Tag Archives: Mono County

Of Bear Poops and Rose Hips (or, Carnivores and Ungulates) in the Bodie Hills

Bear poop

I’ve seen some bear scats in my years of rambling the Sierra Nevada, but none as massive as the ones I encountered on Coyote Springs Road, in lower Bridgeport Canyon, in the Bodie Hills last fall. For sheer volume (8-10 inches wide and about 4 inches high), abundance (at least 6 of these in the space of a quarter mile) and colorfulness (bright red), these take the cake. Contents: no scraps of plastic, ripstop nylon, or snack bar wrappers, as you sometimes see in Yosemite. No, sir, these beauties were almost entirely rose hips.

Bear poop

Sensing their freshness and knowing that this road sees little vehicular traffic, I immediately looked around for paw prints. And there they were: dozens of bear-sized footprints, with clear impressions of soles and toes, wandering north in the shallow dust of the road.

Bear print

Bear track on Coyote Springs Road (with 6-inch ruler)

Since we’re sharing poo pix, I’ll add just one more. Not from the Bodie Hills, but close enough. This cougar (mountain lion) scat was found on Dobie Meadows Road (a.k.a. Deep Wells Road or 3N01), right at the summit between the Mono Basin and Adobe Valley drainages (same place as the Pleistocene spillway from Lake Russel into Adobe Valley and the Owens River). Big cats definitely roam the Bodie Hills too, but they are few and far between. Many years ago, after making a solo ascent of Potato Peak, I was informed by a BLM biologist that a mountain lion had been seen (perhaps denning?) near the summit.

Cougar poop

Mountain lion poo on Dobie Meadows Road


All of which might lead one to ask: What other native large mammals occur today in the Bodie Hills? Or, let’s just include all of the carnivores, some of whom are relatively small. And let’s exclude the non-natives: domestic cattle, hoofed locusts (domestic sheep), and feral domestic horses. Aside from my meager observations, the list below is based on Mammals of the Mono Lake-Tioga Pass Region (John Harris, Kutsavi Books 1982), observations on iNaturalist, and a query of the UC Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) database.

Order Carnivora (Carnivores)

  • Canidae (Dogs, Foxes): Coyote are common throughout the region. Grey fox are likely also present: a road kill was identified at Willow Springs and there’s a 1980 report from the southeastern Bodie Hills.
  • Felidae (Cats): Mountain lion have been seen on Potato Peak and could occur nearly anywhere in the Bodie Hills. They are to be expected wherever deer occur. Bobcat (lynx) may also be present.
  • Mephitidae (Skunks): Striped skunk is probably in the area, favoring meadow and riparian habitats. The more nocturnally active spotted skunk may be present too, favoring drier, rockier habitats.
  • Mustelidae (Weasels, Badgers): American mink have been seen at Bridgeport and along the East Walker River. River otters are also present along the East Walker River. Long-tailed weasels probably occur near water sources in the Bodie Hills. Short-tailed weasels have been observed at Bodie and in pinyon-juniper woodland in the southern Bodie Hills, but they are more typically found in lodgepole pine forests of the Sierra Nevada. American badgers are to be expected throughout the area. Dens appearing to be those of badgers and a partial skull, possibly of a badger, have been seen near Chemung Lake.
  • Procyonidae (Raccoons): Common racoon may be present along Virginia Creek and the East Walker River.
  • Ursidae (Bears): American black bear (and their scat) have been observed throughout the western Bodie Hills.
Badger Den

A presumptive badger burrow near Chemung Lake

Order Artiodactyla (Even-toed Ungulates)

