Overview - Western Sierra Nevada Fauna
Bears are the only bear species
left in California. Prior to the 1800's, Black Bears were
accompanied by Grizzlies throughout California and the California
High Sierra Nevada mountains. Their color varies from pure
black to brown, cinnamon, or blond. Adults weigh from 125
to more than 500 pounds. Attracted by human food, California
Black Bears cause thousands of dollars in property damage
each year. When they continually succeed, they may become
aggressive and must be destroyed. You can help prevent this
from hapening. Store your food properly. Keep all food and
anything with a strong odor away from your campsite and
stored out of reach of bears using a bear hang or bear containers.
By limiting their success we can help Black Bears give up
their dependance on human food and return to depending on
natural food sources. Natural food sources of the Black
Bear can include fawns or carrion but they subsist mostly
If you encounter a bear, scare it away by making loud noises
and throwing stones. Be sure to keep a safe distance and
keep in mind that mother bears are usually very protective
of their cubs. Use your best judgement. Always remember
that you are a visitor in THEIR home. In most cases these
bears are more afraid of you than you are of them.
Mule Deer are found throughout
California, especially in the High Sierra. They are the
prime prey sought by elusive mountain lions. They are browsers.
Less than ten percent of their diet comes from grasses,
while over half is browsed from shrubs, especially sagebrush.
Mule deer in mountainous areas are migratory. As development
swallows up their winter range, summer droughts and severe
winters with lots of snow and ice result in significant
starvation. During the winter months especially, more than
95 percent of a mule deer's diet comes from browsing on
shrubs, especially sagebrush, that protrude above the snow.
Typically, mule deer antlers grow out and upward, more than
forward like a whitetail's. Mule deer antlers tend to fork
once and then each fork divides again in mature bucks. More
attacks on humans by deer occur than by bears each year.
Although it appears to be tame and may even approach you,
the California mule deer is a wild animal and may charge
if it feels cornered or threatened. Always leave it a wide
area to walk away and never tempt it with food or approach
it at close range.
Pacific Rattlesnake are found
on the pacific slope from British Columbia to California.
They are often found at lower foot hill elevations but can
also be found at higher elevations in the High Sierra. From
inoffensive to easily provoked, this poisonous "pit"
viper can vary in size and temperament. Common characteristics
of mature "rattlers" are a powerful body that
can reach a length of 5.5 feet; a thin neck; a triangular,
or heart-shaped head; facial pits; hooded eyes with elliptical
pupils; and a tail rattle, often called "buttons."
(caution: tail rattles can be lost or may not yet be present
in young snakes). The rattlesnake has an acute sense of
smell and an ability to sense temperatures higher than its
own surroundings. Skin color may vary from dark gray, olive,
yellowish-brown, to brown or black, with hexagonal, oval,
or nearly circular blotches with well-defined light borders.
Generally active from April through September, the rattlesnake
may emerge earlier and range later in warm weather. It is
generally inactive or in a state of hibernation from November
through February. During the spring the snake prowls in
the morning and late afternoon. During summer the snake
alternately basks and seeks shade especially on rocky granite
slopes of the High Sierra. During the hottest months, the
snake becomes nocturnal, seeking mice, voles, gophers, and
even cottontail rabbits. This species mate in spring and
bear young anytime from August through October. Baby rattlesnakes
are just as poisonous as adult snakes. If threatened, the
rattlesnake may coil, rattle, and raise its upper body,
appearing ready to strike while actually backing slowly
away with its lower body. However, if surprised, it may
lunge up to several feet, striking without any warning behavior
Marmot is often mistaken for
the groundhog or woodchuck. The Yellow-bellied Marmot is
very closely related to the groundhog that is common in
the eastern United States. Male marmots are heavier than
females. The length of the body is 45-57 cm while the tail
is 13-22 cm long. Yellow-bellied marmots have distinct yellow
speckles on the sides of their necks, white between their
eyes, yellow to red-yellow bellies and yellow-brown to tan,
straight hair with white tips. They are known to chuck,
whistle, and trill when alarmed by predators; only the whistles
and trills are loud alarm calls. Marmota flaviventris
spends most of its life in a burrow with several entrances,
which it excavates in well-drained soil. The burrows are
usually over 1 m in depth, but hibernation burrows may be
5-7 meters deep. Tunnels may be 10-70 m in length. Yellow-bellied
marmots are mainly diurnal and terrestrial, but they occasionally
climb into shrubs and trees. They hibernate from September-May
Nevada Trout Species
Trout - Sometimes known as a
"German Brown" because of its European origins.
In streams the coloring is a light brown with silvery sides
and pronounced black spots on the back whereas in large
lakes or in the sea the overall coloration is silvery. The
Brown is a wary fish that tends to feed at dusk or at night.
Trout - California's state fish.
One of the rarer mountain trout species. With a beautiful
appearance in (and out of) the water, this trout is one
of the most sought after catches for many mountain fisherman.
Its flank is dark gold in color with speckles of burnt orange.
Dark spots line its top half, particularly on the trout's
Trout - A common trout species,
especially in the lower elevation Sierra Nevada. Prefered
resevoir stock fish of the Dept. of Fish and Game. The Rainbow's
back has many dark spots and is a dark emerald grey-green
color. An off-white belly and rainbow pink flanks are the
features that gave this fish its common name.
Trout - Often found in high elevation
alpine lakes and brooks. This fish's back and flanks are
dark olive in color with a touch of amber. Grey and red
spots speckle its flanks and the Brook Trout's belly can
range from yellow to orange in color.