Face to face with desert creatures … near Palm Springs Essay

Face to face with desert creatures . .

. near Palm Springs Prickly plants and exotic animals from the world’s deserts canbe seen at close range in The Living Desert in Palm Desert, 13 milessoutheast of Palm Springs. Among the animals in this reserve are a pair of Arabian oryx and aMohrr gazelle, both endangered species. Adopted from San Diego WildAnimal Park’s captive breeding program, these majestic beasts joinmore than 200 other desert animals, including a herd of bighorn sheep,in the 1,200-acre reserve. A 1/4-mile, wheelchair-accessible pathway from the visitor centerleads to three new desert gardens. A Baja garden features the starkly tapered boojum tree and otherflora native to the arid peninsula; a 1/3-acre cienega (fresh-waterpond) should play host to migrating cranes, egrets, and great blueherons in December; and a new primitive garden includes flora from thePaleozoic era: cycads, ferns, and ginkgos. In an older Mojave garden,desert tortoises and burrowing owls coexist in an expansive newencolsure. In all, the reserve has 6 miles of hiking trails.

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Weekends andholidays (this month’s holiday dates are December 26 throughJanuary 1), naturalist-guided hour-long tours are offered at 9:30 and 2,and slide shows are given at 11:30, 1, and 3. Docents will presentanimals for 30-minute “critter close-ups’ at 11 and 1:15. Onholidays only, there are 1/2-hour desert wildlife programs at 10:30. Drawings and prints of desert wildlife by artist Phoebe Thorpe areon exhibit this month.

A reception for the artist will be held December6 from 4 to 6 P.M. December 13, there’s a lecture ($2) on desertbats at McCallum Hall at 7:30 P.

M. The Living Desert is at 47900 S. Portola Avenue, 1 1/2 miles fromState Highway 111. Hours are 9 to 5 daily; admission is $3 for adults,free to those under 17.

Photo: Perched on finger of gloved docent, American kestrel receives visitors during weekly “critter close-up’ Photo: Tall, skinny boojum tree pokes skyward in new Baja garden Photo: Shy pair of endangered Arabian oryx explore their newsurroundings in The Living Desert near Palm Springs

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