Species in Big Sur

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Greg Stephens
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Joined: September 8th, 2010, 3:24 am
Location: Indiana

Species in Big Sur

Post by Greg Stephens » March 19th, 2018, 6:10 am

Hey everyone, I will be on a family vacation in San Fransico in June. We are going to be heading down to Big Sur for a day to visit Pfeiffer State Park. I am interested in photographing any species as most will be lifers. I was wondering what all is commonly found there. I also was wondering if the crotes are common there, I will have my small children with me and they love herping but I am a little worried about them staying on trail. I appreciate any info on what might be active that time of year. I also will be hitting some areas in the San Fran area and was wondering if it would be worth while to do any night driving there that time of year or would it be a waste of time. We are renting a car so I plan to go out some and try if it might be worth it. I have interest in all herptefauna and I do not collect anything just out to get some pics and mark of the life list.
Thanks!
Greg

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Jimi » March 19th, 2018, 2:23 pm

Hi Greg,

I'm gonna let the locals help with detailed species & site info if they see fit. But seeing how you're from Indiana and looking at your questions I thought possibly a little background or contextual info could he helpful.

First, the ecological or bio-physical gradients in the Bay Area are really steep. Changes in aspect (N- or S-facing etc), elevation, exposure to prevailing winds, exposure to the ocean, and soils & geology exert strong effects on the biota. So for example you asked about rattlesnakes. Close to the beach, in cool moist pine or redwood forests, and at low elevations you could hardly buy a rattlesnake. But go up hill above the fog belt, or inland away from any salt water, and especially get out from under dense tree cover and you can have all the rattlesnakes you want! Particularly on warmer (S- & W-facing) slopes.

Second, your kids face worse hassles & hazards than rattlesnakes: ticks, poison oak, and the ocean come to mind. Definitely learn to recognize poison oak, definitely treat their clothes beforehand with permethrin, definitely put some DEET on their skin, and be super vigilant around the ocean (especially where the sand slopes steeply toward the water and there are waves breaking right there).

Third, SF can be shocking to first-time visitors. The homeless situation is appalling, and parking absolutely sucks. You probably already know this, but...heads up. Ha ha ha.

Good luck. You ought to be able to see some good stuff, especially if it doesn't dry out and get hot too early this spring. June is pretty prime!

cheers

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Brian Hubbs
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Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Brian Hubbs » March 19th, 2018, 4:18 pm

The best way to avoid the ticks is to stay out of brushy chaparral terrain. You will see the bushes as you drive along the crest of the hills or along the coast. Those are tick infested nightmares. So is the grass, but not as bad as the brush. I have no idea what you might see at Big Sur...so I won't be any help there. I mean, I know some species that live there, but I've never been there to look...You will probably see far more herps by just stopping along the coast south of San Fran and walking around a marsh...

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jonathan
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Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by jonathan » March 19th, 2018, 8:48 pm

If I remember right, the direct area of the park itself that people usually visit is nice redwood forest. That coastal redwood forest stays moist enough that even in June, it's possible to flip Monterey Ensatina and Santa Lucia Mountains Slender Salamanders if you find the right pockets of moisture.

There would be Coast Range Newts in the river, I'm not sure how far upriver you would have to go to find them.

Lizards and snakes are around in the habitat edges of forest as well as chapparel. I think I've seen Coast Range Garter Snake, Pacific Gopher Snake, Monterey Ring-necked Snake, Coast Range Fence Lizard, San Francisco Alligator Lizard and/or California Alligator Lizard, and Western Skink in Big Sur. I would guess Yellow-bellied Racers, Striped Racers, and Diablo Garter Snakes should be around too and yes, Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes as well, but I haven't seen them.

If you do get into those open areas, poison oak can be bad. And like Hubbs said there are ticks there too - I've gotten them.

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Fieldherper
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Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Fieldherper » March 20th, 2018, 1:52 am

Big Sur is awesome, but can be challenging to herp. Most of the area is characterized by steep inclines and tough hiking. In June, it can be cool and foggy on the coast, but will likely be much warmer inland. In general, the redwoods and darker forests are lower in herp diversity. Chaparral, grassland, and pine/oak woodland will have more herps. Crotalus are common in the Santa Lucia range and can be found down to the beach, but are much more common inland.

In general, the snakes that can be found in the Western Santa Lucia range are: gopher snakes, ringneck, coast garters, 2-striped garters, diablo garters, CA red-sided garters, sharptail snakes, CA kingsnakes, mountain kingnsakes, western racers, striped whip snakes, rubber boas, night snakes, and longnose snakes. Some of the mentioned snakes are very hard to find or have limited ranges in the area (mountain king, rubber boa, longnose, night snake).

Lizards should be abundant. Southern alligator lizards, fence lizards, western skinks are common everywhere. Whiptails and horned lizards will be in open sunny areas and more common inland in chaparral habitats.

