San Joaquin Kit Fox – where to see in Carrizo Plain National Monument? Or elsewhere?

I want to photograph the San Joaquin Kit Fox  One place to do that is potentially the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which is a grassland valley in the mountains between Bakersfield and Santa Barbara in California.

I have seen references online to this being a good place, but if anybody has more specific locations, I would be grateful.

I came across this data – which is GPS waypoint data for the fox from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.   I’ve never seen sighting data from a government study posted online, so that alone is interesting.  The sightings all occur along the two main roads – Soda Lake Road and Elkhorn Road.   So this suggests a strategy of just driving up and down the roads, in the late afternoon, early evening and then again in the early AM.   So I am not sure the data is all that helpful, since the drive around approach is a standard thing to fall back on if you have no idea where else to look.


Post author

Nathan Myhrvold


  • vnsankar

    SJ Kit Fox is usually pretty easy to see on night drives, but photo ops can vary. I can offer the following locations as a start:
    – Carrizo Plain: they’re really common here (I’ve seen 13 in a single night drive 10PM-1AM once) and honestly can appear anywhere but in my experience the highest densities are along Soda Lake Rd between KCL Campground and Hwy 166 and Elkhorn Rd between the Panorama Hills and the Elkhorn Grade intersection. Very easy by spotlighting, and they are often even just running along the road at night. Good chances for badgers too.
    – Panoche: Little Panoche Rd between Mercey Hot Springs and Panoche Rd intersection (there is a solar farm in the valley, but you still see Kit Foxes in that area). I’ve seen kits a few times over the years between Mercey and Shotgun Pass. And even better, Panoche Rd between the end of the pavement at Silver Creek Ranch and Tumey Gulch. Be aware that the creek crossing on Panoche Rd is impassable this spring, and you’ll need to drive the long way around via I-5 and Little Panoche Rd to cover both sides… I usually see 5+ Kit Foxes on a single night drive in the latter area.
    You can also try visiting these same places early in the morning or at dusk. The foxes are often active, and you’ll get better photos vs. at night.

  • charleswhood

    Just to add to Venkat’s note, if you have a thermal scope, you realize eg at Carrizo how much “stuff” is out there beyond the range of the typical spotlight–mostly jackrabbits, but even so, a LOT of critters. Right now (April 2023) both Carrizo and Panoche are in the middle of superblooms (or so I have heard second-hand from bird reports). And as Venkat says, sometimes the foxes are tame / relaxed / right by the road, and other times… well, NOT. // Charles Hood

  • Nathan Myhrvold

    Thanks so much for the suggestions!

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