The varied habitats and topography of the local Los Padres National Forest provide permanent or transitory refuge for some 468 species of fish and wildlife making it one of the most diverse National Forests in California. Los Padres National Forest wildlife is abundant in our area.
Los Padres National Forest provides habitat for and is involved with the reintroduction of California condors, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, tule elk, bighorn sheep and many endangered plants.
California Black Bear
Our local mountains are home to the California Black Bear. Even though they are called black bears, their colors can range from black to cinnamon brown, blond to silver-blue and, occasionally, even white. The white black bears are called “Spirit” or “Kermode” bears. Here are some quick facts on the California Black Bear:
- Are typically shy, reclusive and easily frightened.
- Eat mostly berries, nuts, grasses, carrion, and insect larvae.
- Have color vision and a keen sense of smell.
- Are good tree climbers and swimmers.
- Are very intelligent and curious.
- Can run up to 35 miles per hour.
- Females weigh an average of 100 to 150 pounds and up to 300 pounds or more for males.
- Can go without food for up to 7 months during hibernation in northern ranges.
- Give birth to their cubs in late January or early February. Average litter sizes are from 2 to 3 cubs.
- Can live over 25 years in the wild.
- Typically avoid human contact and are not normally aggressive towards people. The only exceptions to this are so called “problem” bears which have access to human food sources and lose their natural fear of humans. This is the reason we should not feed bears or make it easy for them to obtain human food in campgrounds or around our homes.
In addition to the information provided by the California Department of Fish and Game on the California Black Bear, keep in mind the following general information when hiking or exploring in the surrounding Los Padres National Forest wilderness:
- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.
- Always keep your dog on a leash.
- Never leave food and beverages unattended. Carry all refuse and garbage out of the area with you. Use bear-resistant trash receptacles where available.
- Keep backpacks and other personal gear on your person.
- The minimum safe distance from any bear is 50 yards; from a female with young it is 100 yards. There are many times when greater distances are required. Never approach closer to scare the bear away or pick up a cub.
- Be satisfied with a distant photograph, or use a telephoto lens.
For more information on living and staying safe in California Black Bear country, visit the following websites.
California Department of Fish and Game – Black Bears in California
Los Padres Forest Watch – California Black Bears
California Department of Fish and Game – Keeping the Black Bear Wild
California Mule Deer
California Mule Deer typically forage within a one to two mile radius of their water source such as a lake or stream and usually make their beds in grassy areas beneath trees. These beds will often be scratched to a nearly level surface, about six and half feet in diameter. California Mule Deer on hot summer days often seek shade and rest in the mid-day.
In summer, California Mule Deer mainly browse on leaves of small trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, but also consume many types of berry including blackberry, huckleberry, salal and thimbleberry. In winter, they may expand their foraging to conifers such as the twigs of Douglas fir trees, aspen, willow, dogwood, juniper, and sage. Year-round, they will feed on acorns. Grasses are a secondary food source. Fawns and does tend to forage together in groupings while bucks tend to travel on their own or with other bucks. California Mule Deer browse most actively near dawn and dusk, but will also forage at night in open agricultural areas.
Where humans have moved into native deer habitat, California Mule Deer will diversify their diet with garden plant material, tree fruit, and sometimes pet food. Keep in mind that allowing deer access to your garden and landscaping, or intentionally feeding them, you may also be attracting mountain lions since deer are their primary source of food. To help keep our local deer stay wild, the California Department of Fish and Game recommend the following:
- Never intentionally feed deer.
- Landscape with deer-resistant plants.
- Enclose gardens with deer-proof fencing.
- Pick up fallen tree fruit.
- Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house and garden.
- Consider using commercially prepared deer repellents.
For tips on keeping deer out of your yard and garden, download a copy of the Department of Fish and Game Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage.
The Department of Fish and Game Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage
The rutting season for the California Mule Deer occurs in autumn when the does come into estrus for a period lasting several days. Males become aggressive in competing for mates. If no mating occurs during this time, does will begin estrus once again. The gestation period is approximately 200 days, with fawns arriving in the spring; the young will remain with their mothers throughout the summer and become weaned in the autumn.
