Additional Tail Information


Mountain short-horned lizard:  the tail, a short, spiny stub, is brownish in color with darker brown stripes or lines.  The lizard’s squat, flattish body is usually 2 to 4 inches long and the tail is about half the body length.  The total body length, from head to tail tip, can range from 2 ½ to almost 6 inches.

Desert cottontail:  the tail is 2 to 3 inches long but looks shorter.  The white underside, which looks like a cotton ball, often shows, especially when the cottontail is running.

Mule deer:  the tail is 5 to 8 inches long and white with a black tip.  The tail is often raised when the deer is bounding.

Abert’s squirrel:  the tail is long—7 to 9 inches—fluffy, and gray on top with white on the underside.  You will only see this tail on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  On the North Rim, you may see a similar squirrel, the Kaibab squirrel, which has a pure white tail.

Porcupine:  the tail is 7 to 9 inches long and is usually carried low or at ground level.  The tail has special hair in the form of quills.  Porcupines do not actually throw quills although the quills can come out when the animal shakes its body or tail.

Mountain lion:  the tail is 24 to 36 inches long—almost one third of the lion’s total body length.   The lion’s tail, which often twitches, is usually carried low and the end is slightly curled upward.

Desert bighorn sheep:  the tail, which is only 4 to 5 inches long, is a dark brown and not nearly as obvious as the white rump patch.

Grand Canyon rattlesnake:  the tail, an extension of the body, has a rattle on the end that is used as a warning device.  Every time the snake sheds its skin, it adds another segment to its rattle.  This venomous snake, often called a pink rattlesnake, can be any color from gray tan to a salmon pink.  An adult snake can be 2 to 3 ½ feet long.

Bobcat:  the tail is 4 to 6 inches long and looks bobbed or shortened.  The top is a tawny brown with a black tip and the underside is white.

Coyote:  the tail, which is bushy and 11 to 15 inches long, usually has a black tip.  The coyote carries its tail lower than its back and, when running, it often holds its tail between its legs.

Ringtail:  the tail, which is 12 to 17 inches long, has 14 to 16 alternating bands of black and white, the tip always being black.  The tail is about half the total length of the ringtail.

Beaver:  the tail, which is 15 to 21 inches long, is paddle-shaped and scale covered.  Beavers slap their tails on the water as a way of communicating.

Western spotted skunk:  the tail is bushy and black except for the last 1/3 to 1/4 of it which is white.  It is 5 to 7 inches long.  When the skunk feels threatened, it stands on its front paws with its white spotted hind end up in the air; it can spray up to 10 feet from this position.

Humans:  do not have a real tail but if you look at a picture of a human skeleton, you will see that we do have a tail bone (the coccyx) which is usually 3 or 4 fused vertebral remnants.


The primary sources for this information are: Hoffmeister’s Mammals of Grand Canyon, the Audubon and Peterson Field Guides to Mammals, Tekiela’s Mammals of Arizona Field Guide, Miller’s Amphibians and Reptiles of the Grand Canyon National Park, and wildlife biologist, Barry Spicer.                          (Copyright Midji Stephenson 18 May 2012)

 Posted by at 2:24 am