Unique vegetation draws many species of animals to the Hualapai Mountains

The Hualapai Mountain range, just 14 miles southeast of Kingman, is one of few true biological islands in Arizona: an emerald green forest rising to 8,417 feet, surrounded by desert at lower elevations.

"The Hualapais are surounded by a blend of two deserts: the Sonoran and Mojave desert(s)," said David Boyd, Arizona Game and Fish information and education program manager.

That the Sonoran and Mojave deserts border each other is in itself unique, given the usual differences in latitude, elevation and moisture, Boyd said.

"When you start low, and go high, you get many life zones.

The Hualapai Mountains can be called a 'sky island.' This unique change in elevations is characterized by a diversity of vegetative communities, topgraphy and climate," Boyd added.

Encompassing more than 2,500 square miles of largely public-owned land administered by the Federal Bureau of Land Management the area is home to a wide range plants, animals and and birds.

Hualapai Mountain Park makes up only 3.5 square miles of the mountain range, with elevations ranging from 4,984 to 8,417 surounded by several wilderness areas.

The park, first developed during the early 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, boasts roads, six miles of developed hiking trails and more than 10 miles of undeveloped trails and picnic and camping areas, according to information from the park.

The name Hualapai means Pine Tree Folk, and is derived from the name of the Indian tribe who once called the mountains home until the tribe was relocated by the military in the 1870s.

Ponderosa pine, pinion pine, white fir and Douglas fir share space with aspen, scrub oak, manzanita and other species on the mountain.

The wildlife is a product of its habitat.

The Hualapai Mountains are the northern boundry for some seldom-seen birds such as the zone-tailed hawk and the painted redstart, Boyd said.

In a situation unique to anywhere in the world, saguaro cactus and Joshua trees can both be found on the southern side of the Hualapai Mountain range leading to Wickieup.

"Joshua Trees are an indicator of species of the Mojave Desert and saquro cactus are an indicator of the Sonaran Desert.

"The Harris's hawk, found in this area, is a good example of a species of raptor found in the Sonoran Desert," he said.

Some Hualapai Mountain inhabitants are not native to the area.

Elk, completely gone from Arizona at one point, were relocated from Yellowstone National Park to the Hualapais around 1929, Boyd said.

Tree squirrels that live in the area are another transplanted species.

"Again, the habitat is right for the species, but because the mountain ranges are isolated, there were no elk or tree squirrels," he said.

Other inhabitants of the upper mountain range are mountain lion, mule deer, fox, raccoon, rabbits, chipmunks and skunks.

Boyd said mountain lions are very elusive and seldom seen.

"If you were to see one, it would probably be alone, or a 120-pound mom with kittens."

Javelina are another species that have been slowly finding their way up the mountain.

"Thirty years ago, they weren't that far north.

But with the warmer winters they are moving north," Boyd said.

Game and Fish field supervisor Eric Gardner said he has, on occasion, seen signs of a bear in the Hualapais, but "it is not a common species."

Raptors such as hawks, owls, turkey vultures and eagles, including the golden eagle, and a variety of songbirds have also been seen in the Hualapai Mountains.

A variety of snakes seen in the upper and lower elevations include rattlesnakes, mountain king snakes, (which look similar to coral snakes) and bull snakes (gopher snakes) which can become quite large and reach lengths of six to seven feet, Boyd said.

Human inhabitants have also forged their way up the Hualapai Mountains.

The untamed beauty of this biological oasis in the middle of a desert has inspired four residential communities, including Pine Lake, Pinion Pines, Atherton Acres and Lazy Y-U Ranch.

The inhabitants of the 450 dwellings within these communities seem to want it both ways, Boyd said.

"They want the deer in their yard and the coyotes at their back door.

But then they become upset when the deer eat their bushes or when they can't let their small dog go outside."