A relatively small short-winged Grasshopper of higher mountains (females up to just over an inch, males smaller). Wings about as long as pronotum or somewhat longer (less than length of head + pronotum); body brownish or grayish (paler, often tan or somewhat yellowish on sides and below), usually with two distinct pale stripes along sides of top of pronotum and folded wings; hind femur with contrasting dark cross-bands on both outer and inner sides; hind tibiae red or at least distinctly reddish; male cercus distinctly longer than wide, narrowed at the middle, broadly rounded at the tip, and somewhat curving inward over the tip of the abdomen, not much longer than wide.
In Southern New Mexico this may occur with similar Melanoplus dodgei [note: now, in these mountains, called M. adapi Otte, 2012], which in this area usually lacks the prominent stripes and has narrower often less conspicuous markings on the hind femur. It usually has a less "shiny" look with a somewhat duller and more mottled or speckled pattern. The smaller male cerci are approximately triangular, narrowing toward the blunt tip.
M. calidus occurs in the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico, where M. franciscanus apparently is not found. It is very similar structurally, but has a more plain color pattern, and (particularly the males) is often greenish, bluish, or occasionally gold when still alive.
M. eumera is similar, but considerably larger in size; with longer wings (distinctly longer than pronotum and head together, sometimes long enough to be able [to sort of] fly); with male cerci wider, more nearly boot-shaped; and it is usually found at lower elevations in the mountains under semi-desert conditions. The pale longitudinal stripes are usually not so well-developed in M. eumera. The two species are occasionally found together in southern New Mexico and some specimens indicate that they might occasionally hybridize (though this is an unsubstantiated observation).
Most other similar small short-winged species that might be found with M. franciscanus lack the dorsal pale stripes; have a dark stripe along the length of the hind femur; have distinctly different male cerci; and/or have blue(ish) hind tibiae.
Guadalupe Mountains in Texas and San Mateo Mountains (Socorro County) in New Mexico to San Francisco Peaks in Arizona.
Open sunny grassy (but relatively dry) areas, often stony, usually associated with Pine or other conifers.
Adults mostly in summer and autumn. Overwinters as eggs
These grasshoppers tend to look a little different in each mountain range they occupy, and it is possible that at least some of these populations are distinct enough to deserve species ranking. However, for the time being they are all grouped together under the one name.
It is worth noting that M. walshii, M. tunicae, M. alabamae, M. querneus, & M. nigrescens are very similar species, but occur far to the east (beyond Texas and the Great Plains).