Striped Skunk

Scientific: Mephitis mephitis
Spanish: Mofeta rayada
Awaswas: Yawi

Diet: Insects, small mammals and birds, eggs, crabs, berries, and nuts
Habitat: Widespread throughout North America, especially mixed woodlands and suburban greenspaces
California Status: Least Concern

Skunks are famous for the powerful, smelly spray that they use to deter predators, but they give warning before spraying and are typically docile. We can thank them for eating insects and rodent pests.

Gray Fox

Scientific: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Spanish: Zorro gris
Awaswas: Yuréh

Diet: Rodents, rabbits, birds, fruit
Habitat: Rocky, wooded, and brushy regions as well as suburban habitats
Status: Least Concern

While gray foxes are common throughout North America, deforestation and urban development have lead to increased competition from red foxes. The grey fox is the only member of the canine family that can climb trees, and they are also known to double back on their own tracks to confuse predators.

Red-tailed Hawk

Scientific: Buteo jamaicensis
Spanish: Halcón de cola roja
Awaswas: Káknu

Diet: Small mammals, song birds, snakes
Habitat: Widespread in many types of habitats, especially open country
California Status: Least Concern

Adapted For Hunting In Different Habitats
There are at least a dozen species in the family Accipitridae that migrate through or reside in the county. They are collectively adapted to every habitat in the region and can often be found anywhere there are high perches available from which to hunt. Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk you will spot in our region and can be easily identified by their red tail.


Scientific: Procyon lotor
Spanish: Mapache
Mutsun: SaSran

Diet: Seeds, nuts, fish, frogs, invertebrates
Habitat: Forests, marshes, urban and suburban areas
Status: Least Concern

Bandits Or Just Well Adapted?

Raccoons are now common in urban areas, attracted to the availability of food found in our gardens, garbage cans, and pet food bowls. These intelligent animals can solve complex problems, which helps them thrive in urban environments.

What features might help racoons succeed in urban areas?


Scientific: Canis latrans
Spanish: Coyote
Awaswas: Mayyán, Wakshes

Diet: Deer, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and sometimes plants
Habitat: Widespread throughout North America
Status: Least Concern

Features in Folklore
Many Native American tribes, especially those in the West, have featured coyote figures in their stories and mythologies. Coyotes are cast as tricksters, warriors or thieves, but many tales take note of their intelligence and adaptability. 

Friend or Foe?
Coyotes often inhabit the wildland urban interface. Over 500,000 coyotes have been killed in California since 1891, mostly under the guise of protecting livestock. However, coyotes may do more good than harm to people by eating other animals that are considered pests.

What are some small mammals that might be the prey of coyotes and harmful to people, farms, and ranchland?

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.

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.