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In Spring, Wildlife Really Gets Wild

Spring brings out some interesting habits in these critters.  

Wildlife in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks has learned to adapt to the unique characteristics of the local wilderness. For these three critters, spring brings out some of the more interesting adaptations found among the many types of species that call this land home.


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From a “bear” to a “tiger”
Painted Tiger Moth, Arachnis picta
Tiger moth caterpillars are often quite hairy, which is why some are referred to as woolly bears. Woolly bears get busy in spring eating weeds and grasses in preparation for their metamorphosis into beautiful tiger moths. The painted tiger moth caterpillar is mostly black with a distinctive black head, and is covered in long bristles. After its transformation, the tiger moth’s wings have dark bands which bear a resemblance to the stripes of a tiger, hence the name.


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A treefrog gets farther from the trees
California Treefrog, Pseudacris cadaverina
If you want to spot a California treefrog on a night hike, look closely at the rocks and boulders along edges of pools of water – just don’t bother looking in the trees. These frogs usually spend most of their time on rocks rather than in trees, but in the spring they go even farther from the trees, into the water. Like all amphibians, California treefrogs lay their eggs in water. Tadpoles hatch from the eggs and undergo metamorphosis to become frogs. Adults are small, only 1 to 2 inches long, and are typically gray or brown with dark blotches allowing them to blend in among the rocks. Mostly active at night, California treefrogs eat insects and spiders.


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The harmless imposter
Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer
Gopher snakes are the most commonly seen snake on the road or trail, especially in spring. When the temperatures rise, these cold-blooded reptiles wander out to soak up the sun, and males are actively searching for a mate. These amazing yet non-venemous snakes are often mistaken for rattlesnakes. When threatened, gopher snakes will flatten their heads, hiss loudly and quickly shake its tail back and forth in dry grass to mimic a rattlesnake. However menacing they may look, gopher snakes are considered harmless to humans. They are light brown with large brown or black rounded blotches along the back.