California: Plans and RFI

Hi all, I thought I’d share my plans so far for this year to see if anyone has any tips for the areas I’m planning on looking at.

San Benito Bobcats: I went here last January and saw one bobcat in a day of driving up and down Old Hernandez Road. I’ve read all the trip reports I could find on the area, but I was wondering if anyone else has been to the area since this winter’s massive rains. Planning on heading down this Sunday/Monday so hopefully I’ll have good news to report soon.

Northwest California: Primary target is the Fishers that a few have mentioned around Hoopa Valley. Secondary targets would be Porcupine and  any of the chipmunks that can be found in the northern/coastal part of the state. I’m planning on spending three or 4 nights up there sometime in April (unless someone has a better suggestion for timing). If anyone has tips on particular areas to focus on, please let me know.

Tahoe Area Pikas: This will be my ongoing project for the summer, starting whenever the snow melts enough for me to get up there. The last two years I’ve backpacked up to American Lake, where I’ve found pika to be very reliable, but this year I’m hoping to expand out and look for some more accessible sites. After looking over topo and satellite maps of the area, I’ve found about 15 sites that look promising and are only a few miles hike or less from the nearest road access. Since American Lake has also been good to me for mustelids (Pacific Marten and Ermine seen in 3 total nights spent there), I have hope that new sites may be as well. This will probably be a combination of day hikes and possibly some over-nighters over the course of the season, so if anyone in the Sacramento or Tahoe area is interested in joining me, or knows of a good Pika site in the area, let me know.

California Mustelids: I’d love to try to knock out the remaining mustelids that I have not yet seen in California (with the exception of wolverine, unless I start getting cocky). This means Badger, Long-tailed Weasel, Fisher, and Sea Otter, which I haven’t seen since I was a child. If anyone has tips for any mustelids in CA, but especially Badger, Long-Tailed Weasel, or Fisher, those would be welcome.


  • Jim Tassano
    shows a long-tailed weasel in the Moke Hill area.
    BTW, I have not seen one alive, but we had a road kill in our area of a ring-tailed cat. Columbia Ca.

  • Venkat Sankar

    I’m from the area so have a lot of advice for you. I’ll deal with your queries one by one.

    San Benito Bobcats:
    – Heavy rains this year have made finding Bobcats on Old Hernandez Rd more difficult. The best area for me this year has been Marshall Beach Rd in Pt. Reyes NSS, where I observed 4 different animals in 1 hour. If you want to stay in San Benito, try Quien Sabe Road between the junction with Santa Anita Road and the locked gate, Lone Tree Road, Santa Anita Road, and night driving Panoche Road between Paicines and Panoche Valley.

    Northwest California:
    – Fisher: April is a good time for Fishers, not so sure about Chipmunks; June is the best time for Chipmunks and also good for Fishers. In April, roads higher up in the mountains (where you will want to be) may not be open – ask Mark Higley of Hoopa Forestry about road conditions close to your trip and see what he says. For Fisher, the best area is Big Hill Road between Mud Springs (on Hoopa Indian Reservation) and the beginning of the burn zone to the NE (where the road is called Red Cap Road). I found scat easily on a quick recce here and friends have seen multiple animals in a day on the section of road; sightings are still far from guaranteed, however (unless you can tag along with a monitoring team with radio-tracking gear). If you go to Big Hill Road, Aplodontia and Snowshoe Hare are also possibilities. If you provide your email address, I’ll PM you an Aplodontia den site up there.
    – Porcupine: the best area is Tolowa Dunes SP. Try hiking the trail between Kellogg Rd and Yontocket, with the best area being the open, grassy Sitka Spruce woodland near Yontocket itself.
    – Now for the chipmunks: Siskiyou – feeders at the house at the end of Church Tree Rd (near Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP) and Grayback Road (much further inland and tough to access); Allen’s – entrance road to Patrick’s Pt SP, Trees of Mystery tourist attraction, and Forest Route 1 (aka Titlow Hill Rd) between Horse Mountain and Mad River); Sonoma – Lower Mad River Rd near Ruth Lake and the burn zone on the lower part of Friday Ridge Rd; Yellow-cheeked – Founder’s and Federation of Women’s Clubs Groves in Humboldt Redwoods SP; Yellow Pine – Blake Mountain (though not sure why you’d ever want to look for this species in NW CA).

    California Mustelids:
    – Badger: I found a den on the Ashurst Ranch at the eastern end of the Vallecitos on New Idria Rd (S of Panoche Valley); it was occupied as of a couple weeks ago. I only got brief spotlight looks at the animal, but a stakeout should produce results; the whole area looks great for badgers. Other good areas are Douglas Ranch (E side of Panoche Valley), the plains Quien Sabe Road N of intersection with Santa Anita Road, Browns Valley Road in San Benito County, the road to the lighthouse in Pt. Reyes NSS, Lonoak Road in San Benito County, Turkey Flat Road in Monterey County, County Road 35 in Glenn County (W of Artois), and Soda Lake and Elkhorn Roads in Carrizo Plain NM. You’ll probably need to spotlight to have a good chance of seeing one.
    – Long-tailed Weasel: very unpredictable and random, so tough for me to recommend good spots. You really see them where you see them, so to speak. Good areas to try are Abbott’s Lagoon Trail in Point Reyes NSS early in the morning (I saw lots of tracks there recently) and Tomales Pt. Trail in Pt. Reyes NSS. I’ve also seen them in eastern part of Panoche Valley, but not often.
    – Fisher: I already explained where to look.
    – Sea Otter: almost guaranteed in Moss Landing or Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf.

    I have a lot of info on other species (mostly small mammals but some larger ones too) that’s pretty recent, so feel free to ask for more!

    • nickwaterstraat

      Wow, lots of good info here; Thanks! I’d love the Aplodontia site, my email is

      My main strategy for Weasel and Badger has been Point Reyes. I Tomales Point trail all the way out to the point back in January and saw 8 coyotes, plenty of Bobcat, raccoon, and even a few fresh weasel tracks and a few pretty fresh-looking Badger burrows. The auto route Modoc NWR near Alturas seemed to have a ton of badger potential as well when I visited last year, but I had to cut my trip short due to car troubles (in particular, check the trails near the parking lot about 2/3rds of the way through the auto route).

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