atop Black Mesa is the mountain lion. In Oklahoma, there aren’t many mountain lions. There isn’t a breeding population in the entire state. Still, you can see them in the Black Mesa because it borders states with larger populations. Mountain lions have many names. They are also called pumas and cougars.
Mountain lions live from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes. They are fast runners and can reach about 50 mph in short bursts. While mountain lions are great hunters, they rarely interact with humans. Mountain lion attacks are rare, but you should never touch or bother a mountain lion or its cub. Mother mountain lions are very protective of their cubs since they need a lot of attention.
Another animal in Black Mesa is the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. You can find them in the Black Mesa Nature Preserve near Kenton, Oklahoma. This species is the largest sheep in the United States. Male Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can easily weigh over 300 pounds. Their horns alone can weigh as much as 30 pounds. Females are easy to tell apart because they are nearly half the size of male Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are excellent at evading predators. They have great hearing and a sense of smell, which they use to detect danger. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are also wonderful climbers and can get to hard-to-reach places on mountains when hiding from predators.
The next animal on our list is the scaled quail. Its native range is from the Southwestern United States to Central Mexico. You can find these birds in western Oklahoma. Although only native to the United States and Central Mexico, these birds have been introduced to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Hawaii. They go by my names including blue quail and cottontop. Currently, scientists recognize three scaled quail subspecies.
Scaled quails live in sand sagebrush grassland in Oklahoma. Interestingly, they prefer to run when threatened instead of flying. In late April, these unique birds lay eggs. They lay about 9 to 16 eggs at a time.
Another animal in Black Mesa is the red-spotted toad. They live in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. These toads are about 1.5 to 3 inches long. Red-spotted toads are vibrant toads with grey-brown skin and tiny red dots. They range in color and vibrancy. Male red-spotted toads can be very vocal and have a shrill call that lasts up to 10 seconds.
Red-spotted toads are adaptable animals. They can live with minimal water and thrive in deserts. You can find them in rocky areas. While they can survive with minimal water, they are abundant near creeks and ponds. Red-spotted toads are mainly active during dusk when they hunt for food. They consume beetles, ants, bees, and sometimes small amphibians.
Common nighthawks are nocturnal migrating birds. They are found throughout the United States and also fly to Canada, Ecuador, and Cuba. Common nighthawks are dark birds with unique markings and patterns. They are difficult to spot as they blend in with trees. They also have forked tails. These birds are commonly spotted perched on tree branches or buildings and are rarely on the ground.
Common nighthawks are about 8.7 to 9.8 inches long. They weigh about 3 ounces and live for four to five years in the wild. Common nighthawks are loud and more vocal about 30 to 45 minutes after the sun has set. These birds are great hunters. They hunt in the sky, catching flying insects.
The golden eagle is the last animal on our list of animals that lurk atop Black Mesa in Oklahoma. The golden eagle is a large and fast bird of prey. Their wingspan ranges from 5.9 to 7.7 feet. It’s found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is common in North America. Golden eagles are also found throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa. These large raptors hunt for small mammals like prairie dogs, mice, and jackrabbits.
Summary of 6 Animals That Lurk Atop Black Mesa – Oklahoma’s Highest Point
|1||Mountain Lions||Oklahoma’s Black Mesa summit is the only place where mountain lions can be seen in the state|
|2||Bighorn Sheep||The large horns on this sheep can weigh up to 30 pounds|
|3||Scaled Quails||When threatened, these birds prefer to run instead of fly|
|4||Red-spotted Toads||Males have a shrill call that lasts up to 10 seconds|
|5||Common Nighthawks||These vocal birds sing loudly after the sun sets|
|6||Golden Eagle||Prairie dogs, jackrabbits and mice are among their prey|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © John A Davis/Shutterstock.com
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