End-of-the-Year Trip To California to Yosemite and Pt. Reyes. 16 Mammal species incl. Bobcat and Marten

Attached is my 4-page trip report, where I spilled out all my knowlege about Yosemite and some about Point Reyes, and described my mammal encounters, the highlights of which for me were clearly the bobcat and the American Marten. Yosemite is amazing and I’ll link my Flickr Album as a comment when it’s done. 16 species, but only 15 identified

Word Document (click on link then click on link again): California 2012


  • vdinets

    Wow, you got the marten! Congratulations.

  • tomeslice

    I know I was so excited!!! Thanks!
    Yeah, almost every ranger I talked to in the park said something like “You need a lot of luck…” “You won’t find it…” “I’ve worked here for [enter number] years and only seen 1…” etc.
    But the few that told me that along Wawona road there’s a better chance were right. In the excitement I got out of my car with a flashlight and a camera and didn’t think to use the back of my hand to make the distressed rabbit call and see if he would come back. But anyway it was awesome.

    • vdinets

      BTW, Northern flying squirrel ain’t easy there, either.

      • tomeslice

        Right on. I recognized and appreciated seeing the flying squirrel because I have never seen any species of flying squirrel; in a zoo nor in the wild. So it was very cool. But I saw it at like 2:55am outside the park on the way back to my hotel after >2hrs of fruitless driving in the snow with 0 results, so I was pretty tired and disappointed. The encounter itself was also very brief, as one glided in front of my car and ‘landed’ on a tree right next to the road. I didn’t see it very well or anything, but it was obvious that it was a flying squirrel and not an owl or something of that sort because of its size, the glide pattern, and the way it latched onto the tree it landed on. I’m pretty sure I saw a second one the following night as mentioned in my report, which makes me think that if you spend the night driving around in the higher elevations you have a somewhat decent chance… maybe I just got lucky.

      • tomeslice

        Huh. That is kind of strange.. Did you ever try the southern entrance? / Wawona Road?
        Did you try in the winter, on moonless nights? There are so many factors that we don’t mention in our reports or are even aware of (%humidity, very light percipitation, previous weather conditions like “it just stopped snowing an hour earlier”, etc…) I’m not saying that every one of these factors matters, but animals do have patterns of behavior.

        For instance, martens live in higher altitudes and like deeper snow; fishers live in slightly lower altitudes and like shallower snow (according to some papers I read, not only with respect to Yosemite). But in the winter martens expand their range downwards to also include lower elevations, while fishers contract their range downwards, but the overlap is about the same…. So it is **probably** less likely that I would have seen that marten at ~5000-6000ft elevation in the summer, where I saw it in the December… I also know that in Yosemite (and in other rocky/mountainous areas) pumas descend to lower elevations in the winter (hence they are more likely to be seen in the Yosemite Valley in the winter than the sumer), etc….

        But with all that being said, I do realize you have spent way more time than I have the field, not only in North America, but everywhere, so you’re more of an expert on this matter. So if you say it’s rare I believe you. I just always try to find patterns.

  • markhowsMark Hows


    can you post a link to your Flickr?

  • tomeslice

    Hi Mark,
    I haven’t made it yet… I still have to go through and decide which ones to put on Flickr. But I’ll try to do it this week. Note that I do not have pictures of the marten, gray foxes or flying squirrels because they were at night and my camera would not focus. Well the marten encounter was rather brief and by the time I realized what it was, I turned my camera on but then it ran off the side of the road, which was a steep downwards slope.

    Back to your question, I will make another comment to this post when it’s done. You can look through my Flickr account whenever you want (http://www.flickr.com/photos/benyehuda/) it’s just that the California Album isn’t there yet. But I do have pictures from many places in the world. Keep in mind that my parents and I share the same account, so their albums (china, australia, india…) have very few animal pictures… but lots of interesting stuff anyway.

  • vdinets

    tomeslice: I’ve lived in CA for 6 years and logged a lot of night driving time in Yosemite in all seasons, but never saw any mustelids there at all. I had better luck in Sequoya/KC and further south.

