Sierra Nevada update
This is generally of local interest, but since so many people are apparently planning to visit California this summer, I thought I should post it here.
I spent the last three days in the area around South Lake Tahoe. Sciurid numbers are very low this year (there are posters about plague outbreak at visitor centers, but I don’t know if there’s any connection), and relative abundance of chipmunk species also seems changed. I saw about ten least chipmunks (mostly in the new and delightfully non-crowded Van Sickle State Park), a few yellow-pine chipmunks (mostly along the trail to Big Meadow off Hwy 89), one long-eared (on Hwy 50 a few miles W of Echo Pass), no Allen’s and no lodgepole chipmunks.
The best mammal seen during the day was a vagrant shrew near the creek at the N end of Big Meadow. Raccoons visit the large garbage bin at 3 Peaks Resort in South Lake Tahoe 1-2 hour after sunset. I did some scuba diving around the lake and met one river otter at night at Hole Rock.
Spotlighting in the High Sierra is usually very slow, but this time I spent just five hours in the meadows around the junction of Hwys 88 and 89 (east of Luther Pass) and saw one mountain pocket gopher, a few deer mice, one northern grasshopper mouse, one long-tailed vole, one beaver near the bridge (unexpected in such a fast river) , one Cordilleran water shrew (in a side channel), and a few Yuma myotis (apparently roosting under the bridge). On Hwy 88 there were a snowshoe hare just W of Carson Pass and a porcupine (the first one I ever saw in California) a few mile W of Carson Spur Pass. Be careful driving Hwy 88 late at night as there are mule deer everywhere.