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McLaughlin Natural Reserve


According to the D'Appolonia report and the Homestake sighting records, 38 mammals have been seen at the reserve, and 16 others are thought to potentially occur there. To view Mammals list Click Here!


There are three rare mammals, the ringtail, the Tule elk, and the Townsend's big-eared bat. The ringtail, protected under California law, is often called a ring-tailed cat. Despite this name and a cat-like appearance, it is close relative of the raccoon. It prefers rocky canyons along streams near oak/pine woodlands. Due to its nocturnal and secretive habits, the ringtail is very rarely seen.

The Tule elk, often called the dwarf elk because of its small size relative to other elk, once lived in large numbers in California's San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. Found only in California, Tule elk faced near extinction in the 1880's, were protected and now have growing populations in coastal areas. The elk herds introduced to the Cache Creek BLM lands to the east of the reserve are thriving, and individual elk from these herds have been sighted in Morgan Valley.

The Townsend's big-eared bat has been the major focus of protection and monitoring efforts at McLaughlin. It was recently proposed as a candidate for state endangered status in California, and is already considered endangered in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon. Protected roost sites were established for the colonies on the reserve in 1988 and 1989; in passing old mercury mine tunnels you may see the large metal gates that protect bat roosts. In one Townsend's roost, an electronic monitoring system was installed to provide data on nightly and seasonal activity patterns and temperature and light levels. Research by UC Berkeley scientist Dixie Pierson, begun in 1988, has revealed a total of 16 bat species.24 Seeing bats can be challenging due to their nocturnal habits and fast flight, but watch for them by the Davis Creek Reservoir in the evening as they emerge to hunt.

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Mountain Lions (Felis concolor concolor) are the largest pure carnivore of California. They are tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and tail. They are generally secretive, solitary, cryptic and elusive. As such, most people never see this animal in the wild. In fact, both field biologists and outdoor recreationists rarely see mountain lions, even in habitats that support relatively dense populations.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are best identified by their short tail that is black only on top at the tip. They are mostly nocturnal and solitary. They make dens in rock crevices, hollow logs, and beneath downfalls.

Black Bears (Ursus americanus) are the most common and widely distributed of the bears; they are also the smallest. Primarily nocturnal, but they occasionally venture out at midday. They are usually solitary, except females with cubs.

Coyotes (Canis latrans) look like a medium-sized dog; they are gray or reddish gray, with rusty legs, feet, and ears; throat and belly whitish. In the evening a series of high-pitched yaps may be heard. A true scavenger, Coyotes will eat almost anything animal or vegetable.



Viewing Wildlife

Most wildlife species will be more active during early morning, dusk, and evening hours. Many animals, such as the mountain lion, are most frequently seen by drivers at night. Most mammals do not specialize on one habitat type, but there are some general trends that make viewing some species in some habitats more likely. These species-habitat relationships may be seasonal, changing with water or food availability. In riparian woodland you may see raccoon, black bear, Sonoma chipmunk, and mule deer. In mixed oak/pine woodland, you may see brush rabbits, western grey squirrels, and Townsend's chipmunk. Blue oak woodlands often host the black-tailed jackrabbit and the Botta's pocket gopher. In grasslands, the typical species include the brush rabbit and black-tailed jackrabbit. Typical species of chaparral are the brush rabbit, black-tailed jackrabbit, mule deer, bobcat, Sonoma chipmunk, Townsend's chipmunk, and coyote.

Indirect observations through tracks and scat provide the opportunity to study animals that are seldom seen. Mud, dust and sand are the best surfaces to register tracks. When trying to identify a track, look for a clear, individual track; see if you can find a trail or sequence of tracks; and use clues from other signs such as scat.

When looking at scat, look at its relative size and its shape; is it twisted or segmented? Look at its contents if possible. Often, you may be able to see seeds, small bones or hair. There are some general comparisons to keep in mind. Canid scats (coyotes, foxes) will tend to be a thick cord with a single pointed end, and may look twisted. Felids (bobcats, mountain lions) tend to have broken or segmented cords with both ends pointed. Canids tend to defecate in the middle of a trail or road, and felids sometimes will scratch near a scat and may cover or partially cover their scat with dirt or debris. For information on tracks and scat click here.