NEWS

Local wildlife: abundant and active

Scripps Ranch has a canyon environment, which is why coyotes are prevalent.

Local wildlife: abundant and active

Wildlife in Scripps Ranch is abundant. Skunks, squirrels, deer, snakes, opossum, coyotes, lizards and birds, including hawks, migratory song birds, little blue herons, king fishers, coots, mallards and red-winged horned owls, are just some of the many animals that can be found in the area.

A local animal of interest is the coyote. Scripps Ranch has a canyon environment, which is why coyotes are prevalent here. However, because coyotes are “generalists,” meaning they can adapt to a variety of environments with different food sources, they can be found anywhere from urban areas from Los Angeles or San Diego to Wisconsin.

Mary Zanotelli is a Scripps Ranch resident and wildlife educator who spends time observing interactions between different species of local animals and their environment.

“Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, so they are going to eat what’s easy and available,” Zanotelli explained. “If that means berries, they will eat a lot of berries, if that means rabbits, they’re going to eat a lot of rabbits, if that means cats that are left outside to wander, that’s an easy meal for a coyote and it’s not doing it to get revenge on people.”

Zanotelli recommends keeping cats indoors, and not leaving pet food outside.

Coyotes can be seen during the day or night, particularly when they are feeding pups. They mate for life, and have been called “song dogs,” for the excited vocalizations they make when reuniting.

Wild cottontail rabbits are the most common in San Diego, according to Project Wildlife. (photo by John Gregory)

One animal Zanotelli feels Scripps Ranch is particularly fortunate to have is the opossum.

“They (opossum) are the only marsupial to live in North America, and marsupials have a pouch, so they are related to kangaroos and koalas,” Zanotelli said.

She explained that people tend to be afraid of them because of their intimidating teeth (50 of them, more than any other North American land mammal) which they display when they feel threatened. Other defenses include acting sick, and ultimately passing out. Zanotelli explained that they have a reputation for being mean, but they are actually “kind of sweet and dumb.” However, she advises against trying to handle one.

The habitat for wildlife in Scripps Ranch is undergoing constant change, and we may start to see more of some animals and less of others. With some locations under development, Zanotelli predicts residents will begin to see more animals in surrounding areas as the current inhabitants search for new homes, which will likely be in “somebody’s backyard.”

Residents have mentioned to her that they are starting to see more deer, for instance.

Something else that affects local animal populations, although Zanotelli says “it takes a long time to see the effects,” is the introduction of non-native species to the area. Zanotelli said that most of the animals in Scripps Ranch are native, however, there are also animals such as the bull frog and European bee that are not. These animals do not have “specific predators” and, therefore, their numbers continue to increase. In the case of the bullfrog, it is eating native frogs and waterfowl.

A wide variety of lizards can be seen scurrying about Scripps Ranch during the warm seasons. (photo by John Gregory)

There is a lot locals can do in Scripps Ranch to support area wildlife and have safe and enriching experiences with it. Zanotelli recommends planting native plants in your garden. This will attract native birds and native butterflies and bees. It also reduces watering and, therefore, attracts fewer argentine ants, a non-native species of ant. Also, observe animals from a distance.

“All animals have a flight distance. It basically means how close you can get to the animal before it gets nervous,” Zanotelli said. “So, when I see wildlife I keep in mind what this animal’s body language is telling me and I can tell when to stop.”

With this in mind, residents can keep safe and enjoy Scripps Ranch’s beautiful environment and its wildlife.

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