Animal Natives

The Outback is home to many species of animals.  During the fall of 2017, Restoring Nature students Nicholas Archer and Griffin Paisley shot trail cam footage around the outback, capturing many of the Outback’s inhabitants and visitors, including California Ground Squirrels, Quails, Desert Cottontails, and Woodrats.

Photo Scientific Name Common Name Description
Canis latrans Canis latrans Coyote The coyote, from the family Canidae, is spotted in the Outback frequently due to displacement from its natural habitat. Coyotes generally travel in packs but hunt in pairs. In the Outback they hunt wood rats, rabbits, and species prevalent in this area.  The coyote’s pelt varies from grayish-brown to yellowish- gray on the upper parts while the throat and belly has a whitish coloration. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are generally reddish-brown. The back has tawny- colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area. Coyotes typically grow to 30-34 inches in length, not counting a tail of 12-16, stand about 2 feet at the shoulder and, on average, weigh from 15-46 pounds. Though coyotes have been observed to travel in large groups, they primarily hunt in pairs. Typical packs consist of six closely related adults, yearlings and young. Coyotes are also primarily nocturnal but can be seen in the daytime. In the Outback’s location they tend to be spotted most frequently outside the perimeter fence rather than inside the outback itself.
Lynx rufus Lynx rufus Bobcat Part of the cat family Felidae, the bobcat is an adaptable predator with a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears and resembles other species of the mid-sized lynx genus. Though the bobcat prefers rabbits, it will hunt anything from insects and rodents to deer. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although there is some overlap in home ranges. The adult bobcat is 18.7 to 49 inches long from the head to the base of the tail, averaging 32.6 inches; the stubby tail adds 3.5 to 7.9 inches and, due to its “bobbed” appearance, it gives the species its name. An adult stands about 1-2 feet at the shoulders. Male bobcats average a weight of 21 pounds, while females are 15 pounds on average.  Bobcats periodically enter the outback as shown by various traces, but only one has been spotted in the outback, showing advanced signs of mange.  Bobcats are not considered vulnerable and can adapt to urban areas, but their average lifespan in California is reduced from 10 to 2.7 years in response to border effects, limited resources, and poisoning.
Anniella pulchra Anniella pulchra California Legless Lizard The California legless lizard, from the family Anniellidae, is a limbless, burrowing lizard often mistaken for a snake. It is around 7 inches long from snout to vent (not including tail). It has small, smooth scales typically colored silvery above and yellow below. Its diet consists of mainly beetles, larval insects, termites, ants and spiders. It live in loose sandy soils and leaf litter and the male of the species is slightly larger than the female. There are often sightings of this lizard in coastal sage scrub communities, in the Outback they are almost exclusively associated with the roots of Mara fabaceus, the California manroot, which has led to efforts to preserve the plant.
Sceloporus occidentalis Sceloporus occidentalis Western Fence Lizard The western fence lizard, from the family Phrynosomatidae, is brown to blackish in coloration (the brown may be sandy or greenish) but its most distinguishing characteristic is its bright blue belly. The male fence lizard does push ups displaying his bright breeding colors to admiring females. The brighter the blue the healthier and more attractive the male is as a mate. The ventral sides of the limbs are yellow and also have blue patches on its throats. These lizards are commonly seen sunning on paths, rocks, fence posts and other high places which makes them an easy target for predation by snakes, birds, and even some mammals such as shrews. They protect themselves by employing their fast reflexes which is common in many other lizards. The western fence lizard eats spiders and insects and grows to be about 21 centimeters.  Western fence lizards also reduce the number of Lyme disease incidents where present: they possess a protein that neutralizes the responsible bacteria in ticks that feed on them, radically decreasing the percentage of tick infected with Lyme disease from 50% to 5%.
