Sunday, December 2, 2012

Carrizo Plain: would you like pronghorn with that?

Wanted to see the Carrizo Plain,
a super dry, somewhat elevated (2,000 feet-ish)
landscape that is home to the San Joaquin kit fox
(a species I've surveyed for many times w/o ever seeing)
and lots of other listed species.

It's a storied place, especially if you're a biologist in California.
Just mention that giant grassland, and a biologist's brain says

Had no ambitions to see any specific wildlife or vegetation,
tho' we did plan a stop to check out the San Andreas fault.

So what are those creatures in the above photograph?

And we drove right by them.
Then Bear said "do you want to go back to see them?"
"Yes, and there was a sign for a bathroom back there."
"But it's 1.5 miles away."
"We're 30 miles from anything else!"

bb had to go (pardon).
And this landscape has SHORT short grass,
and is totally flat. NO cover.
Challenging even for an experienced (tho' bashful) field chick like me.

Here was the sign that made my heart go pitter pat:

See? The squirrel backed me up: "I'm 50 miles from nowhere."
Normally I'd be psyched about the kitfox reference,
but I was temporarily obsessed.

This cute little store was so isolated,
the dingdongs were still $1. Sold.

And the lady behind the counter was very happy
to chat about gardening, etc.
I think they don't get many customers.
Took a while to leave. =)

So, upon our return to the main road, we saw this:

pronghorn chewin' & chillin'

They'd moved MUCH closer to the road during our detour.
It's only the 3rd (or so) time I've seen them.
The first time in California.

Sooo coool!

Buns I'd happily gaze at.

Pardon the barbed wire; I didn't want to scare them off
by jumping out of my car to get above the fence line.

The lady at the store said that the farmers are fine with the pronghorn,
just plant extra wheat, and there's water at the wheat fields,
so the pronghorn hang out there.
All the time. =)
Good gig.

And if you are a spectacular running machine,
it's okay to live in a place with NO cover.
You can virtually outrun ANYTHING,
given a few steps to gather up speed.

For more on that, I highly recommend
Why We Run, by Bernd Heinrich.

It investigates why humans run,
whether they're built for it (v. just walking),
and devotes an entire chapter to
the spectacular endurance machine that is the pronghorn.

And whether or not Homo sapiens
could actually run that creature down.

Fascinating stuff.

And just one of the many exciting things the Carrizo Plain houses.
Glad we went. Gotta go back.



  1. Pronghorns have the strangest shape to their body. Perhaps it has something to do with the size and orientation of runner-sized lungs in there.

  2. I do seem to recall Mr. Heinrich saying something along the lines of those animals are basically giant lungs on sticks. =)

  3. I did not know you have those in California. We see them all the time on our travels out west, but didn't realize they were neat.
    And I'm LOVING your new header photo!!

  4. Love these guys! For some reason when they look at me straight on I think of Avatar.

  5. So fantastic! What a great sighting! And I love the rump shot!

  6. Awesome, I'll be back on the Carrizo in the near future, I love it out there. Congrats on 800 by the way!


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