Effects of protective fencing on birds, lizards, black-tailed hares (Lepus californicus), perennial plant cover, and structural diversity of perennial plants were evaluated from spring 1994 through winter 1995 at the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTNA), in the Mojave Desert, California. Abundance and species richness of birds were higher inside than outside the DTNA, and effects were larger during breeding than wintering seasons and during a high than a low rainfall year. Ash-throated flycatchers (Myiarchus cinerascens), cactus wrens (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus), LeConte's thrashers (Toxostoma lecontei), loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus), sage sparrows (Amphispiza belli), and verdins (Auriparus flaviceps) were more abundant inside than outside the DTNA. Nesting activity was also more frequent inside. Total abundance and species richness of lizards and individual abundances of western whiptail lizards (Cnemidophorous tigris) and desert spiny lizards (Sceloporus magister) were higher inside than outside. In contrast, abundance of black-tailed hares was lower inside. Structural diversity of the perennial plant community did not differ due to protection, but cover was 50% higher in protected areas. Black-tailed hares generally prefer areas of low perennial plant cover, which may explain why they were more abundant outside than inside the DTNA. Habitat structure may not affect bird and lizard communities as much as availability of food at this desert site, and the greater abundance and species richness of vertebrates inside than outside the DTNA may correlate with abundances of seeds and invertebrate prey.