While there are many creatures on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks that could be considered spooky, wildlife including reptiles, arachnids, and birds of prey are an important part of the ecosystem – and oftentimes they’re more afraid of humans than we are of them! The open spaces are home to many rare and native species, and the fall season offers an ideal opportunity to enjoy the local lands and possibly spot a not-so-scary creature on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
First and foremost, it’s important for visitors to understand that the open spaces are a natural habitat and should be treated with reverence. Long distance viewing of plants and wildlife isn’t just a safety precaution: it’s meant to protect the environment and those enjoying the trails. During the fall season, visitors to the lands have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of fantastic wildlife, including tarantulas during their mating season, snakes sunbathing on trails or an owl looking for its next meal.
Orange County is home to a variety of different snake species including the California Kingsnake, Pacific Gopher Snake, Coachwhip, Racer, Red Diamondback Rattlesnake and the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. The number one rule when encountering a snake in its natural habitat is to leave it alone, and they will return the favor. While out on a trail, it’s important to scan the trail in front of you and to stay on the designated path, so you don’t startle a snake. These animals pose minimal threat to humans and are an important part of local ecosystems, so they deserve our respect and protection.
Another resident of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy is the Barn Owl. Although owls are mysterious creatures that mostly come out at night, they are actually competent predators helping to maintain a balance in nature by controlling rodent and insect populations. Barn Owls can live in various kinds of habitats and often nest in tree cavities, caves and buildings. Known for its ghostly appearance, silent flight and rasping shrieks, the Barn Owl is beneficial to the Orange County habitat. Although these birds are mostly nocturnal, it’s not uncommon for them to come out during the day. Keep a look out and try to spot one on you next adventure!
While much of this wildlife can be categorized as “creepy critters” they’re a beautiful part of nature that’s integral to the natural habitat of the Landmarks. To enjoy the beauty of the open spaces and for an opportunity to spot these not-so-scary creatures on the lands click the programs below.
- Twilight Hike in the Canyons on Tuesday, October 30 from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. gives fitness enthusiasts a chance to unwind at the end of the day. Hikers will enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding canyons and sunset during this 3 mile hike. Keep your eyes open for local wildlife starting their nightly routines.
- Wilderness Access Day: Black Star Canyon on November 3 from 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. offers pleasant introductory trails for beginner-level hikers and challenging experiences for seasoned trail users. Bring the whole family to explore local plant communities and beautiful scenery in easy 30-minute walks or take in 7+ miles in a strong cardio trek.
- Spiders - All Natural Bug Zappers on Friday, November 9 from 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the habits, homes and dangers of spider life and meet some of the eight-legged residents of the Landmarks. See just how creative spiders can be when it comes to capturing those pesky flying insects and bugs that creep and crawl.
Most guided programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are free and open to the public with required pre-registration. Visitors must register for activities by
4 p.m. the day before the event. For more details on programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and to celebrate the homes the Open Space provides for local wilderness to live and thrive visit LetsGoOutside.org for more information.