The buck's antlers fall off during the winter months and begin growing again during the spring in anticipation of the next autumn's rut.
California Mule Deer are abundant throughout the local area during the spring and summer months. Sometimes during the season you can view small herds of these deer foraging in the early morning and late afternoon hours at Fort Tejon located in Lebec.
The California Coyote has tawny to grayish color fur. The back tends to be buffy gray and black or reddish while the underside is lighter in color. The ears are erect and pointed. The tail is usually carried straight out or down and has a black tip. Size variations depend upon geographic locale and subspecies.
This permanent resident throughout our area and the State utilizes almost all habitats and successional stages. They frequent open brush, scrub, shrub, and herbaceous habitats, and may be associated opportunistically with agriculture lands. In addition, they may be found in younger conifer forests and woodlands with low to intermediate canopy and shrub and grass understory.
Presence of free water for drinking is the only restriction. Cover may be taken in natural cavities, brushy stands of vegetation, and suitable soils which allow excavation of dens. Activity occurs throughout all months of the year. Most activity tends to be at dusk, dawn, or throughout the night but they occasionally may be active during the daylight.
The California Coyote is an omnivorous opportunist and a very adaptable predator. They eat primarily mice, rats, ground squirrels, gophers, lagomorphs, and carrion. Some insects, reptiles, amphibians, fruits, and occasionally birds and their eggs are also food for the coyote. They also have been known to take sheep and domestic fowl. Hunting is done alone, in pairs, or in small packs or family groups.
Coyote home ranges vary from 3-31 miles. Male home ranges may overlap one another but females rarely do. Breeding occurs from January to March and gestation takes about 63 days. The young are born from March through May. Pups are weaned at 5-7 weeks and leave their parents at 6-9 months.
Coyotes are tolerant of human activities and adjust rapidly to perturbations and changes in their environment. Widespread efforts to control or reduce coyote numbers are largely unsuccessful.
For more information on the California Coyote, visit the following website.
California Mountain Lion
Most people living in California don’t realize that more than half of the State is California Mountain Lion habitat. Mountain lions generally exist wherever deer are found. They are solitary, quiet, and elusive. Their nature is to avoid humans. Research has shown that mountain lions often change their patterns to avoid human occupied areas, or areas where humans are most active.
The color of the California Mountain Lion coat is tan with black tipping on the ears and tail. Adult lions weigh between 80 and 180 pounds; stand two to three feet high at the shoulders, and measure 6 to 8 feet in length from nose to the tip of their tail. Mountain lion kittens have camouflaging spots and rings around their tails.
California Mountain Lions prefer areas with dense undergrowth and cover, and will leave an area if they perceive a threat. They live solitary lives, spacing themselves across their environment by marking and defending areas known as their home range. Home ranges contain the resources they need to survive -- hunting areas, water sources, safe resting places, and lookouts. Female California mountain lions seek out very safe places to raise their young.
California Mountain Lions are solitary creatures but their territories will often overlap those of the opposite sex, and only occasionally overlap with those of the same sex. The home range of the male California Mountain Lion is generally larger than that of the female lion. The home range of mountain lions can cover hundreds of square miles, depending on the time of year, availability of food, and environmental changes.
The primary food source for the California Mountain Lion is deer, but they will also feed on wild hogs, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, birds and sometimes domestic livestock. They hunt alone from dusk to dawn. A mountain lion may take down a deer every one to four weeks for food. They often hide larger prey under dry leaves, grass or pine needles. This is known as caching to protect the food source from other animals and to reduce spoilage. The lion often returns to the source several times over a period of three to seven days.
The California Mountain Lion is one of the largest predators in North America and they play an essential role in maintaining the health of California deer populations. They often seek out the sick, weak, and older deer which helps control disease. They also help keep deer populations from growing too large and herds staying too long in any one area where over-browsing can occur. Over-browsing can destroy important habitat that other wild animals need to survive.
