By Julie Leigh Domeny
Inspired by Lynne's track recognition at our planning meeting last February, I found the poster above, which I decided I wanted to share on the Lodestar blog page. But, I would be remiss to not find a few things to say. So, I decided I would research what critters and creatures we might see in October at 2,500-2,750’ in Calaveras County. After a little investigation, I discovered the CA Department of Fish and Game, California Wildlife Habitat Relationships (CWHR) Program website catalogs an amazing breakdown of mammal, reptile, birds, and amphibian research.
I found we can look for the tracks of American crows, rattlesnakes, raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, osprey, and falcons), badgers, foxes, mule deer, skunk, weasel, porcupine, and raccoon; ringtail, coyote, black bear, and mountain lion. But, we can also look for the tracks of a mountain beaver by the river, or even a rare American Mink. We might see the tracks of Bobcats – much smaller than mountain lions, which thrive in mid-elevation habitats of conifer, oak, riparian, juniper forests, and all stages of chaparral. We might even be so fortunate as to see the tracks of a rare Red Fox.
We'll probably find tracks of a Least Chipmunk, the most common chipmunk in North America. Now, we hope these chipmunks don’t run into an American Badger, because they eat chipmunks, rats, mice, and especially ground squirrels and pocket gophers. Then, we have the rabbit-like American Pika, the Snowshoe Hare, the rare White-Tailed Jackrabbit, and the Black-tailed Jackrabbit. There’s the Douglas’ Squirrel, the Western Gray Squirrel, and the Fox Squirrel. And, not to be forgotten, are the Striped Skunk and the Western Spotted Skunk.
The most common tracks of all will be all versions of rats and mice - most likely we'll see tracks of the Deer Mouse - common throughout California in virtually all habitats as the most ubiquitous mammal in California and North America. Less common are Hermann's Kangaroo Rats, which have legs looking much like a kangaroo’s. Then there’s the Bushy-tailed Woodrat, the Dusky-Footed Woodrat, and the Big-eared Woodrat abundant in chaparral and forest habitats.
Bats don’t make tracks, obviously, but we might see some on our night walk. The Big Brown Bat, Little Brown Bat, Silver-Haired Bat, Townsend's Big-Eared Bat, Small-Footed Myotis, Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat- California Myotis, Canyon Bat, Long-Eared Myotis, Long-Legged Myotis, the Yuma Myotis, and the Hoary Bat, the most common in North America – all surviving on insects.
Finally, according to my research, and they don’t sound all that exciting, we could see voles, moles, weasels, ermine, marmot, or shrews.
Saying it out loud, or even thinking it quietly, the name Lodestar conjures up powerful memories and reflections. And meaning.