Most often when people think of the Grand Canyon, the first things to come to their mind are the rocks or maybe the river. But there is another fascinating aspect to the Grand Canyon – its wild kingdom of God-created wildlife.
I’ve always had an interest in animals of all kinds. Growing up, my pets ranged from the normal dog to snakes, lizards, a monkey, and a chipmunk. They all fascinated me. My thirty-plus years of rafting the canyon have given me the opportunity to encounter much of what the Grand Canyon has to offer the wildlife enthusiast. Hear from just a few of the critters you might have the privilege of meeting when you join us around the Grand Canyon.
I’m the great egret, also known as the great white egret, the most beautiful bird found in the Grand Canyon. Well, at least I think so, and so does the National Audubon Society which chose me as their symbol back in 1953. Unlike my slightly larger cousin the great blue heron, who often blends into the background, my pure white plumage stands out for all to see. I stand 3 feet tall and my wings span the same. You will find me along the edge of the water looking for my fish or frog dinner with an occasional reptile for dessert.
I’m a bit shy, so please don’t be offended if I fly off if you get too close. That is partly because you used to hunt me for the beautiful feathers I grow from the back of my head during the mating season. You used them to decorate women’s hats.
I do not nest in the canyon but head further south to build my nest in a tree along with many of my relatives. Speaking of relatives, I have them in temperate and tropical areas worldwide, and we all look basically the same. So if this thing you humans call evolution were true, why hasn’t my uncle Billy in northern Africa “evolved” to look different than me? And how did we learn to fly in the first place?
If you are camped around most of the streams or ponds in the park, you might hear a symphony my friends and I put on most every night. I’m the canyon tree frog. I’m only about 2 inches long with mostly brown to gray on top, and if you pick me up (gently, please), you will see the underside of my back legs is a bright yellow. As you can see in my picture, I expand my throat to produce the sound I hope will attract a mate.
I don’t know why they call me a tree frog? Other than my feet having special pads like real tree frogs who actually live in trees. We canyon tree frogs live in New Mexico and Arizona, and many of us have never even seen a tree. My feet are specially designed and allow me to cling to most anything. A friend of mine, Don DeYoung, wrote an article about my feet which you can read here. I think it’s cool you humans are studying my feet to figure out how to make things like cell phones stick to the dashboard of your cars. Yep, it is true, look here. (By the way, I don’t work for Mobile Fun, I just think they have a foot-stomping cool pad.) Hey…please don’t tell Mr. Egret where I live; we don’t seem to get along too well.
Yes, God gave my friend the canyon tree frog some really amazing feet, but He gave me something even better – the ability to fly! I’m the black and white dragonfly you see darting around and my cousins and I can fly forward, backward, and even just hover. It is nice to have a phone holder designed after your feet, but you know what was designed after me? The helicopter! Yep, the Creator gave us a completely different principle of flight from any other insect, which requires some very special equipment to operate and allows us to fly at speeds up to 25 mph. Igor Sikorsky first got the idea for the helicopter from studying us! But even with all the fancy moves built into your helicopters, we still outmaneuver them by a factor of about 100. Not only are we at the top of the list in flying ability, we do it in total silence!
The Creator gave us way more than our flying ability. Our eyes are compound with up to 30,000 individual lenses, which give us TV-quality vision. We rarely use our legs for walking as they are better designed to catch our dinner as we fly, which you will be happy to know consists of large numbers of mosquitoes. Overall, I think I’m one of the best examples of God’s creative design, but of course, that is just my personal opinion.
Well, these are but a few of the many amazing creatures found in the canyon, all of which show the evidence of the Creator, if only one is willing to look. Even in the midst of all his loss and sorrow, Job said:
“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
“Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
“Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind? Job 12:7-10
Oh, and my friend the collared lizard at the top is one of the fastest lizards in the southwest and can run on just its hind feet giving it an almost mini-dinosaur look. But unlike most lizards, if it loses its tail, it does not grow back. They are found both on the rim and deep in the canyon, but keep your distance; they will draw blood if they bite you.
There are many more uniquely-designed creatures in the canyon. Come join us and see for yourself! And stay tuned; we may hear from some of the others in future posts.