Mountain lions can bound up to 35 feet while running, leap 15 feet up a tree and climb over a 12 foot fence with ease. They can walk many miles at 10 mph and reach running speeds of up to 50 mph in a sprint. They sense movement more accurately than they see detail. Mountain lions see in pixilated mosaics. Their wide angle and night vision is much greater than our own. The hearing on the lion is acutely sensitive, far beyond human range, and their ears move independently to pinpoint the source of sounds.
Lions have very distinctive M shaped pad, and unlike coyotes and domestic dogs, their claw or nails marks do not show in the track. While walking, mountain lions hind foot steps in his fore track, creating overlapping patterns. Lions usually walk through life; like their domestic cousins, they choose a very easy and deliberate walking pace. Their tracks typically appear clean and undisturbed with the animal’s weight showing in an evenly distributed impression. The mountain lion track on the left can be distinguished from the dog track on the right by the absence of toenail prints and by the “M” shaped pad.
For more information on living and staying safe in mountain lion country, visit the following websites.
California Department of Fish and Game – Mountain Lions in California
California Department of Fish and Game – Commonly Asked Questions About Mountain Lions
The California Bobcat is a relatively large cat with gray to reddish fur, spotted with brown or black. It has long legs, a short or "bob" tail that tends to be barred with black, and sharp-pointed ears. They are larger than domestic cats but much smaller than mountain lions. They may weigh up to 25-57 lbs. and have a life span of 10-14 years.
Despite their pussycat appearance, the bobcat is quite fierce and is equipped to take down animals as large as deer. When living near a ranch, they may take lambs, poultry and even young pigs. However, food habit studies have shown that Bobcats survive on a diet of rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, pocket gophers and wood rats. Bobcats have shown not to harm healthy game populations.
Bobcats roam freely at night and are frequently abroad during the day except at the peak of summer. They do not dig their own den. If a crevice or a cave is not available, it will den in a dense thicket of brush or sometimes choose a hollow in a log or a tree.
The California Bobcat occupies areas from 1/4 of a square mile to as much as 25 square miles, depending on the habitat and sex of the bobcat. Female bobcats occupy smaller areas than males and normally do not associate with other female bobcats. Males roam wider than females; while they are not particularly tolerant of other males, the home ranges of males will overlap those of both males and females.
The breeding season for bobcats varies with the conditions and location on the habitat. A pair's meeting lasts only a few days, when they will travel, hunt, and eat together. About two months after breeding, the female delivers two or three kittens. Over a 12 month period, the mother bobcat will wean her kittens, teach them to hunt, and finally drive them away from home to find their own territories. Bobcats can live up to 25 years in captivity and live 10 to 12 years in the wild.
This permanent resident of Pine Mountain Club and the surrounding communities occupies all habitats except alpine and deserts without water. They are most abundant in riparian and wetland areas at low to middle elevations. Cover and dens can be found in cavities in trees, snags, logs, and rocky areas. Abandoned buildings and dense vegetation also provide cover. The raccoon is most active during the evening hours throughout the year except during winter months.
Raccoons are omnivorous and opportunistic carnivores. In spring they eat primarily animal matter such as: crayfish, fish, arthropods, amphibians, a few small mammals, birds, and eggs. In the summer and fall they eat large amounts of grains, acorns, other nuts, and fruits. Foraging occurs in all saline and freshwater riparian habitats, shallow water, vegetation, and on the ground.
Home ranges vary from 210 to 940 acres. Males tend to be territorial towards other males while females are not. In California, raccoons tend to breed from January through March. Most of the young are born from March through May with litters varying from one to eight. They are weaned between 60 and 90 days and become somewhat independent by about 130 days.
California Jack Rabbit
Jackrabbits are really hares, not rabbits. Hares are larger than rabbits, and they typically have taller hind legs and longer ears. Jackrabbits were named for their ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as "jackass rabbits."
