Ranch Critters

Don't forget, you can click on the pictures to see larger images!

Eventually, we should be able to add pictures of a Bobcat, Wild Pig, Mountain Lion, Eagle, and Hawk, but having the right opportunity will take time, particularly for the Mountain Lion.

Some of the pictures also are presented with sound files, but here are a couple of sound files which have no pictures yet:


4 bats by our front doorHere is a picture of four bats resting in a corner next to our front door. They seem to spend a few weeks in our porch area each Spring. Their heads are resting flat on each other so we see their ears and the end of their noses, but we cannot see their eyes in this picture. Others rest in the air gaps of our tile porch roof. They dart around the yard and especially the pond eating mosquitos and other tasty treats. As the sun sets in the summer evenings, we can watch them zooming around against the dimming western sky while we soak in our water trough tub.

Mosquito fish in the pondIn the water, hundreds of these Mosquito Fish prey on mosquito larva. We got a few from a friend, and they have multiplied without any care. Without these and the bats, we would have a considerable mosquito problem, but with them, we rarely are bitten. Presumably, our 6-10 toads (each about 4 inches in diameter) also help out.

There is a downside to having the mosquito fish. They also eat frog eggs. It appears that they and the bullfrogs have wiped out our tree frogs.

Blue DragonflyRed DragonflyThese two types of dragonflys are frequently seen around the pond. The blue one is about 1.5" long and the red one is about 2.5" long. They also love to eat mosquitos.

Large toad4 large toadsThere are more than 4 of these large (4" diameter) toads in our new garden and others within the wall around the house. In the summer nights they congregate on the rocks around the pond and are easy to observe and photograph. The pictures on the left was done at night while the toad was on a rock in the pond. The three in the picture on the right were found under a hollow in a railroad tie in the garden. One wonders how many insects it took to make these toads.

BullfrogIt is quite hard to get a good picture of a bullfrog in a pond, so we caught him for this pose. Notice the large eardrums and the webbed back feet.

This particular Bullfrog lives in a water trough near Magic and doesn't cause us any trouble. Another one lives in our big pond and has been seen carrying a 4"-long goldfish out of the water. Bullfrogs are not native to this part of California and upset the balance in ponds where they live.

They are not very vocal, but here is the low pitch of a bullfrog croaking.

Tree frogs in with a potted plant.There are about 14 tiny tree frogs in this pot. Click on the small image to get a larger image where you can try to count them. These are the frogs that make springtime come alive in the evening. Once the bullfrogs arrived at our garden pond, however, the tree frog songs became rare.

Cottontail rabbitThis is a Cottontail rabbit, the kind found on the ranch. They and the ground squirrels scurry around finding goodies in the dried grasses. When they raid our gardens, the dogs go after them with mixed success.

Ground squirrelWe have lots of these Ground Squirrels which raid our gardens when the dogs aren't watching. They are hunted by bobcats, coyotes, and hawks, and are in particular abundance in the fields near the house and barn where their enemies are reluctant to go.

The ground squirrels usually have a scout looking for danger. They emit a loud chirping to warn their buddies.

Albino ground squirrelThis is an albino ground squirrel who stays by some rocks, out of the gardens. He is a bit dirty in this picture. He has pink eyes, and when clean, he is pure white.

Coyote being watched by ground squirrelsWe enjoy the visiting coyotes. They don't bother the llamas and our cat and dogs seem to know how to avoid being a meal for them. Usually they are passing in the night in packs that make a delightful racket, but occasionally we see coyotes passing through in the daytime. Notice how the ground squirrels in the foreground are carefully watching this one.

At night, we often hear the sounds of a pack of coyotes passing by. Sometimes they can be right next to the house like this one looking for his pack.

Roadrunner posing for the cameraWe can't mention coyotes without also showing a roadrunner. We have two roadrunners running around the ranch. The picture was taken from a video clip set up on a coyote path, but this guy stole the show. (You might need to download the clip before viewing it because my upload speed is quite slow.)

Even better roadrunner pictures were extracted from subsequent videos where the roadrunner looked right into the camera and paraded in front of it.

Mama badger peering out from the entrance of her burrowHere is nature's most excellent ground squirrel hunter. This is probably a female with pups. Marren looked out a window and saw a larger badger running past about 150' from the house. When we went out to get a picture, the one she saw had disappeared, but this one was watching from a nearby hole.

