Western Gray Squirrel

Scientific: Sciurus griseus
Spanish: Ardilla gris occidental
Awaswas: Hiré

Diet: Nuts and seeds
Habitat: Woodlands, coniferous forests, suburban greenspaces
Status: Least Concern

Western gray squirrels live in Santa Cruz all year long. They use their long tails for balance as they run and leap among branches. Squirrels store acorns and nuts in shallow holes or caches in the ground but do not always re-find their stores, which can sprout into new trees. They mostly eat seeds and are known to steal from people’s bird feeders, making them a common neighbor for humans. They nest up in trees in “dreys”, which are made out of twigs and lined with moss or fur. Their alarm call sounds like a bird chirp and it is used to warn others of a predator or danger in the area. 

Fun Facts:

  • Squirrels can live up to 8 years old.
  • Their teeth never stop growing – they can grow up to 6 inches per year. Their teeth are never that long though because they are constantly wearing them down when they eat hard seeds. 
  • Squirrels are rodents and belong to the Family Sciuridae.
  • A group of squirrels is called a scurry.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Scientific: Lepus californicus
Spanish: Liebre de cola negra
Awaswas: Cheyyesh

Diet: Grasses, herbs and shrubs
Habitat: Grasslands, chaparral
California Status: Least Concern

Catch Me If You Can
Black-tailed jackrabbits are one of the fastest animals in North America. They run in bursts of up to 30-35 mph and make quick maneuvers to escape predators. They can become agricultural pests if their natural enemies (coyotes, bobcats and eagles) are removed. 

Mountain Lion

Scientific: Puma concolor
Spanish: Puma
Mutsun: Tammala

Diet: Deer, small mammals
Habitat: Forests, mountainous deserts, urban wildland interfaces
California Status: Specially Protected Species

Space to Thrive
Male mountain lions require large areas of connected habitat to find food and survive. Their territories are around 100 square miles, and become threatened as human developments expand. 

How Did the Museum get its specimen?
Our male lion was shot under a California Department of Fish and Game depredation permit in the foothills near Carmel, California in December 1981. These permits are only issued if an animal is repeatedly killing livestock. This lion proved to be old and had an injured foot, probably taking livestock because it was unable to hunt wild prey successfully.

California Quail

Scientific: Callipepla californica
Spanish: Codorniz de California
Mutsun: Heksen

Diet: Seeds, leaves and small insects
Habitat: Coastal sagebrush, chaparral, foothills, woodland
California Status: Least Concern

California’s State Bird
California quail are hardy and adaptable birds found throughout the state. They scratch at the ground foraging for seeds, keeping close to cover in case predators approach. Quail are hunted by Native people for food and for their feathers which can be used to decorate baskets. 

California Kingsnake

Scientific: Lampropletis californiae
Spanish: Serpiente rey de California

Diet: Small mammals, other snakes
Habitat: Forests, woodlands, chaparral, coastal sage scrub
Status: Least Concern

A Royal Snake
Kingsnakes of many colors and patterns can be found throughout the country. The Museum’s resident live snake has a brown and white pattern, typical of kingsnakes from coastal California, and is called “Chocolate Phase”. 

Can you guess how the kingsnake got its name?
Snakes in the genus Lampropletis are called the “kings of snakes” because they eat other snakes. Kingsnakes will eat any kind of snake, including rattlesnakes, whose venom they are resistant to.