Your best bet is to hike in the morning and late afternoon near water. There are other parks in the area that you can check out as well. Andrew Molera State Park is great and has miles of easier trails though open habitat.

Have fun,

FH

Greg Stephens
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Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Greg Stephens » March 20th, 2018, 7:37 am

Thanks for all the info. I was not aware of the amount of ticks and such. I plan on being careful with the kids when we go out. They will mostly be with my wife and inlaws during the week doing things with my wifes friend there in San Fran. I am not a city person and plan on getting away at any opportunity at some of the green areas there in the city. I also had a question I forgot to ask before. The motel we are staying in on the water and I plan to bring a travel rod and get a short term license to do some fishing. I have fished the ocean in FL quite a few times and plan on trying to get some bait to try catch some fish. What might be present that time of year? Any certain artificial baits I need to bring? I plan on bringing some jerkbaits and jigs in case I can not find some place close for bait. I don't expect much but would like to get a few new species to catch in the evening before I head out to night drive. One day I will open to concentrate on herping the bay area and plan on hitting some wetland/marsh areas that a buddy of mine has found the san fran garters. I will be excited to do get a little over there and hopefully photograph some cool herps as I do not travel that way very often. I will be doing a serious herp trip to California one of these years. I cant wait to go! I really appreciate the info!

Zach_Lim
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Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Zach_Lim » March 20th, 2018, 8:42 am

Greg Stephens wrote:Thanks for all the info. I was not aware of the amount of ticks and such. I plan on being careful with the kids when we go out. They will mostly be with my wife and inlaws during the week doing things with my wifes friend there in San Fran. I am not a city person and plan on getting away at any opportunity at some of the green areas there in the city. I also had a question I forgot to ask before. The motel we are staying in on the water and I plan to bring a travel rod and get a short term license to do some fishing. I have fished the ocean in FL quite a few times and plan on trying to get some bait to try catch some fish. What might be present that time of year? Any certain artificial baits I need to bring? I plan on bringing some jerkbaits and jigs in case I can not find some place close for bait. I don't expect much but would like to get a few new species to catch in the evening before I head out to night drive. One day I will open to concentrate on herping the bay area and plan on hitting some wetland/marsh areas that a buddy of mine has found the san fran garters. I will be excited to do get a little over there and hopefully photograph some cool herps as I do not travel that way very often. I will be doing a serious herp trip to California one of these years. I cant wait to go! I really appreciate the info!
Re: Fishing

Staying by the water in SF? The Bay portion or the ocean portion?

You do not need a license to fish off any man-made structure, such as a pier. Take regulations do apply. Grab yourself some smaller hooks and bait them with shrimp, pile worms, Berkeley Gulp Worms (plastic pile worms), pieces of fish, or squid and you will get something. Surfperch may be running at that time on the ocean side of things, plenty of sharks and skates in the Bay side. Rock fish such as any of the Sebastes species, Cabezon, as well as Lingcod will be out on the ocean side by rock structures.

Any of the rockfish species mentioned above can be caught using swim baits- just throw on a jighead on a rubber swim bait, or, my favorite method, using squid or live anchovies.

For surfperch, I would use a sinking slider rig with sand crabs dug up at the beach or plastic gulp worms. Cast fairly close to shore and slowly reel in. Should land some big ones. You will need a license to fish at the ocean/anywhere not off a man made structure.

Re: Herping

The SF Bay Area can be both great and harsh in the Summer time. If the current wet weather keeps up, activity may be extended. Good call on walking around ponds/bodies of water at that time. Garters will be out.

If the weather turns out to be scorching hot in the day time, try evening walks on hiking trails. Snakes will wait till later on in the evening to come out. I've seen almost all our local snakes that way.

Re: Ticks

Stay out of the tall grass and brush, as Hubbs said. If you are going to be around bodies of water, I would advise not to spray down with any insecticide, for fear of it leeching into the water and harming amphibians, etc.

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Jimi » March 20th, 2018, 12:15 pm

Well, most others have counseled just avoiding the grass and brush to avoid the ticks. Perhaps I'm funny. But I have had a career where staying out of the grass and brush was simply not an option. So I say, just treat your clothes with permethrin and jump on in - and why not? That's where the squamates are. Besides, behavioral avoidance is not adequate as a standalone tactic - you'd still get ticks anyway. Once the permethrin has dried it's perfectly safe for you and other vertebrates, AND you will get zero ticks. Go with active countermeasures, and behave as you like - not as the bugs dictate. Screw the bugs, herp it hard! Just watch out for the rattlesnakes, ha ha. You'll see some.

Greg Stephens
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Joined: September 8th, 2010, 3:24 am
Location: Indiana

Re: Species in Big Sur

Post by Greg Stephens » March 26th, 2018, 7:43 am

Thanks again everyone! I have been away for a few days so just now getting back in to things here. I appreciate the info and cant wait to get out some place different!

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