Mammal Photographic Road Trip


I will be taking a US road trip in late May 2015 to photograph various mammals and would appreciate any help that you can provide regarding a few species, some of which are fairly easy to see, but not always as easy to photograph.

I already have sites for several of the mammals that I would like to shoot, but do not have reliable, or hopefully easy, destinations for American Beaver, American Marten, Ringtail, North American Porcupine, Kit Fox and Swift Fox.

Long-tailed Weasel would also be great, although I know that one is much less likely.

The trip will start in LA, but I do not intend to travel as far north as Martinez for the Golden Beaver, and I will also visit Arizona, partly for Black-footed Ferret, New Mexico, hopefully for Swift Fox, and finally Colorado.

I have read most of the recent trip reports regarding these areas, but any updated information or more or less guaranteed sites for these six animals would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for any help in advance.


  1. Profile photo of vnsankar
    vnsankar 5 years ago

    For Kit Fox, my guess would be that your best chances are in Carrizo Plain – they are out in the open and generally give decent views; assuming the rains work out by your trip time, April-May is generally a great time to look for things like Giant Kangaroo Rat and Kit Fox in California’s interior valleys like Panoche and Carrizo.

    For Ringtail, I remember reading something about them visiting birdfeeders at some lodge in S Arizona (maybe Madera Canyon?) – if you’re ok with this setting, then that would be a great place to try to photograph them. On a different note, I’ve read that Yosemite Falls trail in the pre-dawn early morning (and probably evening as well) is good for Ringtail and W Spotted Skunk.

  2. Profile photo of vdinets
    vdinets 5 years ago

    Try the forests around Waunita Hot Springs in CO for porcupines (and w-t jackrabbits), and Aguirre Springs Campground (NM) for ringtails. Marten is generally rare in that area; I lived in CO and NM for two years and saw it only once, in Rocky Mts. Nat’l Park at one of the small lakes near the timberline.

    I’ve been told by park rangers in Yosemite that the spotted skunk is pretty much extinct in Yosemite Valley. There was a daytime ringtail sighting near Yosemite Falls in 2012.

  3. Profile photo of Alan D
    Alan D 5 years ago

    Carrizo Plain is indeed a good place for Kit Fox but we struck out there in April 2013. We did see the Giant Kangaroo Rat though. is the place in Madera Canyon where ringtails were common a while back but I am not sure if that’s true anymore. Of course we struck out with them this past August as well (it might be good to NOT travel with us…) But, we did see the Elegant Trogon and Three Gila Monsters around Tucson (I know not mammals but cool none the less..)

    The Sutter Buttes in the central valley North of Sacramento is also a good place for ringtail but it’s private and I have had no luck contacting a researcher to try to get in. There is a foundation that gives hikes but all are during the day and none look for wildlife.

    There are two beaver ponds 10 minutes from our house East of Sacramento. They seem to be doing well in Urban ponds around here. If you do make it to the Central Valley, let me know.


  4. Profile photo of Jon Hall
    Jon Hall 5 years ago

    Jason, RIngtails are easy on the entrance road into Carlsbad Caverns NM. I saw several in an evening in September 13. Carizo Plain is great for Kit Fox as others say and there is (oir at least was) a good site for Swift Fox near Fort COllins, CO. See here You shouldn’t have much trouble with Beavers (eg Rocky Mountain NP) but I’m not so sure about Porcupines. I don’t know anywhere reliable for Martens in those states, nor Weasels.

  5. Cheryl Antonucci 5 years ago

    Hi Jason! A couple points to add, I went to Carizo Plain this Feb (2014) and easily saw four kit foxes, three of which very close to my car along the road. I know this is not the time of year you are going, however one of the rangers I talked to told me over the previous two years, a female had a den site near the main water tower in the campground closest to the visitor center (I think it is the Shelby campground). She said in May of both years (2012, 2013) photographers were getting amazing photos of her and her kits. Not sure if she was there this year, but it would be worth to call ahead if she is using the same area to den. I also went to Madera Canyon this summer and stayed at both the Chuparosa Inn and the Santa Rita Lodge. The Santa Rita lodge used to have a ringtail that nested in one of the trees next to the rooms, but the owner had not seen it, or any ringtails at his feeders for over a year. The owner of the Chuparosa Inn also stated they are VERY hit or miss, but there is a bobcat that is living under the house across the street (we missed it as it showed up mid day when we were out and about) and a bear that shows up on a regular basis. I spent a long
    time staring at bird feeders at night and saw nothing. The area however is still worth going to for photography, especially for herps and the magnificent antelope jackrabbit that you can easily see on the road up to the canyon. When I was searching for places to see ringtail, there is a bed in breakfast in New Mexico near Mesa Verde National Park (which is in Colorado) called the Kokopelli’s Bed and Breakfast, that actually is in a cave, that puts food out and it appears to have regular sightings of ringtails. They had an article in USA today and that is how I first saw it. I have never been so can not 100% vouch for it, but it looks like a neat place to visit. I am hoping to test the Carlsbad Canyon spot next year when I go on a herping trip to west Texas.

  6. Profile photo of tomeslice
    tomeslice 5 years ago

    Hi Jason!
    I don’t have too much to add about the ringtails (which I never saw), but I do recall someone saying they saw 3 bobcats and 1 marten in one evening at Sequoia National Park.. As you recall I also saw a marten in Yosemite around 6am, but Vladimir says he drove around the park 100s of times and never saw one, so I probably just got lucky. Sequoia, on the other hand, sounded for a minute there like a decent place to look for marten.

    There are fishers (Pacific Fisher subspecies) in Yosemite as well… They are of course, 1. Not common, 2. Nobody goes looking for them so there’s not that much information about them. But if you were to go to Yosemite, I would spend just as much time spot-lighting the road from Mariposa Grove towards the Valley, and spend just as much time there in the higher altitudes as I would in the valley itself. The road runs through good marten and fisher habitat, and depending on the season, they push each other to higher or lower elevations (since they are both marten species with the fisher being larger and more dominant). The morning I saw a marten I asked one of the rangers about fishers and he said that another ranger saw a fisher on that same road the previous morning.

    Supposedly ringtails are somewhat common in Yosemite Valley but when I was walking around with a flashlight at night, flashing at trees etc. I was told by a ranger to stop because it bothers the animals. But up in the higher elevations, between 11pm and 5:30am there is nothing stopping you as long as you stay away from hotels or campgrounds, both of which there is 1 or 2 along the way.

    Of course there are also weasels in Yosemite but I only saw/heard of 1-2 encounters there.

    Good luck~

  7. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar Author
    jasonwoolgar 5 years ago

    Thank you all for some excellent advice. Carrizo Plain and Carlsbad Caverns are already on my itinerary as a result of previous trip reports and I will be trying a couple of different sites for Swift Fox, as there now appears to be a fair amount of disruption around the area that Jon used previously. I will let you all know how I get on and whether I can find a fairly reliable site for this fox. I am not sure that I will be able to include much time at Sequoia on this trip and will probably return to look specifically for marten and fisher at some stage. I do know a possible site for marten around Yellowstone and researchers ran a baited camera trap project at Sequoia a while back. Of the 602 pictures that included wildlife, over 400 were of martens, so that does appear to be a very good area. I will probably also try Kokopelli’s Cave for the ringtail, but would you mind please emailing me directly Cheryl, as I have a couple of questions re Madera Canyon? My email address is Thanks again for the help.


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