While I never traveled anywhere outside the state over the holidays, I did manage to visit a few familiar spots in California and found a few things worth reporting.
The recent rain we’ve had over the last several weeks seems to have livened things up out here (in terms of K-rat and Kit Fox activity), at least according to what I saw on Jan 2, when I spent 2-2.5 hours spotlighting various sites around the valley.
On the Panoche Hills BLM Road (mentioned in Vladimir’s book), I observed 1 Giant Kangaroo Rat (at the bottom of the road, near Mercey Hot Springs), 9-10 Heermann’s Kangaroo Rats (all over the road, mostly at the top in the public lands), 1 San Joaquin Kangaroo Rat (on the lower part of the road, near Mercey Hot Springs), and 1 San Joaquin Pocket Mouse (on the lower part of the road, near Mercey Hot Springs). It seems like Giant K-rat numbers are still pretty low here, but Heermann’s are common.
From here, I decided to go to the main Giant K-rat colonies in the region (between the Panoche Creek crossing and the hairpins of Jackass Pass on Silver Creek Ranch), but the creek crossing looked a little iffy for my car so I spent some time cruising the portion of road between the pavement end and the creek crossing instead. I saw 1 San Joaquin Kit Fox not far from the crossing and 1 Giant K-rat in a nearby plain after a little effort. If your goal is to see Giant K-rat and San Joaquin Kit Fox, I would currently go directly to Silver Creek Ranch, focusing specifically the stretch of Panoche Rd between the creek crossing and Jackass Pass, as this area has the highest abundance of Giant K-rat in the Panoche valley area; bring 4WD!
Notably absent on this day was American Badger, which I regularly see in this area at night, on the Douglas and Silver Creek Ranches.
Driving back home, I spotlit another Kit Fox at close range (15 ft) on the valley floor, in the plains near the Spanish Cattle Co. and saw a Bobcat dash off the road on Miller Ranch, West of the Antelope CDF Station.
If your primary mammal watching goal for California is seeing and photographing Bobcats, I would now recommend spending a day in San Benito county over extended time in Point Reyes. The area just East of Pinnacles NP is AFAIK the best place in the world to see Bobcats. The San Benito Lateral, Willow Creek Road (up to the gate), Old Hernandez Road (from the junction with San Benito Lateral to Old Coalinga Road), and Old Coalinga Rd up to the Beaver Dam CalFire Station should all be checked. 4 different sightings of Bobcats is common on one turn of this stretch of road and a guy I know who leads Bobcat photography trips here has actually seen 8 animals in one pass of the route mentioned above. The best time of year to try is Nov-Mar, but they can be seen at any time of year except summer. In winter, they can be easily observed at any time of day; in spring and fall, dawn and dusk are best. American Badger is also a possibility in the area, along the San Benito Lateral and in Dry Lake Valley.