Another badger that showed up a few years laterA few years later, another badger spent a week in the pen of our male llama named McMurray. At first, McMurray gave the badger considerable distance, but in this picture he seems rather casual about his visitor. Marren watched this one from our back door and enjoyed seeing it sun itself, hunt, play around, and dig some impressive holes.

Badger digging for squirrels outside our window. This image and a 1.2 MB video show a badger that was seen from our kitchen window digging at a squirrel colony rock. The next day, the badger had moved on and we saw the squirrels filling in his hole.

Night flash picture of a raccoon in an olive tree near our front door.This raccoon was caught snitching cat food near our front door. He went up in a nearby olive tree, but then just stared at us for a while before running away. We think he has been visiting our pond garden and eating some of the bullfrogs (and perhaps some fish).

Bobcat in an oak tree staring back at photographer.Marren noticed a bobcat in our driveway loop and upon further investigation found two juvenile bobcats hidden in a hole next to a small garden. She also noticed an adult running off past the barn. She got this picture of one of the juveniles after it went up a tree. Both then ran off around the house toward our large pond where Marren saw them join two adults. This happened a day after a neighbor reported their cat had been attacked by a bobcat (and survived). We like bobcats and have had pretty good luck with our cats being able to avoid being caught.

Another bobcat showed up in this video taken by a Raspberry Pi critter cam. He is about the size of a coyote which I have seen on the same path.

Our garbage disposal llama, BugsyThis is Bugsy, one of our 13 llamas. Bugsy is our garbage disposal with a pen just outside the south wall near the kitchen door. Our six male stud llamas must be kept in separate pens because they can become quite territorial. The ladies freely roam 35 acres along with occasional visiting horses owned by Marren's cowboy son, Billy Butler.

Basically, the ranch is an old-folks home for llamas, with our oldest Mandy, being 35 years old. Marren likes to think of her llamas as "National Geographic llamas", i.e. ones with genes close to the original Andean llamas. This is in contrast with "show" llamas.

Llamas have a remarkable alarm call that signifies that something unusual in their environment. On a camping trip, a llama gave his alarm call when he saw a bear near where we were eating lunch. Other times it might signify something less dramatic like that cows are in a different pasture than normal.

When male llamas are sparing with each other they use a rather stunning screaming sound.

Pictures of our other llamas are here.

Two fine quarter horsesThese quarter horses are our current guests from Billy Butler, Blaze is on the left and Pinky is on the right. Pinky was raised by Marren and her family and is a champion roping horse. Here is one neighing.

The heffers in an adjacent ranchThese contented heffers are grazing adjacent to our entrance gate.

Our 3 chickensOur friends Bruce and Meg moved to Arizona and gave us their 3 chickens and henhouse. We get about 2 eggs/day on the average. They make quite a racket when laying an egg. We can also hear a distant neighbor's rooster.

Garter snake sticking its head out of the pondHere is the head of a 3-foot garter snake that is waiting among the parrot's feather for a careless fish. He seems to acquire a fish-size bulge once a week. Several garter snakes live in the pond garden. We also have gopher snakes and an occasional King Snake. These three are all very welcome.

And unfortunately, we also have rattlesnakes...

Large rattlesnake that was going to our garden Rattlesnake's tail Rattlesnake's head

Ranches in the West come with rattlesnakes. These are beautiful and powerful snakes, and like all snakes, they serve a purpose. We respect them and normally leave them alone, but after having two dogs, a sheep and a llama rattlesnake bit (none died), we maintain a safety zone around the house, garden and barns within which rattlesnakes are not tolerated.

This one was about 3-1/2 feet long, 1-3/4 inches in diameter, and had 13 rattles. It had the misfortune of being caught on the lawn heading toward our new garden and got pinned by a steel bar. This allowed for safe photography before he lost his head. Dry conditions during the last couple of years seem to entice the snakes into our watered areas. We have had to kill 8 in 2004 and 5 in 2005. So far this year, we have seen none. Even when decapitated, the head will bite for up to 20 minutes afterwards. Also the body will act like it still has a head, turning around its neck and threatening anyone that touches its tail.

The triangular-shaped head is a sure sign of a poisonous snake, but the rattles and diamond-shape coloration on its back allow easy identification as a Pacific Diamondback Rattlesnake. If you click on the picture of the head, you will also notice that the iris of their eyes are vertical, another sign of a pit viper.

