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Big cats are the stars at The Living Desert.

But new exhibits also feature eagles, kit foxes, and wolves

EAGLE CANYON, A NEW 26,000-square-foot wildlife exhibit and endangered species breeding center at The Living Desert, which straddles Palm Desert and Indian Wells, could as easily be called Wolf or Fox Canyon. Though the golden eagle is the first of more than 20 desert animal species you'll see in this $3-million exhibit, the real stars of the show are the rarer earth-bound desert dwellers that are seldom seen by humans--the powerful mountain lion; graceful, large-eared fennec and kit foxes; and alert, stoic-looking Mexican wolves whose bright eyes seem to follow every move you make.

A wheelchair-accessible pathway leads from the parking lot past desert habitat displays to these animals' craggy retreats. Not all of the animals are predators. Close to the wolves are javelinas, small wild pigs (also called peccaries) that despite their spearlike tusks prefer running to fighting. The North American jackrabbit and the South African springhaas (jumping hare) inhabit pens next to the central aviary. In the wild, these rabbits would be dinner for the birds as well as for many of the big cats on display nearby.

The mix of desert predators and prey also includes bobcats and the big-eared, reddish brown caracal from North Africa, as well as badgers and ringtails.

Directly across from Eagle Canyon is a new exhibit of coati, white-nosed natives of the Southwest that look like a cross between a badger and an anteater. Look for them up in the Texas ebony tree. You'll find more desert cats, including Arabian wildcats from North Africa, at two other new exhibits across from the rocky outcrop inhabited by desert bighorn sheep.

There's also a new aardwolf exhibit. These striped termite eaters are nocturnal, but you can usually catch a peek at them as they snooze in their dens.

Guided tram tours (about 50 minutes) run five times a day Thursdays through Sundays beginning at 10; cost is about $4. There's also an extensive desert plant nursery. The Living Desert, at 47-900 Portola Avenue--1 1/2 miles south of State Highway 111--is open September 1 through June 15. Hours are 9 to 5 daily; admission costs $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3.50 for ages 3 through 12. For more information, call (619) 346-5694.
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Title Annotation:Living Desert Reserve, California
Author:Lansing, David
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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