Ecology



Plant Communities

Located 17 miles northwest of Prescott, Arizona, at an elevation of 4,600 to 5,100 feet, the Las Vegas Ranch sits in the very heart of Williamson Valley. The valley is "sub-irrigated" with abundant groundwater, evidenced by numerous springs and artesian wells.

Four distinct plant communties in Las Vegas Ranch Estates create a diverse ecosystem that provides excellent cover, nesting habitat, and food sources for a wide variety of mammals, birds, herpetofauna and insects.

Grasslands . Most of the grasslands in the western states are intermediate between the true prairies of the American Midwest and deserts. They are called semi-desert or desert grasslands. Compared with prairie grassland, the grasses in desert grassland are shorter, less dense, and are more frequently interspersed with desert shrubs and succulents.

Grass is the dominant life form; scores of species form a nearly continuous cover over large areas. Blue grama, black grama, hairy grama, and side-oats grama predominate. Ring muhly and three-awn may be present but make up only a small part of the total vegetation.

Other well-represented life forms are annuals and geophytes (herbaceous perennials such as bulbs that die to the ground each year). Populations of trees, shrubs, and succulents are kept at low levels by periodic fires during the dry season.

Mixed Shrubs (Interior Chaparral). While Las Vegas Ranch does not contain dense chaparral communities as you see southeast of Prescott near Dewey, it does have a healthy mixed shrub community, either in stand-alone populations or interspersed with the pinyon-juniper woodlands. Scrub oak is the dominant shrub. Other shrubs include red barberry, New Mexico olive, skunk bush, manzanita, mountain mahogany, Apache plume, four-wing saltbush. broom snakeweed, wolfberry, and winterfat. Grasses may be present but are less abundant than in other vegetation types. The most common are blue grama, side-oats grama, black grama and wolftail. On the poorer sites, three-awn and annual bromes may be common.

Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands. Thick stands of pinyon pine and juniper occur at the higher elevations within Las Vegas Ranch. The junipers include three species: one seed juniper, alligator juniper, and Utah juniper. The understory includes the mixed shrubs mentioned above and various grasses, typically blue grama intermixed with side-oats grama, and western wheatgrass.

Riparian. Hitt Wash provides the only riparian habitat in Las Vegas Ranch Estates. This habitat is dominated by Arizona Walnut trees with the occasional boxelder and netleaf hackberry. Grassland communities are common throughout Hitt Wash interspersed with the Arizona walnut.

Fauna

Arizona has one of the most diverse collections of fauna of any state. It ranks fifth in the total number of mammal species, third for bird species, and second for reptiles (Source: NatureServe).

Las Vegas Ranch, as a result of its different habitat types, isolation, pristine nature, and proximity to the Prescott National Forest, exemplifies this diversity. For example, on the paved, six mile entrance road to LV Ranch Estates, you are likely to observe mule deer, elk, antelope, bobcat, coyote, and javelina. Black bear and mountain lion are also occasional visitors but rarely seen.

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Bobcat Captured with Trap Camera in LV Ranch

Las Vegas Ranch is a Birder's paradise. In addition to many migrants in the fall and spring, the diverse habitats in Las Vegas Ranch provides excellent nesting cover and food sources for a large number of passerines, woodpeckers, owls, falcons, and hawks. Swifts and hummingbirds are also abundant.Pasted Graphic
Vermillion Flycatcher, a summer resident at Las Vegas Ranch.




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