Accipiter cooperii Accipiter cooperii Cooper’s Hawk The Cooper’s hawk, part of the family Falconiformes, has short rounded wings and a long banded tail. It flies quickly through chaparral and coastal sage scrub bushes and snatches other birds off their perches.  This strategy is highly hazardous: 23% of Cooper’s hawks have healed breast bone fractures due to past collisions with foliage.  It is about the size of a crow with a slender body 14-20 inches long and a wingspan of 27-29 inches. The Cooper’s hawk has a gray brown back and a lighter brown or red breast. Besides other smaller birds, this hawk preys on small mammals, reptiles and large insects.
Bubo virginianus Bubo virginianus Great-horned Owl The great-horned owl, part of the Strigiformes family, is uncommon in mature coastal sage scrub since it requires openings between shrubs to hunt. Therefore they are not directly associated with the Outback but have been known to nest elsewhere on campus and may make used of it as potential hunting grounds.  The great-horned owl is one of the biggest species and can be easily identified by the prominent ear tufts widely spaced on its heads. Its large eyes are equipped with many rods for night vision and pupils that open widely in the dark. Although its eyes do not move, flexibility in the atlanto- occipital joint enables this owl to swivel its head more than 180° and to look in any direction. Its hearing is acute, assisted by facial disc feathers that direct sound waves to its ears.
Sylvilagus audubonii Sylvilagus audubonii Desert Cottontail A member of the family Leporidae, the desert cottontail is a medium-sized rabbit that has a rounded tail with white fur on the underside that is visible as it runs away. It is a light grayish-brown in color with almost white fur on the belly. Adults are 13-17 inches long and weigh up to 3.5 pounds. The ears are 3.1-3.9 inches long, and the hind feet are large, about 3 inches. It isn’t usually active in the middle of the day but it can be seen in the early morning or late afternoon. It mainly eats grass but will eat many other plants, even cacti. It rarely needs to drink, getting its water mostly from the plants it eats or from dew. It defends itself from predators like birds of prey, coyotes and bobcats by running in a zigzag formation – it can reach up to 19 miles per hour.
Sylvilagus bachmani Sylvilagus bachmani Western Brush Rabbit The brush rabbit is part of the Leporidae family and has a tail whose underside is gray rather than white unlike the cottontail. The upperside of the brush rabbit’s fur varies from light brown to gray in color. Adults measure anywhere from 10-14 inches long and rarely weigh over 2 pounds. It feeds mainly on grasses and forbs, especially green clover, though it also takes berries and browse from bushes. Its defense mechanisms are similar to the cottontail but often stays immobile when in brushy places. The bush rabbit does not dig its own burrow or den but uses the burrow of other species, brush piles, or forms. Both rabbits have been spotted in the Outback and all over the 5C campuses.
Pipilo crissalis Pipilo crissalis California Towhee The California towhee, part of the Emberizidae family, is essentially a large sparrow with a sparrow’s short, rounded wings, long tail and thick seed-cracking beak, but towhees are larger and bulkier. This bird is uniformly matte brown, runs or hops on the ground and tends to stay close to shrubs and trees. When they aren’t looking for berries and small insects to eat they perch on rooftops or fences and require a lot of wing power to fly short distances. They build their nests in poison oak bushes as a means of protection. Their call is a clear metallic chip that quickens when alarmed.
Aphelocoma californica Aphelocoma californica Western Scrub Jay The western scrub jay, part of the Corvidae family, is a lanky bird with a long floppy tail and hunched-over posture. It’s a medium-sized bird, approximately 11.5 inches in length including its tail, with a 15 inch wingspan. Behaviorally, the western scrub jay is aggressive and vocal and has over 20 calls that differ from mating calls to calls in flight. They commonly feed on small animals such as frogs and lizards, eggs and young of other birds, and insects.In the winter they subsist on grains, nuts, and berries, showing particular attraction to toyon, oaks, and lemonade berries.
Chamaea fasciata Chamaea fasciata Wrentit The wrentit, from the family Timaliidae, is six inches long and gray-brown in color. It is the most common bird of the coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities and feeds on berries and insects hidden in the branches. It has light yellow eyes and an upward cock of its tail. Wrentits mate for life and are always in pairs, occupying spaces of .75-2.5 acres with their partners. They are weak fliers but are able to hop rapidly through shrubs. The male’s call is 3-4 chirps followed by a trill while the female has the same call without the trill.  Wrentits are less common in the Outback than preferable in a sage scrub community, but may be attracted by plantings of Coyote bush, California lilac, Mazanita, and California sage.