Marren holding a small King SnakeWe treasure the few King Snakes that show up around the ranch since they are known to kill rattlesnakes. This one, however, got a bit too close and was found inside the house. Marren is in the process of relocating it to the garden.

Lizard doing push-ups to stay coolOne of our many lizards. It is funny seeing them do their push-ups on a hot wall. The push-ups are their way of cooling off.

Blue-Tailed Skink temporarily in a plastic containerHere is a Blue-Tailed Skink that is temporarily trapped in a plastic container.

Praying MantisA favorite of all gardeners is the Praying Mantis since they feast on many garden insect pests. We see about 10 each year.

Black widow spiderRed hourglass shape on underside of black widow spiderWe have lots of these black widows. This one has a body about 1/3" in diameter and is with one of her egg sacks. She fell off onto the grass when we asked her to show the red hourglass mark on her belly. It can be seen in the picture on the right. We have no mercy on black widows we find around the ranch and barn.

Scorpion in bathtupWhile we are showing off our creepy crawlers, here is a scorpion. They are about 2" long and are rarely seen except when trapped in a sink or bathtub. Perhaps they live under the house.

Friendly tarantulaTarantula on wallEvery autumn in the Sierra Foothills, the tarantulas come out looking for love. Some days, you might see 20 of them on a drive between Awahanee and Raymond. This fuzzy fellow was near our mailbox, walking along the driveway.

Hawk resting on a rockHere is a relatively small hawk resting on a rock in front of fence bars that are spaced 12" apart. This individual has been seen quite often very near the house and garden and is presumably feasting on the numerous ground squirrels and birds around the house. Bird feathers were on the ground nearby when this picture was taken.

See also the picture extracted from my Raspberry Pi critter spy camera.

Immature bald eagle having just caught a ground squirrel.Immature bald eagle starting to dine on a ground squirrel.Immature bald eagle flying away from a power pole.This immature bald eagle caught a ground squirrel just as it was about to escape into its hole in one of our llama pens. As this eagle matures, its head will turn white. After dining on a ground squirrel, the immature bald eagle perched on a telephone pole and then flew away. The cross bar of the telephone pole is 8' long, supported by the pole at its midpoint.

We are delighted to have it feast on our ground squirrels, but unfortunately, we are worried that it also has its sights on our cat since it returned the next day.

Blue heronWe often see a blue heron looking for fish in our pond or gophers in the surrounding fields. He is, however, quite shy and flys off at the slightest hint of someone trying to look at him or take his picture. This is an impressive bird - about 4 feet tall.

Once we were laying in our hammock in the garden and he failed to notice us when he showed up. We stayed quiet and were able to watch him for about 1/2 hour before he noticed us.

The local red-tail hawks seem do not like him hunting in their territory, and we have seen them dive at him until he left.

Great EgretGreat EgretHere is a Great Egret sitting on our large trellis above the pond. This is the first time we have seen one by the house. Great Egrets have black feet and yellow bills whereas Snowy Egrets have yellow feet and black bills.

Vulture on fence postWe have lots of vultures in the Raymond area each summer. Since their services are appreciated and the word "vulture" is often used in a negative manner, we usually call them Raymond Condors although they are actually not condors. The lack of feathers around its red head is to allow easy probing into carcasses.

Covey of quailWe have a large number of quail that visit. Here are a few of them. We enjoy hearing their call.

KangarooMouseThis very little guy was found lost in the kitchen. We are hoping that he is not one of a family born in the house. He was quite scared and slow, but to take his picture we put him in a box next to a quarter. We are guessing he is a Kangaroo mouse/rat infant. As cute as he was, we put him outside to fend for himself.

A large rat caught in trap next to a 6-inch rulerFor a couple of months we knew there was a critter in our attic and Marren guessed that it was not small because she could hear thumping when it scratched itself. It had made a nice nest in the attic insulation. After several attempts, we finally caught it in a large rat trap. The body was 8.5 inches long and the tail was 7 inches.

Skunk checking out squirrel holes near barns.Spray end of skunk.We have been smelling that there must be a skunk nearby, but finally saw him near the barn in twilight. Be sure to notice his rather serious claws.


Last updated: July 27, 2014

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