New Trip Report – California and Colorado

I was in the US at the start of June and – thanks to the help from several people here – managed to find most of what I was chasing. It wasn’t primarily a mammal trip but I managed to spend a fair bit of time looking for things.

I spent my first day here looking for Mohave Ground Sqiurrels (in the Mojave Desert surprisingly). I couldn’t find any in the area between Red Rock Canyon and Inyokern, though did see plenty of White-tailed Antelope Squirrels and Black-tailed Jack Rabbits.

White-tailed Antelope Squirrel

Mohave Ground Squirrel
I finally found a Mohave Ground Squirrel in the Desert Tortoise Natural Area just north of California City. Its pretty hard to find the park entrance, but I eventually stumbled on the visitor’s area (just a car park, trail and an RV visitor centre). By a strange coincidence the ranger had just returned to the US after 12 years in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia and so we had some common friends. She quickly found me a Mohave Ground Squirrel.

I spent the evening back on the Carizo Plains and saw more Giant Kangaroo Rats (these seem to be mainly near the visitors centre), a Kit Fox, a few more Jackrabbits and, further south, lots of Heermann’s Kangaroo Rats and a few of the much smaller San Joaquin Kangaroo Rats too.

San Joaquin Kangaroo Rat

I was in Colorado for the next 5 nights. I am reliably informed that Colorado Chipmunks have been caught at a small preserve called Betasso (just up Boulder Creek Canyon) and nearby along Millionaire Drive East (N40.0110, W105.371) a couple of miles west of Boulder. I looked here again in June, and also around Flagstaff Mountain (head west on baseline road) which used to be a good spot for them. But though I saw Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, Red Squirrels, Desert Cottontails and an Abert’s Squirrel (near the amphitheatre at the summit) I couldn’t find any chipmunks. Nor could I find them at Spruce Mountain south of Denver. I did get a better look at the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels that are wild around Denver Zoo.

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

I spent a long day driving from Denver to Colorado National Monument and then back to east of Fort Collins. The Monument is a beautiful 4 to 5 hour drives from Denver. I headed here to see Hopi Chipmunks and saw several along the Window Rock trail that runs from the visitor’s centre. There were a lot of Chipmunks around here and some were Least I think, though several were difficult to pick.

Hopi Chipmunks

Driving through the park I also saw a Rock Squirrel, Black-tailed Jack Rabbits and a White-tailed Prarie Dog was trying to cross the road in Grand Junction.

John Fox recommended I look east of Fort Collins for Spotted Ground Squirrels and Swift Foxes and his advice was good. The Pawnee National Grasslands are about 30 miles east of Fort Collins and I arrived at dusk and focussed my Swift Fox searching around the ghost town of Keota (which is at the junction of CO Rd 103 and Co Road 390. I arrived at dusk and within 30 minutes had seen two separate Swift Foxes, Black-tailed Jackrabbits and at least one American Badger all on CO Rd 390, about 1.3 miles north west of the junction with CO Rd 103.

Swift Fox

Early the next morning I set out to look for a Spotted Ground Squirrel and finally saw one at almost exactly the same spot where I saw the Badger and Foxes. Except it wasn’t a Spotted Ground squirrel at all – it was a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (for some reason that I thought the two species were much more similar and that 13 liners weren’t in the area. Wrong on both counts).

Spotted Ground Squirrel

I set some traps along the roadside and in the morning had caught a Western Harvest Mouse and an Ord’s Kangaroo Rat.

California again
I went back to California for my last weekend and was again amazed by the scenery of Yosemite. I spent a night at Mammoth Lakes (to the south east of the park) where I hoped to get up to the Devil’s Postpile National Monument to look for Belding’s Ground Squirrels and Lodgepole Chipmunks (the only chipmunk there which makes IDing easier than usual). The road to the monument was still snowbound but I saw a Belding’s Ground Squirrel and a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel at the back of the cafe at the bottom of the ski lift (on the way out of town along 203 towards the National Monument). I saw plenty more of both species, plus lots of Lodgepole Chipmunks and a very fat Bear on the Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop (I’m pretty sure that Lodgepole Chipmunks are the only species here too).

Belding’s Ground Squirrel

Lodgepole Chipmunk

On the way from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite along 108 (highway 120 was still closed to snow) I saw all three species again plus Western Gray Squirrels and Mule Deer.

I spent the next morning looking for Chipmunks and saw plenty of Long-eared Chipmunks and at least one Allen’s (Shadow) Chipmunk at the start of the Merced Grove trailhead (thank you Morgan Churchill!). The Long-eared were common but the Allen’s were hard to find and it seems this species has declined drastically in the past 100 years. It was here I discovered that chipmunks – at least Long-eared – respond very well to squeaking.

Long-eared Chipmunk

On the way back to LA I stopped at I stopped in at Frazier Park, at the Chuchupate Campsite, off Lockwood Valley Road just west of the town. As I’d hoped it was full of Merriam’s Chipmunks. I saw a few running around but once I started squeaking, at least a hundred replied. I thought at first they must be birds or insects. They were not however very cooperative for photos and were hard to coax out of the shrubbery.

Merriam’s Chipmunk

So 11 new species for me and a last blast of summer before moving to the Australian winter. Thanks everyone for your help.



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