  • tomeslice

    Gotcha. Well, like I said – I know you have spent so much more time than me in the field, and you know I recognize (and am very jealous) of your success in general 🙂
    Sounds like I probably wouldn’t be able to replicate my success in yosemite with bobcat, marten and flying squirrel, all in less than 48 hours, even despite the lack of other animals in the park besides deer, coyotes and diurnal squirrels. But that being said, I am very excited with what I saw and thankful to mother nature for the opportunity to get recognizable pictures of the bobcat, a good but brief look at the marten and a brief look at the flying squirrel “in action”.
    Also seeing the coyote successfully hunting a vole/mouse/shrew/whatever in the snow from start to finish like in Discovery’s Planet Earth series was a highlight, as were the Northern Elephant seals and the 2 owl species in Pt. Reyes.

    I started uploading pictures to Flickr but my home computer was being stupid and stopped before the half-point, skipping random ones along the way, but I will continue tonight.
    Thanks again for all the feedback!!!

  • tomeslice

    Mark, the album is 99% up with captions and descriptions. I still got a couple of videos to add to the album which takes a long time to upload, but otherwise it’s good to go.

    Feel free to identify or correct anything that I misidentified 🙂

  • tomeslice

    Oh, wow.. That’s a very short time for both of those places, especially for Yosemite.

    You will most likely need to use chains when driving in the upper parts of the park. From personal experience, I know it kinda sucks to keep installing and uninstalling chains, but I would try to take them off in the parts of the road where they are not required, because they do make a lot of noise and I saw no animals while with chains besides deer and flying squirrel. Without chains you’re making much less noise with your car and that’s also when I saw the marten in upper wawona road/highway 41. I don’t know if others would agree with me, but when driving around at night, even in places where chains weren’t required I drove like 20-30mph, because I heard that when small or medium carnivores cross the road they often end up getting ran over.

    If you’re after bobcats then I think the valley is your best bet. Different rangers in the valley have told me that there are more bobcat sightings in the winter, and one ranger told me he has seen a few in the past week when I was there. I also saw one in the valley. On the contrary, I asked 2 different rangers on 2 different occasions closer to Mariposa Grove, and each told me he has only seen 1 bobcat in their years in the park… so the valley wins this one.

    Cougars/Pumas are more likely in the lower elevations in the winter as well… but each cat having something like 20-30sq.km territory really doesn’t give you good odds unless you’re lucky.

    Ringtails are apparently not uncommon in the valley after dark, especially in oak woodlands and around food/camping services but don’t make the mistake that I made, which was accidentally parking in residential area since I didn’t know the park very well and wasn’t paying attention… you will get a cop called on you. lol. But if you venture to the area around lower falls, it sounds like you may have some decent chances to see them and other animals.

    From all my research it sounds like martens and fishers will most likely be seen along the wawona road / highway 41 in the higher elevations and closer to Wawona Village or mariposa grove. I know the road to the grove may be closed when you’re there, but early morning hiking on the snowy road can be rewarding, and obviously seeing the giant sequoias when you get to Mariposa Grove is awesome. But don’t hold your breath for the marten species – apparently they’re very rarely encountered.

    You will see tons of deer, diurnal squirrels and coyotes. I didn’t see many other animals like chipmunks or other small rodents, maybe because I wasn’t particularly looking for them. But in the valley, if the river-side open meadows are covered with snow, they’re good places to look for animals at all times of the day. So keep your eyes focused!

    One last tip, from personal experience – the wawona road is pretty much empty from about 2:15ish am to about 6:15is am. At all other times I have encountered cars coming in or going out of the park rather rapidly, which obviously greatly reduces your chances of seeing anything interesting on the road. I tried to “spotlight” with my maglight on trees in several places along wawona road, but you really have to keep your eyes on the road for safety reasons. Despite stopping by several places and flshing my light at trees, I saw the marten actually ON the road, walking along. In Point Reyes, I found that right after dark was a good time to look everywhere. There were animals literally every few minutes, from gray fox, raccoons, and skunks to other intersting ones that fled too quickly before their shape materialized in the headlights. In and around the campground near Bear Valley visitor center I saw gray foxes every time I looked, and supposedly there are ringtails in the area too, but I didn’t see any. Plenty of barn owls in the open area in the beginning of the bear valley trail.

    Phew… That’s all I can think of… I hope this helps, or at least doesn’t confuse. Let me know if you have any questions about any of these places and I’ll help if I can.

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