Carrizo Plain is home to many animals with sensitive status. Tule elk and pronghorn antelope have been reintroduced into the area and can be seen at various locations on the plain. Many raptors, including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, northern harriers, owls, and others can be found at different times throughout the year. The California Condor has been reintroduced nearby and is occasionally detected within the monument.
If you visit Carrizo to watch the animals, help us preserve the Carrizo Plain's diverse wildlife. The CPNM has many animals active during both day and night time hours. Please view wildlife from a distance only, to prevent possible harassment that may stress or injure animals and make them more vulnerable to predators.
Spring Wildlife Viewing
Spring often begins with a cold, rainy and windy March and ends with a May that can range from mild to very warm temperatures that warn of impending hot summer days. Since rainfall amounts can be quite variable from year to year, how the landscape appears can also be quite variable. Wildlife too responds to rainfall and temperatures, dictating what, when and where you will be most likely to view many of the species that the Carrizo is home to. As with most other places, spring is the time of year on the monument when most animals have their young, allowing visitors that wonderful opportunity to see babies that are experiencing their world for the first time.
The Carrizo Plain has its share of both daytime (diurnal) and nighttime (nocturnal) animals. For most visitors, the diurnal animals are the ones that attract our attention. Some of the mammals that visitors may see include pronghorn antelope, coyote, and desert cottontail, as well as California and antelope ground squirrels. Tule elk, bobcat, mounta
in lion and black-tailed deer are also found here but are much more difficult to see. Many bird species come to the area specifically to breed and nest, then migrate out when juvenile birds can make the trip. Some of these include northern Bullock's oriole, red-winged black bird, Western kingbird and various hummingbirds. Stilts, avocets and other aquatic birds may nest and hatch out young in years with sufficient rainfall. A few of the birds that are resident species here are golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, prairie falcon, roadrunner, loggerhead shrike, American kestrel, common raven and numerous smaller birds such as finches, flycatchers and warblers. Ponds and puddles that remain for several weeks or more are often home to aquatic insects, fairy shrimp and one or more of the several amphibian species whose tadpoles may be seen during the day feeding and swimming in the ponds. The Carrizo Plain is also home to many different snakes and lizards. Reptile species will often emerge in the spring during the warm periods of the day. Typically, these animals breed in the spring but young hatch or are born when the temperatures are more consistently warm in late spring or early summer.
San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel
During the spring months, pronghorn females split off from the herd and it is quite common to see a solitary animal, male or female. By May and June, the females begin to give birth to their fawns. Mothers and babies will usually stay by themselves or with other females through the summer, grouping up later with males to form herds again in the fall. Pronghorn are not grass eaters but prefer to browse on forbs: those leafy, green annual plants that are not grasses. Pronghorn do not jump fences but usually duck underneath, most fences on the monument have been modified to make passage underneath easier to navigate.
Some of the nocturnal animals found within the monument are federally or state protected species. These include the San Joaquin kit fox and the giant kangaro
o rat. The Carrizo is also home to other kangaroo rat species and numerous other rodents. Badgers and bobcats are both quite secretive and are more nocturnal than diurnal but may be seen during the day or night, especially during the spring months. Jackrabbits normally come out at night but can be seen during the day if flushed from their resting spots. There are several owl species that hunt for rodents at night. Great-horned and barn owls are the most common. Burrowing owls can quite often be seen in spring both day and night and since they use burrows in the ground to nest in, it is not unusual to see the juveniles emerge from the burrow and stand around the opening, curious about the surroundings. Short-eared owls are also found on the Carrizo but are less likely to be seen than the others. Bats too become active as the temperatures warm, some coming out at dusk, clearly visible as they comb the skies for insects.
Giant Kangaroo Rat
If planning to travel on side roads in search of wildlife, please remember that many of these roads are unimproved and not suitable for sedans or vehicles with street tires and low clearance. Drive with caution as many are steep and rocky. Check kiosks and bulletin boards found at monument entrances and other locations for updates on restrictions or other information.
Drive With Caution
While driving through the Carrizo Plain, it's tempting to drive too fast with few vehicles to slow you down however; many animals become victims of vehicle strikes. Animals are often close to the road´s edge or run to cross the road when vehicles approach; please drive with caution! Many animals use roads to sun themselves or forage on insects, driving slowly allows wildlife time to get out of the way. Be watchful of wildlife and keep driving speeds down.
California State University, Stanislaus: Endangered Species Recovery Program
Oregon State University: Ecology and Management of Burrowing Owls in California