CALIFORNIA WILDLIFE BREEDING SEASON
Spring is characterized by warmer weather, more abundant foliage and plant life and this time of year usually brings a new generation of wildlife. Animals have adapted to nest and breed in the Spring time because there is more food, and the young are already vulnerable. If you have been exploring outdoors recently, you may have noticed that California’s wildlife areas have already started buzzing with the sounds of new birds, mammals, and insects. Here are a few animals that you may find around our local ecosystems that are currently nesting, or will soon begin the breeding process.
Brown Pelicans (adult and juvenile)
Brown Pelicans are a local species of pelican that is slowly recovering from a large population decrease. Years ago, the birds were affected by DDT, a pesticide that causes eggs to be brittle and break very easily. Since the 1970’s DDT use has been almost eliminated and the affected species have bounced back in numbers. The only known breeding colonies for Brown Pelicans in the Western U.S. are Anacapa Island and Santa Barbara Island. The breeding season can last from January through October. Both parents play a role in nesting and taking care of the chicks. The male chooses a nest site and brings the female supplies to build it. Being large birds, the nest has to be big enough to allow both parents to sit inside. this can mean a nest up to 30 inches wide!
The Southern Alligator Lizard is another species that will begin breeding this Spring. Alligator lizards are a common species in California. You may have seen them in grasslands, chaparral, or open forest. They also like to hide under rocks, and in brushy urban areas. Alligator lizards have a round elongated body, a long tail (almost twice the length of their body), and short legs. They are also good swimmers, and can escape from predators by getting into water. These lizards will mate in late Spring and the eggs will hatch in early Summer. Baby alligator lizards hatch from the eggs fully formed and almost entirely independent.
Coyotes are another local animal that is in the midst of breeding season. From January to March, coyotes are ready to expand their packs with new pups. Generally having a 60-day gestation, coyote pups will be born from March to May in carefully selected dens. Both parents take care of the pups, and other breeding females from the pack will also nurse each others’ young. Coyotes are carnivores, usually feeding on squirrels, gophers and other small prey, but during breeding season they are more voracious hunters. This is the time of year when it is wise to bring your cats and small dogs indoors. Urban carnivores are more likely to go after pets during breeding season because they have to sustain themselves as well as their young. Coyote pups wean after about a month of nursing, and after that they are fed regurgitated food from both parents.
All of these animals play vital roles in their respective ecosystems. During breeding season it is best to leave wildlife alone. Animals, especially mammals are much more protective if their young are nearby. It is also best to steer clear of nests and dens of any animal because it could be their only refuge from predators.
California Alligator Lizard. California Herps. http://www.californiaherps.com/lizards/pages/e.m.multicarinata.html (Accessed March 10, 2014)
California Brown Pelican. National Parks Service. http://www.nps.gov/chis/naturescience/brown-pelican.htm (Accessed March 10, 2014)
Coyote. National Geographic. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/coyote/ (Accessed March 11, 2014)