  • Cervidae (Deer): Mule deer are common, at least in the vicinity of meadows, streams, and woodlands. The East Walker and Mono Lake mule deer herds migrate through the East Walker River corridor and the southern Bodie Hills between their winter and summer ranges.
  • Antilocapridae (Pronghorn): The Bodie Hills pronghorn herd (a.k.a the Bodie-Wassuk interstate herd), winters in Mineral and Lyon Counties, and summers primarily in the Bodie Hills in Mono County. The herd was originally established in 1946 when 32 animals obtained from Lassen County were reintroduced north of Mono Lake. As of about 2012, the Bodie Hills herd was estimated at up to 150 animals and the population was considered stable (source).
  • Bovidae (Cattle, Sheep, Goats): Desert bighorn sheep have been observed at the north edge of the Bodie Hills, near “The Elbow” in the East Walker River. The southeast portion of the Pine Grove Hills (north of the river) has been mapped as “Bighorn Sheep Occupied Habit“.
Mule Deer

Mule deer near Murphy Spring

Pronghorn

Pronghorn in the central Bodie Hills

Desert Bighorn

Desert bighorn sheep just south of The Elbow

Those are the “large” mammals, plus the other not-so-large carnivores. A much greater number of “small” mammal species (moles, bats, rabbits, and rodents) occur in the area. Apart from a few studies focused on pika, small mammals are even less well surveyed and documented than the larger species, so it’s difficult to compile a list with much certainty. I’ll leave that list for a later post.

Overall, there are few well documented and confirmed observations for most of the mammal species expected to occur in the Bodie Hills area. Opportunities abound to observe mammals large and small in the Bodie Hills and contribute data to iNaturalist or your favorite university MVZ!

Too Many Sheep

Too Many Sheep (Mormon Meadow)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Plants of the Bodie Hills, 2020 Edition!

Plants of the Bodie Hills, 2020 edition

A new edition of Plants of the Bodie Hills, an Annotated Checklist is now available as a free PDF from the Downloads page. The 2020 edition includes a number of improvements:
• keys to species (and subspecies or variety) are provided for ALL genera that have more than one taxon in the Bodie Hills (keys to families and genera will come in future editions, maybe),
• several species have been added, based on recent field observations and herbarium data,
• lots of typos have been corrected.

One inconvenient result of all the added keys is that the document has grown from 64 pages last year to 92 pages this year. But you now have 3 options for how to use it: 1) load the PDF onto a mobile device, 2) print the PDF yourself, or 3) order a printed copy from MagCloud.

Using a mobile device. I’ve found the PDF to be quite readable on my iPhone 8+ (in the Books app), although it helps that I’m near-sighted. It’s even easier to read on an iPad, other tablet, or laptop. A phone or tablet is pretty easy to carry in the field, but you may want to secure it with a lanyard or wrist strap. (Personally, I like the ones from PodFob.)

Printing the PDF. You can print the PDF yourself or at a local print shop, but I highly recommend printing it 2-sided to conserve paper and reduce bulk and weight in the field. A comb or spiral binding, binder clip, or other binding will hold it together.

Ordering a print from MagCloud. I’ve made the PDF available for on-demand printing at MagCloud. I’ve ordered one of these myself, and found the print quality to be very good and the 2-staple binding to be adequate (though rough handling and folding could loosen some pages in the middle). Go to the document in the MagCloud Shop, click on the “Buy Print” button, fill out the “Join Us” section if you aren’t already a Magcloud customer, and complete the order. The price is $18.40 (as of March 2020); tax and shipping brings the cost to a little over $25. This is the base price of printing from MagCloud, with no additional mark-up for profit.

As always, your additions, corrections, comments, or questions are welcome.

Happy botanizing!

Beauty Peak from Dry Lakes Plateau

Beauty Peak from Dry Lakes Plateau

Phlox stansburyi

Phlox stansburyi

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Gooseberries and Currants in the Bodie Hills

Two kinds of the gooseberries and and two kinds of currants — all in the genus Ribes (pronounced RYE-beez) — are found in the Bodie Hills. All are shrubs. The gooseberries have nodal spines on their stems; the currants lack spines. Flowers, fruit color, and leaf shape vary among the species, so all are fairly easy to identify throughout the year. Here’s a key, followed by photos of each:

Key to Ribes in the Bodie Hills


Ribes aureum var. aureum. Golden currant. Locally common beside wet meadows or streams. Nodal spines absent. Sepals yellow, 5–8 mm, spreading. Fruit red, orange, or black. Leaves ± 3-lobed to near middle, the lobes smooth-margined or sparsely crenate (with few smaller rounded lobes), glandular when young.

