By Melissa Wynn
Wildlife abounds in our Mountain Valley Living neighborhoods, drawing residents and visitors alike. Whether you prefer a chance encounter while exploring the great outdoors, or a guaranteed close up and personal visit with an exotic creature from another continent, you can find it along the way.
One of our favorite cruises in search of critters takes us through the stunning Indian Valley in Plumas County. Sprawling open meadows attract deer year round. Springtime finds the same meadows sprinkled with Mallard Ducks,in their emerald best, coming to nest. A domesticated herd of majestic bison, silently graze in the pasture against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Nevada. From the common chipmunk sighting to a rare glimpse of a bobcat, a drive or bike ride through Indian Valley offers a new menu of wildlife to view on a daily basis.
Wild horses run free in the sage covered, high Sierra desert. From Eastern Lassen County into Northwestern Nevada, mustang stallions battle over harems of mares. This same piece of the grand Great Basin offers opportunities to view the unique Pronghorn, the second fastest land animal on earth. If you are looking for something a little bit more authentic than a visit to the pet shot with one cockatiel cage, this is the place for you. Animal Ark near Reno, at 1265 Deerlodge Rd, houses the fastest land animal, the sleek cheetah, among many other exotic animals. Birds to bunnies, coyotes to crickets, a few days in this neighborhood puts the wild in your wildlife adventure.
The beasts of Butte County comprise a beautiful bounty. Several wildlife areas dot this neck of the woods at varied elevations, offering a wide variety of species to observe. Townsend’s big-eared bats, snowshoe hares, bears and long-eared owls are a few of our furred and feathered friends that call the area home. Badgers and porcupines, woodpeckers and warblers all wander these vast areas set aside for them to thrive. If you fancy fishing or photographing the Sierra Nevada Red Fox, wind your way through these wild regions. No animal adventure in Butte County would be complete without a visit to the Barry Kirchner Wildlife Foundation at 4995 Durham-Pentz Rd. This merciful refuge for animals from around the globe is home to a wide variety of exotic species, that for various reasons, cannot be returned to the wild. Leopards, lions, lemurs and lynx are a small portion of the long list of animal orphans living it up at this lovely sanctuary.
Shasta and Tehama Counties
By definition wildlife defies boundaries. So, it’s not surprising that two of our top spots to kick it with the critters overlap Shasta and Tehama Counties. Like the name implies, Mouth of Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area is located east of the town of Cottonwood at the confluence of Cottonwood Creek and the Sacramento River. Beavers are hard at work, building dams and digging out ponds where the river otters love to play and bald eagles fish for their supper. Rambunctious ringtails, also known as miner’s cats, also call this fascinating piece of the foothills home.
Just up the road in the Battle Creek Wildlife Area a springtime nursery draws birdwatchers from around the globe. Not only do the acrobatic bald eagles and osprey nest here, so do the fascinating wood ducks. These beautifully ornate paddlers of the pond nest in trees, unlike most of their ground dwelling cousins. When the ducklings hatch, they jump from their cozy tree cavity home from heights sometimes over 50 feet high. These light-weight, down covered skydivers plop to the ground, assisted only by the call of mother’s quack, and waddle to the water for their first swim. This stop is a must, and is just about 16 miles north of Red Bluff and 1-mile west of the Coleman Fish Hatchery. Learn about the beginnings of the food chain that brings all these creatures together with a visit to the hatchery on your way.
Redding to Reno, Chico to Chester, we share our mountain and valley homes with seemingly endless members of the animal kingdom. Come drive, hike or bike your way through Mountain Valley Living country, how many will you see?