The Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus used to be C.viridis) is the only indigenous rattlesnake species in the Northwest and North Coast regions. However, even though a single species, there are several subspecies and appearances can be quite variable. The local "Northern Pacific Western Rattlesnake" (C.o. oreganus), is the subspecies found here at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center.
This is the only venomous snake found in the Northwest and North Coast regions ... and all subspecies have relatively short, thick tails with distinctive rattles that the snake can "buzz" when alarmed. Newborn rattlesnakes, about 6 inches in length, only have a single "button" rattle and are silent even when they try to "buzz" their tail.
All have a distinctive tail color pattern of encircling rings of light and dark ... with the more mature specimens having tails that resemble rings of black and white. This tail pattern can look similar to the pattern on the harmless Common Kingsnake. So, if such a snake tail catches your eye ...remember, "IF BLACK AND WHITE IT MIGHT BITE".
These snakes are becoming more active with the warmer weather, and have been commonly found near den sites within the last week here at HREC.
Confined to western North America, the Creamcups wildflower, or Cream Cups (Platystemon californicus), is found in most California counties except for those in the Great Basin and Mojave desert regions. This dainty native wildflower is fairly common in Mendocino County including the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center.
In the family Papaveraceae, this springtime annual wildflower is many times out-competed by exotic annuals, so it is a botanist's delight to see them amongst the rangeland vegetative composition. This gardners delight used to be included in wildflower seed mixes, but is no longer included due to high costs of growing and collecting seed. In the wilds, it can be found in oak woodland, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and Valley grasslands habitats.
I cannot believe that it has been one year since I instigated and began the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center BLOG (HREC BLOG). It was March of 2011 when I first posted a photo of Mission Bells (Fritillaria affinis). At the time I had discovered one of the best concentrations of robust plants that I had ever observed on the Center. So, today I returned to visit the location.
The plants were just as robust as last year, but I was a little too late for the show. Most plants were forming seeds already, with only a few flowers still in display. This perennial native lily is fairly common among the oaks and brushlands, but can easily be overlooked due to its drab blossom colors. The six nodding petals of this inverted-bowl shaped flower vary greatly in color ... from yellowish to greenish-brown to purplish-brown... and usually with maroon-brown spots.
The question is .... when you walk through a patch of Mission Bells is there a sound?
- Author: Robert J Keiffer
- photo provided: Jack Booth
Wild pigs, feral pigs, feral hogs, or whatever you want to call them, are resident large animals found in many California counties. These non-native critters became well established in the North Coast many decades ago, stemming from left-over open-range farm flocks from the 1800's through the 1940's, and from illegal but purposeful movement by clandestine efforts to increase sport hunting. I have been told that many Sonoma County and Mendocino County feral pig populations really got a foot-hold during the depression era of the 1930's when banks foreclosed upon ranch properties, gathered up any profitable livestock for sale, but left the range-run hogs as they were not economically worth gathering at the time.
Wild pigs are usually viewed as, 1) a great sport hunting opportunity, or 2) a menace to rangelands and land managers... and these view points, of course, differ based upon perspective. Here at the UC Hopland REC, wild pigs have become more common over the last 15 years, but their presence has low tolerance due to the potential risk of destructive damage to research plots.
Control of wild pigs at HREC is carried out under the California Dept. of Fish & Game's ""Immediate Take" law, which is Fish & Game Code 4181.1. This relatively unknown law allows the owner of livestock, land, or property, or that person's agent or employee, to immediately take any wild pig encountered upon that is damaging, destroying, or threatening to damage/destroy land or property. No hunting license nor sport-hunting pig tag is required under these circumstances, but the DFG Regional Office must be notified within 24 hours. Concise guidelines to this law can be found at:
The UC Hopland Research & Extension Center is home to the University of California's only range sheep flock. The Center now owns and manages a sheep flock rated at 650 breeding ewes in number. So, counting adult breeding age ewes, replacement one-year old ewes, rams, and lambs born this spring, the Center currently has about 1600 head of sheep "out standing in their fields" right now.
Here in the photo, one sees a small portion of that flock munching away at the annual forage growth which was slow growing to start with but is now kicking it into "high gear" with the recent rains and warmer temperatures.