Ribes aureum

Ribes aureum


Ribes cereum  var. cereum. Wax currant. Common around meadows and along streams; occasionally on dry slopes and talus. Nodal spines absent. Sepals white or white-green to pink, red, or purple, reflexed. Fruit orange to red. Leaves shallowly lobed, with the lobes finely toothed, generally glandular.

Ribes cereum

Ribes cereum


Ribes inerme var. inerme. White stemmed gooseberry. Occasional near springs, streams, or among aspens. Nodal spines present. Sepals reflexed, green-white, sometimes purple at base, petals white. Fruit purple. Leaves ± 3-lobed to near middle and the lobes coarsely toothed, not glandular.

Ribes inerme

Ribes inerme



Ribes velutinum
. Desert gooseberry. Occasional in wet places along streams; sometimes in sagebrush scrub. Nodal spines present. Sepals not reflexed, sepals and petals white to yellow. Fruit yellow, becoming purple. Leaves 3-lobed and the lobe margins crenate (with smaller rounded lobes), glandular.

Ribes velutinum

Ribes velutinum


Ribes is generally recognized today as the sole genus in the Gooseberry family, Grossulariaceae. Since most families are named for a genus, why then not call the family Ribesaceae? In the beginning, the currants and gooseberries were placed in the Saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae). Several genera were recognized, but different authors lumped or split or organized them differently, and relationships were unclear. Ribes and Grossularia were the largest genera. Several attempts to improve their classification appeared over the years. Eventually, all the currants and gooseberries were removed to their own family, Grossulariaceae, named for Grossularia, but in time that genus was declared nomen illegitimum (an illegitimate name) and demoted in rank to Subgenus and/or Section. Grossulariaceae remains in use for the family, however, as nomen conservandum (a conserved name).

Several other Ribes can be found just west of the Bodie Hills in the high elevations and east side of the central Sierra Nevada. These include (among a few others):

CURRANTS (without spines):
Ribes nevadense. Mountain pink currant. A shrub of forest margins, often with spreading stems and an open branching pattern. The inflorescence is a dense raceme of bright pink flowers. The berries are blue-black, but usually glaucous — with a prominent white bloom (coating of yeast).

Ribes viscosissimum. Sticky currant. Another shrub of montane conifer forests, but rarely seen east of the Sierran crest. The leaves are relatively large (3–8 cm), shallowly lobed, and fragrantly sticky-glandular. The flowers are generally pink and white. The berries are black and glaucous.

Ribes nevadense

Ribes nevadense

Ribes viscosissimum

Ribes viscosissimum

GOOSEBERRIES (with spines):
Ribes montigenum. Mountain gooseberry. A low sub-shrub with spreading to decumbent branches. It’s found in subalpine and alpine habitats, and is especially common near the bases of lodgepole pines. The small flowers have green, green-white, or pale yellow sepals, and very short, red petals. The berries are bright orange-red, with sparse, short, glandular bristles.

Ribes roezlii. Sierra gooseberry. Another low shrub with spreading branches. It’s widespread and common in forest, chaparral, woodland habitats up to about 9350 feet, but uncommon east of the Sierran crest. The sepals are reflexed, 7–9 mm long, and purple; the petals are 3–4 mm long, white and sometimes pink-tinged. The berries are much larger than other Ribes in this area: 14–16 mm in diameter, red, with long, stout prickles.

Ribes montigenum

Ribes montigenum

Ribes roeslii

Ribes roeslii


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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