More K-Rats and Bats in California

Just a few more California notes.

Another desert k-rat site:
Jawbone Canyon, Kern County
A week ago on a night of no moon I had 3 species of k-rat (Desert, Merriam’s, Panamint) and many unidentified pocket mice on the paved and dirt roads of Jawbone Canyon, W of Highway 14 and north of the town of Mojave and south of Red Rock Canyon State Park. This is also a good spot for herps; banded geckos were seen the night before I was there, and when I was there we had multiple encounters with 4 species: spotted leaf-nosed snake, sidewinder, Calif kingsnake, So’n Pacific Rattlesnake.

Note that this site is heavily used by offroad vehicles in the cooler months, and even on summer weekends. Summer midweek nights are relatively traffic free. It is legal (and free) to camp. Birders know this route since it’s the access road to Butterbredt Spring.

From Highway 14 there is a signed turnoff (and ranger station); k-rats start immediately and can be anywhere. The paved road ends in a locked gate (the road continues W to service wind farms) but a passenger car can continue on N on the obvious dirt road branching off just before the locked gate. Drive the dirt road another mile through a side canyon until the switchbacks start, and this section had kangaroo rats as well. (During the day there are LeConte’s Thrashers here.)

Informally I identified Canyon Bat and Mastiff Bat in the Red Rock campground but that was just by habitat, shape, and flight style. I would like to check there again now that I have a bat detector (see below).

Update on California K-Rat sites
As Vladimir reported, California Kangaroo Rat is abundant now in North-Central California. From the town of Willows on I-5 north of Sacramento, go W on Highway 162. Once you rise out of the orchards, Calif K-rats were on this paved road and on paved ranching roads to the south. To see even more, go N on Road D and W on County Road 35  until it turns to dirt, then continue into the grassland. Road is one-lane and narrow but suitable for passenger cars, unless you need to turn around or pull off to let somebody by (even at midnight, I met another truck on this road). San Joaquin Pocket Mice can be seen on Highway 162 and side roads but I did not find any on County 35 (I may have missed them). Even at 1 a.m. midweek there was traffic on these paved roads, so use caution if stopped. No badgers for me.

Eastern Sierra Spotted Bat site
ABA birder Brian Keelan has posted bat-finding info on this website and also has his own mammal notes on a private site. His notes lead me to a Spotted Bat site between Mono Lake and Bishop in the Eastern Sierra. Turn off Highway 395 at Lower Rock Creed Road, and go E on the paved road past the cabins. At the S end of Crowley Lake there is a dam and a narrow rocky gorge where the Owens River continues south; take the dirt road to drop down S below the dam face. Using binoculars I could see the bats silhouetted at dusk and then later picked them up with a spotlight.

Reno bat site
According to my brand-new “Echo Meter Touch” (a receiver that plugs into an iPhone), the Truckee River in downtown Reno as of early June had two species, Big Brown Bat and Silver-haired Bat, both over the slack water W of the kayak play area. I was expecting Yuma Myotis; other species seem probable too. According to the device, we also had a fly-through by Mexican Free-tailed Bat. I am new to using it so don’t have any other reports yet, but will post information once it helps me dial in to “what’s where.”

Charles Hood
Palmdale CA


  • vnsankar

    Cool info! I have to go back there for those Spotted Bats 🙂

    Thanks for the update on the California Kangaroo Rats – I’m going this evening.

    Most of the pocket mice on Jawbone Canyon Rd are probably Little; there is probably also Long-tailed Pocket Mouse there but it would be rarer. On a related note, the same 3 sp of kangaroo rats were abundant in Desert Tortoise NA in May.

  • Jon Hall

    Thanks Charles. Very good to know the Spotted Bats are there. Did you get good enough views to see the spots? They are such a great species

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