Sherilton Valley and the Descanso area have been the
site of many cougar sightings over the years. Unfortunately several cougars in
our area were killed in the fire of 2003 and there have been few sightings
since. Because of the burned vegetation and the reduction in the deer
population, cougars have been slow to return to our area. On the bright
side, a cougar was recently sighted less than a mile from our ranch and we
have been on the lookout ever since. I have placed a wildlife camera in a
likely spot and I'm checking daily for any night time visitors.
can follow that story on our Stealth Cam
Before the fire, our area
was well known for cougar sightings. The following is a short excerpt from
an article by Tony Perry, L.A.Times staff writer.
DESCANSO, Calif. - Now that their community has become the cougar capital of
California, the residents of this tiny mountain hamlet-not usually given to philosophical
musings-are discussing the proper relationship between man and beast.
The fatal attack on a hiker by a cougar at nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State Park on Dec. 10
caught few by surprise in Descanso, where the 1,500 residents have learned to mix fear
with respect when they regard the magnificent, heavily muscled predator, also known as a
mountain lion, puma or panther.
Valley Bob Cats
Bob cats are quite common in our
area and we occasionally hear them at night as they roam along the creek bed.
They have a call that is unmistakable and with our healthy rabbit population, I
expect them to stay around. Less shy than cougars, they have even been spotted
during the day and one in particular has been seen circling our
chicken coup. Surprisingly, the chickens sit quietly watching him
trying to figure out the puzzle.
I have been lucky and the stealth
camera has taken several shots of a full sized adult. You can see those photos
on our Stealth Cam
The valley pocket gopher, Thomomys bottae
has 20 teeth and 8 tits. They can have 5 to 7 young in 19 days depending
on how many apple trees you are trying to grow in your orchard. They have
been known to pull entire leaf lettuce plants under ground and eat their way
right down a row of beets.
All kidding aside, the gopher has
had a serious effect on how we manage our plants on the ranch. Every new
tree has to be planted in a chicken wire basket and for now, we've given up on
having a vegetable garden. The labor involved and the cost of traps, water and poison
is too much to make vegetable gardening worth while.
You can see how we try to control these critters on our Pest
The gopher snake, Pituophis melanoleucus, eats
mice, rodents, rabbits, birds, eggs and lizards, killing by constriction. It is a
biological control for gophers and you can understand why it is popular on the
ranch. We are always grateful when we see a gopher snake and they are free
to wander anywhere.
Rattlers, yeah we got em but not
as many as you might expect. Normally I'll only come across one or two a
year and so far they just haven't been a problem. On the other hand, a
friend of Catherine's was bitten in Mexico and died before they could get him to
help. Because of that we're extra careful and depending on the
circumstances, I'll either move them to an unpopulated area or kill them if I
can't safely get them into a container.
When the chaparral dries up for the summer, with the
exception of the rare mountain thunder shower, a dish pan of water becomes the favorite
bathing spot of the ranch's feathered denizens. A common flicker, Colates cafer,
was photographed taking a bath when he was disturbed by a family of black headed
grosbeaks, Pheucticue melanocephalus. The female acorn woodpecker, Melanerpes
farmicivorus, has a red crown, black forehead and white above the beak while the male
has only red and white. The rufous hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus, is very
protective of the feeder and tries to drive all the other hummingbirds away.
For the complete life list of
birds seen on our ranch visit Birds.
To see how
we're trying to provide feeding stations for birds and all the wildlife, visit
our Feeding Station
and Scorpions are quite common on the ranch. As most people know they are not
life threatening though we do get a little excited when we find them in the
house. More rarely, at night we can see Glow Worms down by the
creek. In the light of day they are fluorescent pink with six legs up near the front
of their half inch bodies.
Peepers the Peahen (OK, she's a pet but
still pretty wild)
When my wife Catherine received what we thought was a baby peacock
from one of our neighbors, we never expected it to become a major commitment. Catherine
has hand raised many types of birds and usually, after a few months, they grow up and
blend in with the other wild life on our property. The peacock however has required
special care and didn't reach adulthood for almost two years. At this point we do know
that the peacock is actually a peahen which means she is a little quieter though less
colorful. We have been calling her Peeper because she is constantly peeping, especially
when we get out of her sight. Flock birds keep track of one another this way.
For now, Peeper has imprinted on humans and wants
to be with people at all times. For the first year she went to work with Catherine and
they kept each other company in the geology storeroom. At home she stays outside but
stations herself at the front or back door. She is content to watch us through the windows
and likes to keep us in sight at all times. When I go out to drive to the mail box she
runs down to the car and climbs in with me. She also likes to follow us when we go
Because we have coyotes, bobcats and an
occasional cougar in the area, Peeper sleeps inside at night in a special enclosure.
Sometimes I let her out and she falls asleep at my feet next to the fireplace. Who needs a