While we have always had an abundance of mammals going up and down our wildlife corridor, a few years back the city of Ojai installed new bridges with animal friendly pilings rather than culverts for San Antonio creek that really made a difference. The bobcats and coyotes have always come through here as they do not mind the culverts, however, the more animal friendly pilings have really helped the dear population grow.
The past several months we have had a herd of three females that have been sticking around and they have recently added a fourth. Unfortunately I have been unable to get all four in the same photo.
As you can see from the photos the deer are shedding. That is what all those clumps are in their coats. It has been unseasonably warm here this winter and the hair is starting to itch them a bit from shedding, making them rub themselves a lot.
As the heard came through they all stopped and ate on the nutritious oak sproutings from the limbs. The ground squirrels even climb up to get a meal this time of year. The band-tailed pigeons also get into the act going out on even the smallest limbs, flapping away!
I expect to have some photos of a larger herd this coming summer if breeding goes well for them! Of course to have offspring you have to have a male and we have two. There was a little fork horn last year, I wonder how big he will be this year, and this studly guy!
The only serious predator of deer here are mountain lion. Unfortunately I have not had a sighting yet from my yard, although there are plenty of lions around the valley. Fortunately we do get to watch many of the smaller predators do a lot of hunting around here. What was most common were the coyotes. We used to have very large packs that would wake you up at night with their yipping and howling. A very wondrous sound! They are also extremely active during the day.
The coyote population was decimated several years back by Parvo and has not rebounded that much yet.
The smallest mammal predator that we have had here would be the long-tailed weasel, which would also be the neatest predator that I have had the pleasure to see from my yard. I have only seen one other and that was back in the mountains on the Sespe about thirty years ago! They can be a good indicator of a healthy habitat. Sorry it’s a bit blurred but they are quick! I managed to see it because of the small birds that were following it squawking out their predator warning calls. Be alert!
However, the most enjoyable have been the bobcats. Normally they would seem to be very secretive animals, here they don’t seem to mind us at all and will hunt around us while we are sitting at the table! They seem to be as diurnal as the coyotes. One thing that I do at times with the bobcats is purr to them loudly. Yes, I purr to them! I do this primarily to put them at ease and it seems to work quite well, plus it’s the only cat I speak other than meow. All the animals here see us feeding birds and squirrels and lizards by hand and know not to fear us. If all the other prey animals are around us, we must be safe! The purring to the bobcats though really seems to help calm them even more. Recently a juvenile bobcat (I wonder if it’s not from the litter of three that’s posted below) calmed down at my purring and came back to hunt with three of us at the table!
I have watched them stalk their prey many times and my wife has seen a capture of a ground squirrel not 25 feet from where she was sitting! Beyond that is the mothers with kits that we get to see! Last spring we had this mom with three kits.
I flushed this bobcat, which I named Faded for the lack of sharp, dark spotting in her coat, when I went out to fill one of the bird baths one day. She was hiding in the large Opuntia cactus in my south yard about 10 feet away when I picked up her movement. I immediately started purring and backed off to get my camera as she slinked a little out of the cactus. As I returned, purring of course, she was still there and I got this photo! A few days later I got this photo of two of the three kits that she came by with. I swear that the purring helps! Unfortunately, I was never able to get all three kits in a good photo.
Three years ago we had a mother with one juvenile that hunted the area for about three months. Great fun!
We watched this juvenile grow up in the months it was here. Needless to say that was awesome!
All the predatory mammals here seem to really focus on the ground squirrels. That little weasel can go right down the burrow after them! According to anthropologists the local Native Americans also consumed quite a lot of ground squirrel in their diet. The mantled ground squirrel in the foreground below is a blond phase, quite uncommon.
With all the fields around us the ground squirrels are the most numerous prey available. Next would be tasty bush cottontail rabbits.
One day I was outside when a bobcat had come through and a little later I heard a rabbit squealing for it’s life. It is a very distinct sound. So while I may not have seen the encounter I am sure the bobcat had a tasty meal that day!
Another prey animal would be our eastern fox squirrels that we feed by hand. One day I had just finished feeding Precious, our remaining breeding female that we have been feeding by hand. Sally, the other female we had been feeding, stopped showing up October of 2014, I am sure from predation. Precious had left going over the roof of our house to the south side of the yard. A few minutes later a bobcat came out of the South yard with a squirrel in it’s mouth. I was immediately worried that it was Precious but did not get a good look at the squirrel as the bobcat moved away to eat. The next day I was quite relieved to have Precious show up for her feeding! Whew!
With all the action around here I feel that I can not go out of the house without my camera and binoculars for fear of not capturing or seeing something special! It can be a very strenuous job, but somebody has to do it! LOL
Yours in Nature,