Callipepla californica Callipepla californica California Quail The California quail, from the family Odontophoridae, is 11 inches long and is gray and brown in color. It has a long black plume on top of its head. It is a plump bird and is found on the expansive coastline stretching from Canada to Mexico. It is a native of the chaparral and feeds on seeds and small plants on the ground. They are always found in groups which can range from 10 birds to 200. They walk and run through the shrubs unless threatened in which moment they will take a short flight before dropping to the ground. This ground based lifestyle requires necessitates habitats with tall, dense foliage to provide adequate protection.  Its call is a three-note cluck.  California quails frequent the Outback but are nonpermanent residents and do not nest there.  Unfortunately they have seen a decline in sightings in the Outback due the lack of protection provided by the sparse plant life and many exposed areas.
Latrodectus mactans Latrodectus mactans Black Widow Spider The black widow spider is found throughout the United States as well as in the West Indies, Canada, Mexico and South America. Its mass is 1 gram and is 0.26 inches in length. It is the largest spider in the Theridiidae family and is a shiny black color. The female is identified by a red mark on her abdomen as well as two red spots along the middle of her back. Black widows have combed feet which are curved bristles on the inside of their hind legs. They are carnivorous and antagonistic, feeding on insects as well as other arachnids. Black widows are venomous and are often spotted in the Outback.
Thamnophis sirtalis Thamnophis sirtalis Garter Snake The garter snake, from the family Colubridae, is 18-26 inches in length but can reach up to 48 inches. It has three yellow longitudinal stripes running down their dark body. Some have a checkered pattern with light strips and a grayish or reddish body color. They are common in the chaparral and can be active by day or night. They give birth to live young and can sometimes have more than 50 babies. They are carnivorous and feed on small rodents, worms, slugs, frogs, toads, salamanders, fish and tadpoles.
 Neotoma lepida Neotoma lepida Desert Woodrat The Desert Woodrat, from the family, Cricetidae, have long tails, large ears and large black eyes. They are larger than most types of rats found in southern California. The throat and breast of the woodrat is very pale compared to the grey commonly found on rats. It is generally nocturnal and builds above- ground large houses from sticks, twigs, cacti, and manure. Many of these dwellings or “middens” are in the Outback. The rats even have separate rooms for different activities! Unfortunately many of these middens have become uninhabitable and were abandoned due to decreased shade from removed pieces of dead wood.  However, recent trail footage has found that heavy woodrat activity is still present in several middens. The woodrat eats primarily wood plants, fruits and seeds. It is a desert animal and requires succulent vegetation for hydration. Predators include snakes, owls, hawks, coyotes and other carnivorous mammals.
Otospermophilus beecheyi Otospermophilus beecheyi California Ground Squirrel The California Ground Squirrel, of the family Sciuridae, is about 17 inches long and weighs between 10 and 26 pounds.  Its tail is less bushy than the Western Gray Squirrel and its coloration is characterized by a mottled gray-brown back and a lighter underside.  California ground squirrels live in burrows—often with multiple entrances and occupants—and spend most of their time within 82 feet of the entrance, rarely venturing further than twice this distance.  Ground Squirrels hibernate in colder areas but in snowless environments such as the Outback they are active year-round.  They tend to avoid denser chaparral but subsist in more open areas of sage scrub as well as inside anthropogenic clearings into areas of thicker foliage.   Ground squirrels subsist on seeds, fruits, nuts, and grains, and may use their cheek pouches to store food for future consumption.  Their predators include rattlesnakes, weasels, raccoons, badgers, foxes, and eagles.  They have several methods of counteracting rattlesnake predation such as disguising their scent by chewing on shed rattlesnake skin as well as heating up their tail and waving it from side to side in order to trick the heat sensitive rattlesnake into considering it too large or fast a target to be worth attacking.