Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trapping the Tehachapis

Late last year, while on a Chimineas trapping trip with the Codge, an up-and-comer biologist-friend of Craig's joined the gang for a day of rough riding & camera gathering. Seems she wanted to learn a bit of the craft, and even knew an opportunity to do a little survey in the Tehachapis.

The Tehachapi Mountains?

That slash of mid-Cal transverse range, just east of Bakersfield, that separates the San Joaquin and Mojave valleys, and bridges the Sierra Nevada and Pacific Coast Ranges?

That biodiversity hotspot, and natural mammal, bird and bug migration corridor - between, across and through said valleys and mountain ranges?

That crazy geologic region of fighting faults, uplifts, erosion and ancient inland seas?

That amazing crossover point for 5 floristic provinces - Coast Range, San Joaquin Valley, Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, and Southwestern Mountains?

That historic area of classic "old west" California mining, ranching, spurs and stage coaches?

Those Tehachapis?

I can't say I played hard to get.

View Larger Map
The Tehachapis are the diagonal range between Highway 58 and Interstate 5, which cross the mountains at the Tehachapi Pass and Tejon Pass (also known as The Grapevine)

To kick-off the survey, our Chimineas bio-bud Craig dashed in one Friday afternoon, and set his homebrew up in little a spring-fed side canyon.

I then joined a few weeks later for a 2nd outing to pick up Craig's cam, and set 4 more.

And, while I could see why the local Kawaiisu people (also called Paiutes) named the range "tihachipia," meaning "hard climb," I thoroughly enjoyed the rugged beauty...

rugged beauty
Uplifted by the Garlock & San Andreas faults, and then carved by erosion, the Tehachapis range from 2,000-8,000 feet, and are defined by steep slopes and deep canyons

mine country
Seams of exposed geology are common in this land of tectonic traumas

geology exposed
The above seam from another angle - so cool

great rocky hillside
There's definitely no shortage of rock - gold, silver, tungsten, antimony, barite, zinc and limestone have all been mined in the area

spring is coming
Aside from chaparral and grass-covered slopes, habitats also include Foothill, Jeffrey and Pinyon Pines, Juniper scrub, and oak woodlands of Blue, Tucker, and Canyon Live

down on the creek
The little rain/snow that falls in the Tehachapis (10" of rain per year is typical) flows down into meandering creeks that mostly dry up in the long, hot summers

Definitely an area with amazing animal potential. We could almost smell the ringtails. :)

Pulling Craig's cam trap, we discovered it had battery issues - only capturing 20 photos and lasting a week before dying.


But, before we started singing the camera trapper's blues, we viewed the pics and saw that in those 20, there were some great shots, and thus an encouraging beginning to the survey...

gray fox strut
As usual in California mountains, gray foxes showed early and often

another gray
Markings look slightly different - a second individual?

best in show
Head up, back straight, tail pointed... best in show!

A Merriam's chipmunk scampered into the scene to scope out a fat pine cone

This mouse also popped up. Looks Peromyscus, but with a long tail - maybe californicus?

cal quail coming thru
And, a covey of valley quail foraged through the set

Quite acceptable for just a week.

Happy with our start, but wondering what we missed, we decided to reset one of the 4 cams in this same little drainage.

In a few days we'll take a look at the critters that longer-lived reset caught... :)




  1. Those are great! The fox are stunning!

  2. Great stuff :)
    That's one snazy fox!

  3. Best in show is exactly what I thought when that fox posed so perfectly. I agree re: P. californicus--mile long tail and looks like a cute fatty--the ones I trapped during my thesis work got way fatter than the other species around. SO CUTE! And kinda docile, too. (sigh) =)

  4. Also thought of the "standard of perfection" post for poultry, chicken owner that I am. =) Tho', really, it's an "eater-of-the-standard-of-perfection" pose.


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