California Wildlife Update

Up where I live in the Oakland hills, there’s lots of wildlife. We encountered quite a few species not seen in the UK.

Just this morning, as I was walking down the path in my yard to catch the Transbay bus, I noticed something strange on the ground. I looked closer, and saw that it was the head, antennae and front legs of a large insect, like a beetle. I was concerned that it might be a cockroach – I’ve not seen any in the wild in the Bay Area, but I did see some in San Diego. Notably, I saw one in the authentic Mexican hole-in-the-wall lunch counter that my colleagues took me to when I first arrived. Tip: tear open the corner of your carnitas burrito to let the grease drain out first.

This insect chunk was lying on its back, so to get a better look for identification I grabbed a twig and flipped it over. Two horrible things happened. One, a little swarm of ants crawled out – I’d interrupted their breakfast. Two, the insects legs waved a little. It was either still alive while the ants burrowed around in its brain, or (preferably) there was some residual nerve spasms going on. Either way, gross. In fact, I was so en-grossed that I nearly missed my bus.

While on the bus I did a bit of google image searching, and I’m pretty confident it was the remains of a large long-horned beetle. Not a cockroach, thank goodness, but something that lives in dead tree stumps, of which there are quite a few near my house.

So here’s the latest tally of wildlife I’ve seen around my place here in California:

SkunkWe had a close encounter with a skunk this year. Often seen as roadkill. Smelt as roadkill before that.
RaccoonI've seen raccoons trotting along up on the trail, usually in the evening. They'll get in your trash if you're not careful. They often end up as roadkill.
Jerusalem CricketThese big weird things are pretty common, especially when the dead leaves build up. I've seen them in the evening when I put the trash out. One was also inside - it went behind the bookcase and is probably still there. I'm not looking.
GopherThere are plenty of these around. You can often see their little burrows. Dogs can often be seen peering intently at a hole for ages.
False Black WidowWe had one of these in the house, and it was pretty scary until I got a close look and realised what it was.
Actual Black Widow SpiderYes, I've seen a couple of these, but not in the house. Just outside the house, nesting in the picnic table.
False TarantulaYep, I'm pretty certain what this was. "Very frequently encountered in the Oakland hills". This was right outside the front door in some leaves.
CoyoteThese are around. They're nasty too - sometimes you hear a group of them making a load of noise up in the hills, and the next day you'll see "Missing Cat" flyers on lampposts.
DeerThese run around the hills, surprise you in the dark, make eye contact, and get hit by cars. There are signs by the road warning about them, which people add red noses to.
GordonLatin name Canis lupus familiaris socutus. This creature terrorizes us every day. Help us.
LizardsVarious lizards. Very thin ones that look like worms, bigger ones that run into the undergrowth.

Nice to know that so much of natures great tapestry is right on our doormat. Or hiding under it.