The California Jack Rabbit is strictly herbivorous. They graze and browse and prefer grasses and forbs but will eat almost any vegetation that grows in their habitat 12 to 20 inches above the ground. Roughly 65% of their diet is shrub and the remaining percentage is succulent parts, leaves and stems. They can consume very large quantities of grasses and plants. Their diet changes with the availability for food sources by season.
They take cover in shrubs and their young are beneath vegetation that provides some overhead cover. As in other hares no special nest structure is built. A water supply is not necessary, but they will drink water if available.
The California Jackrabbit breeds throughout the year, with the greatest number of births occurring from April through May. The gestation period is about 43 days producing up to 4 litters of 3-4 young per year. A one year old female may produce 14, or more, young per year. Baby California Jackrabbits are weaned at about 3 weeks. Populations may fluctuate in 3-6-yr intervals, and may increase up to 9-fold in some areas. Adult Jackrabbits are mostly solitary, except when mating and raising young.
They are fast animals capable and can reach speeds of up to 40 miles an hour. Their powerful hind legs can propel them on leaps of over ten feet. They use these leaps and a zigzagging style to avoid capture by their many predators.
California Cottontail Rabbit
There are several species of cottontail rabbit and they range in color from reddish brown to gray, but, all feature the distinctive "cotton ball" tail for which they are named. They seek out habitat on the fringes of open spaces, such as fields, meadows, and farms, but can adapt to other habitats—including those made by humans.
They browse and forage at night on grasses and herbs and are very fond of garden vegetables such as peas and lettuce. In the winter, their diet consists of bark, twigs, and buds. During the day, cottontails remain hidden in vegetation. If they spot a predator, they flee with a zigzag pattern and can reach speeds of up to 18 miles an hour.
Cottontails breed three or four times every year and produce three to eight young each time. Females give birth in shallow ground nests. Young rabbits mature quickly and are self-sufficient in four or five weeks. They are sexually mature after two or three months, so populations are able to grow with staggering speed.
Like vultures, which are in the same family, California Condors are scavengers, but instead of relying on their sense of smell they watch for other scavengers feeding on carrion. Adult California Condors are almost entirely black. Except for a few feathers, their heads and necks are mostly bare and include shades of pink, red, orange, yellow, and light blue, becoming more intensely pink when they're excited. It's impossible to distinguish the males from the females just by looking at them. California Condors can reach up to 60 years of age in the wild.
Normally, condors breed once every two years, producing only one egg. If the egg is lost, they might be able to lay another. The male and female take turns incubating the egg and, once it hatches, feeding the offspring until it learns to find its own food, which could take a year.
Playful and inquisitive, California Condors roost in large groups and communicate with a combination of hisses, growls, and grunts as well as a system of body language. Instead of flapping their wings, which can span more than nine feet from tip to tip, condors soar on wind currents.
Ten thousand years ago, California Condors lived on both coasts of North America, from British Columbia to Baja California in the West, and New York to Florida in the East. By about 1900, the condor population plummeted and was limited to Southern California, due to many factors including loss of habitat, a low reproductive rate, poisoning, and shooting. Today, designated refuges and captive breeding programs are helping to protect and restore the species. These magnificent birds are fully protected by State and Federal law.
Reintroduction of captive reared California Condors is one of the more active programs currently operating on the forest. There are 57 California Condors in the wild in in Los Padres National Forest, as of August 2005, where in March 2004 there were only 39. Currently, there are more than 86 California condors flying free in Central and Southern California These numbers fluctuate on a regular basis.
Two sanctuaries have been established in Los Padres National Forest so that condors can roost, nest, hunt and bathe free from curious humans. The Sisquoc Sanctuary of 1,200 acres in the San Rafael Wilderness was established in 1937, and in 1947 the 53,000 acre Sespe Condor Sanctuary was established in Ventura County north of Fillmore.
The areas provide nesting sites in inaccessible, high rocky cliffs. Public entry is restricted in both areas. Visit the Condor Observation Site at the summit of nearby Mt. Pinos for the best opportunity to see condors. The birds may be best observed from June through October.
