Creatures that Live in Tunnels

In the first part of this series (see The Ventana View 12, diciembre), we learned who makes underground tunnels. Today we will focus on which creatures live in them. To some extent, they are one in the same, as many animals who make tunnels also inhabit them. For example, rabbits, iguanas and ground squirrels certainly live in their burrows at first, but those creatures usually move out if the burrow feels too small, or maybe part of it caved in, or maybe it is too close to something dangerous. In many cases, burrows can flood during heavy rains.

Whatever the reason, burrows change ownership frequently. Some creatures live in their second-hand burrows, although many use them more like short-term rentals. For instance, whiptails (the blue-tailed lizards scurrying all around) are very active on sunny days, sometimes covering a lot of ground in their search for grubs and other leaf-litter creatures. Rather than returning all the way back to last night’s burrow, whiptails can pop into the nearest hole and spend the night there.

After a while, burrows start to connect to each other and, eventually, become part of the tunnel network, an intricate web where many fascinating creatures spend their time. Sand snakes “swim” through softer soils but, in harder ground, they spend essentially all their time in the tunnel network. Thread snakes also spend much of their time navigating these tunnels, as well as rosy boas, ground snakes, black-headed snakes, some small rodents and a great assortment of insects.

All this life under our feet, and we barely even know it exists! This fascinating world doesn’t require much help from us, although there is one crucial factor keeping the whole ecosystem strong. If we can allow this one little thing to remain in our yards, the animals and plants will live healthier, longer lives. This all-important magic serum is leaf litter. So go ahead and landscape areas that you actually use on your properties, but please leave leaf litter where you can, but especially under trees, cactuses and bushes. Leaving leaf litter in place also holds moisture, and this natural mulch greatly benefits the plants, as well as the animals.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good kite!