Carnivores

bob-catPhoto by Todd Nordness

Bobcat (Felis rufus) Bobcats are not common in the Reserve but certainly there are a few resident cats. The tracks are distinctive because the cat’s claws are retracted and they do not leave claw marks in the dirt or mud. They are smaller than most people think, usually less than 15 pounds and about 30 inches long. The majority of the food they eat includes rabbits, wood rats, pocket gophers, and meadow mice, although a few birds are eaten.

They are not as destructive to bird life as most people think. They prefer dense cover for their hunting and denning area. The dens are frequently associated with rocky outcrops where three kittens are born in February, April, or May. A sharp eye is needed to distinguish these cats sunning themselves in the morning while partially concealed on a rock or log.

Coyote (Canis latrans) The coyotes have learned to adapt to human civilization and as a result are very common within the city limits of San Diego. They will eat almost anything and it is not unusual to find pieces of plastic, candy wrappers, and paper in their droppings. Primarily they feed on mice but commonly eat seeds when they are available. It is almost impossible to distinguish the tracks of a coyote from the common dog, but any large sized scat (fecal material) that contains a significant amount of hair, fur, and seeds can be considered to be a coyote. They raise their families of six or seven pups in the early spring, concealed in dens dug into the side of a bank or in tree roots. They can be seen occasionally trotting across the road or out across open spaces where they can be identified by the habit of dragging the tail down rather than elevated as the domestic dog does.

Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) This very common animal is seldom seen, but the small tracks, about one inch across with well defined claw marks, suggest that it is active throughout the Reserve. The fox preys primarily on gophers, mice, and wood rats and is especially fond of manzanita and toyon berries when they are in season.

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) The raccoons, like the bears, have a plantigrade foot, which means they walk on the sole of their foot and the palm of their hand, instead of only on their digits, like many other animals. The raccoon is easily identified by the black mask and ringed tail and is most commonly associated with the lowlands where it feeds on crayfish, crustaceans, seeds, etc. The tracks are very distinctive with a large hind foot track with very distinct toe marks and a smaller front foot track. On damp and rainy nights in the fall, they can often be heard vocalizing with a rather plaintive and drawn out “whooo” call.

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