Driving Directions to the Mt. Pinos Condor Observation Site – I-5
From Interstate 5, exit Frazier Mountain Park Road. Drive west on Frazier Mountain Park Road which will become Cuddy Valley Road. Continue west on Cuddy Valley Road which will become Mt. Pinos Road. Follow Mt. Pinos Road to the Mt. Pinos parking lot.
For more information on California Condors, visit the following websites.
Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex
National Park Service – California Condor Cam Photos
Ventana Wildlife Society
National Geographic – California Condors in Arizona Video
California Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawks are large and highly variable birds with brown upperparts, head and throat. The under parts are pale with brown streaks. The wings are pale with a dark bar at leading edge and tips of the wings. Their tail is red-brown with a dark terminal band. The Western Red-tailed Hawks are usually darker than their eastern counterparts.
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks have a finely banded tail. The female Red-tailed Hawk will lay 2-3 white to pale blue eggs, sometimes spotted with brown. The eggs are laid in a nest constructed from twigs, lined with pine needles and bark, and built in a large tree. Eggs are incubated for about 30 days by both parents; the male may bring the female food while she is on the nest.
Red-tailed Hawks eat mostly small mammals, but also take birds and reptiles; male red-winged blackbirds are often eaten because of their vulnerability when guarding nests. The Red-tailed Hawk screams a loud, harsh, slurred squeal "keee-ahrrr" or "keeer-r-r-r" sound. Sightings of the Red-tailed Hawks are very common in our area.
For more information on Red-tailed Hawks, life history, and videos visit the following website.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Red-Tailed Hawk
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Red-Tailed Hawk Videos
California Barn Owl
Both the male and female Barn Owl has a speckled, reddish-brown body and white, heart-shaped face. While the male’s chest is predominantly white, the female’s chest is darker and heavily spotted. The species can approach 18 inches in height, with females being slightly larger than males.
The Barn Owl prefers small rodents, but it will occasionally hunt birds as well. A nocturnal species, it hunts at night by using its sharp eyesight and extremely sensitive hearing to locate prey. The Barn Owl’s name comes from its habit of nesting in abandoned buildings and in barns. The owl also nests in tree hollows, where the female will lay 4-7 eggs. The male brings food to the nest as the female incubates the eggs and cares for chicks.
For more information on Barn Owls, visit the following websites.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Barn Owls
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Barn Owl Nest Cam
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is the second largest owl in California. Their average size is 1 ½ feet in length with a 4 ½ foot wingspan. The "horns" of the owl are actually only feather tufts, colored brown with the rest of the body. Great Horned Owls also have some spotted coloration in darker shades of brown.
Mating season for the Great Horned Owl occurs in late January or early February. Females will usually lay 2-3 eggs once a year. These eggs will be incubated by both parents. The chicks will hatch in 25-28 days. Both parents are very protective of their young, which will mature and leave the nest after 1-2 months.
Great Horned Owls mainly eat small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, skunks and birds, which they swallow whole and later regurgitate in what are called owl pellets. They have excellent hearing and specially adapted feathers than dissipate air flow, facilitating silent flight. These features aid the Great Horned Owl in its nocturnal hunting as it swoops down to catch its prey with powerful feet and talons.
For more information on Great Horned Owls, visit the following website.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Great Horned Owl
The California Quail is a highly sociable bird that often gathers in small flocks known as "coveys", and one of the daily communal activities is the taking of dust baths. A group of quail will choose an area where the ground is soft, and using their underbellies, will burrow downward into the soil some 1-3 inches. They move about in the indentations they have created, flapping their wings and ruffling their feathers, causing dust to rise in the air.
California Quail prefer sunny places to create their dust baths, and you can detect the presence of quail in an area by spotting the circular indentations left behind in the soft dirt about 3-7 inches in diameter.
The California Quail in the local area are year-round residents. Although the quail survives well at the edges of urban areas, it is declining in some areas as human populations increase. California Quail were originally found mainly in the southwestern United States but they have been introduced into other areas including Canada, parts of South America, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.
