California news

If you want to see a California vole, they are currently easy to find in Rancho San Antonio county park near Cupertino. The area where they are best seen is along the Permanente Creek Trail (marked on google maps).

Last night, I went to Panoche Valley figuring that the near-full moon rising a couple of hours after nightfall ought to mean good spotlighting conditions. Although they’ve started enforcing the dry season closure for the BLM area (a new gate blocks access), Little Panoche Road was superb for rodents – 2 San Joaquin kangaroo rats around Little Panoche dam, lots of Heermann’s k-rats and 1 San Joaquin k-rat on the road to Shotgun Pass, and lots of Giant k-rats, smaller numbers of Heermann’s k-rats, and 2 fabulous San Joaquin pocket mice in Panoche Valley. Near Silver Creek Ranch, my spotlight battery was dying so I only saw a few Giant kangaroo rats and a crappy look at a Southern grasshopper mouse (tularensis); rodent activity here seems a bit lower here though. It was also a great night for canids – I found a den of San Joaquin Kit Fox with kits along Little Panoche Rd (PM me for location) and a Coyote den near Silver Creek with puppies. Other wildlife included 1 Western mastiff bat, Canyon bats, and lots of Myotis sp. (either California or Western Small-footed). West of the valley, there were 3 Heermann’s k-rats (in oak woodland/meadows), 1 California pocket mouse (near Antelope flats), and best of all – 1 Narrow-faced k-rat (elephantinus). This was in the dense, steep chaparral west of the valley, clearly identified by habitat, size, larger ears, darker color, and longer face than the Heermann’s; probably a minor range extension. One last note – PLEASE DRIVE VERY, VERY CAREFULLY or it will be carnage: the k-rats and kit fox pups will often be very curious around cars on the roads at night (the kit fox den is right next to the road) and there are many suicidal jackrabbits and cottontails.


1 Comment

  • samuel

    Thanks for this very detailed feedback about Panoche Valley Venkat.
    Too bad I couldn’t get in touch with you earlier (especially for the Kit fox den) because we were actually there on the night of July 21 !
    We were mostly spending our time based on your recommendation in a previous post in the area on the dirt road between the creek crossing and Jackass pass. We stayed there for about 2h and only saw 1 giant k-rat (I think, but for sure this was a k-rat…) and we also got a very nice look at a kit fox there.
    Then we drove to the BLM area but as you said it was closed because of the dry season. While driving on Little Panoche Road we indeed saw many many rodents, especially near the springs, crossing like crazy the road in front of our car. I couldn’t tell which species they were but we definitely saw different ones given their shapes.
    Your comment about jackrabbits and cottontails make me laugh because they were indeed suicidal :). This is actually was we saw in highest numbers that night.
    In the afternoon before we drove to Panoche Valley we went to Pinnacles NP and hiked there where we were fortunate to have very nice views of Californian condors. Great sighting for us coming from so far away…

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