Throughout the Mission Creek Watershed you can find many urban
animals that use the creek for water. Wild mammals have
changed throughout the history of Mission Creek, but many of
the smaller mammals like shrews, voles, moles, and gophers
were around before settlers came to this area.
Raccoon (Procryon lotor)
Gopher (Thomomys bottae)
Family Sciuridae (squirrels)
California ground squirrel
gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
squirrel (Sciurus niger)
The raccoon has a black
mask over its eyes and a bushy tail with 4-10 black rings. Ears
are large and rounded with prominent whiskers. Fur is gray, brown,
reddish with lots of black tipped hairs. The nose is black. Its
forepaws resemble slender human hands with 5 toes. The raccoon is
omnivorous and feeds on crayfish in the creek as well as
blackberries. Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, active dusk to
dawn. During the day they find protected areas and are hard to
find. Their forepaws are very dexterous and can open doors, latches
and garbage cans.
with long, stiff guard hairs on the dorsal side. Opossum is
approximately 60 -100 cm long. Wooly fur on its belly side. It has
a sharp muzzle with 50 teeth. The tail is long, round, without
hair. Ears are large and rounded and without hair. They are
omnivores feeding on mainly small mammals, insects, worms, small
reptiles, fish, crayfish, and eggs. The female’s pouch has 9 -17
nipples to feed its young. Babies must crawl 5 cm to get to its
mothers pouch after only 13 days gestation.
Long claws on the forefeet and heavy shoulder
muscles make gophers superb diggers. They carry food in fur-lined
pouches on either side of their mouth. A furry membrane behind the
incisors keeps dirt out of the mouth while the gopher is digging.
The earth mounds that are pushed out during the gophers’ search for
food have a distinct earthen plug at the center or the side.
Gophers plow the land and bring tons of soil to the surface each
year, stimulating plants to grow larger and healthier. Pocket
gophers are solitary except during the breeding season and usually
expel intruders from their burrow system. However, abandoned
gopher burrows often provide essential refuge for a variety of other
animals. Gophers are prey for hawks, owls, fox, cats and snakes.
The tail of
the ground squirrel is shorter and less bushy than the tree
squirrels. As its name implies, it likes to remain on the ground,
but is also a good climber. It stores great amounts of food in its
burrow. It stays closes to their burrows and sits up on their
haunches to see over the area. It is noted for sounding an alarm on
top of its burrow to warn other squirrels. Its alarm is a loud
chirp at regular intervals.
Eastern Gray squirrel
This squirrel has fairly
large, rounded, erect ears. Its tail is long, flattened, and
bushy. It has internal cheek pockets and 20 teeth. They are
gray to brownish gray with a reddish-brown highlight. Under
part is gray or buff. Mainly eats seeds, but known to eat berries,
fungus, bark, sap, and insects. Lives in hollow trees or
nests. It is an excellent climber but spends as much time
foraging on the ground. As most squirrels, it uses its tail to
help balance as it travels on tree limbs.
This squirrel is a medium-sized tree squirrel, rusty to reddish gray
across back. It has 3 main color phases including rusty, gray and
black. It is the largest of the North American tree squirrels. It
weighs 1.6 -2.4 pounds and eats acorns, walnuts, and other types of
seeds. Its foreprint has 4 toes while the hindprint has 5 toes.
This squirrel is diurnal, but not as agile in the trees as the
western gray squirrel. Their lifespan is 6 -10 years.