California Quail forage on the ground and often scratch at the soil. They can sometimes be seen feeding at the sides of roads. They eat mainly seeds and leaves, but they also eat some berries and insects. They will also forage on Toyon berries. If the birds are startled, they tend to explode into short rapid flight, called "flushing". Given a choice, they will normally run.
Their breeding habitat is shrubby areas and open woodlands. Their nest is a shallow scrape lined with vegetation located on the ground under a shrub or other cover. The female California Quail usually lays approximately twelve eggs. Once hatched, the young chicks associate with both male and female adults. Often, families group together, into multifamily "communal broods" which include at least two females, multiple males and many offspring. Males associated with families are not always the genetic fathers.
In very good years, females will lay more than one clutch, leaving the hatched young with the associated male and laying a new clutch in a nearby location, often with a different associated male.
For more information on California Quail, life history, and videos visit the following website.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – California Quail
Western Blue Jay (Scrub-Jay)
Some people would describe Western Scrub Jays as sentinels with an attitude. They sound an alarm by shrieking loudly to announce your entry into their space. They have a habit of making a huge commotion they think something of importance is happening.
The Western Scrub Jay is an omnivorous bird. Acorns, seeds, insects, fruits and nuts make up most of their diet. Nuts are typically stored in the soil, tree cavities, and inside bushes and shrubs. Many of the nuts and seeds will remain uneaten and will later germinate. Western Scrub Jays love peanuts. Unshelled, shelled, roasted, unroasted. It doesn't matter. If you have dense shrubs or trees around your home, a pair may build a nest.
The Western Scrub Jay is abundant in most of California. You’ll find them living around oak trees, oak woodland, and in areas with dense chaparral. In the local area, Scrub Jays take refuge in Pinyon Pine and the surrounding juniper woodlands.
Scrub Jays make their nests with twigs and line them with fine strands of plant material and livestock hair. It takes the jay about 10-12 days to build a nest measuring between 6-7 inches across when completed. Both parents help with nest building. The female will lay 1-5 eggs typically pale green to pale gray color, sometimes spotted or blotched brown. The chicks will emerge in 17-19 days.
For more information on the Western Blue Jay (Scrub-Jay), its life history and videos, visit the following website.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Western Blue Jay (Scrub-Jay)
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Western Blue Jay (Scrub-Jay) Videos
Western Blue Bird
The Western Bluebird has a reddish brown breast, which contrasts with their bright blue plumage. You will also see the Mountain Bluebird in the local area, a relative of the Western Blue bird with entirely blue plumage.
Western Bluebirds are found west of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico. The Mountain Bluebird also inhabits much of western North America—usually at elevations above 7,000 feet.
Bluebirds eat small fruits and hunt insects, spiders, and other creatures including small reptiles from above. The birds perch, watch, and then swoop to the ground to pounce on their prey.
Pairs mate in the spring and summer months, where they construct small, bowl-shaped nests. Females lay 4-5 five eggs and incubate them for about two weeks. Both parents care for the young for an additional 15 to 20 days. Bluebirds often have two broods in a season. A young bluebird from the first brood may remain in the nest and assist its parents in caring for the second brood.
Bluebirds living in higher latitudes may head south if food becomes scarce or temperatures become too cold. Mountain bluebirds typically migrate to lower elevations during the same lean seasons.
Bluebirds are considered fairly common, but their numbers have declined substantially over the years. However, populations have been receiving a boost by birdhouse boxes that have become popular in many backyards.
For more information on the Western Bluebird, visit the following website.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Western Bluebird
Staying Safe in the Forest
To ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the forest, visit the Los Padres National Forest website for valuable recreation and safety information.
Los Padres National Forest – Recreation and Safety
For more information on the local area of the Los Padres National Forest, contact the Mt. Pinos Ranger District office.
Mt. Pinos Ranger District
District Ranger: Erik Van Walden
34580 Lockwood Valley Rd.
Frazier Park, CA 93225
FAX: (661) 245-1526
For recreation or visitor information email: Rick Howell
Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Daily