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If you only knew how many wild critters I’ve run into my whole life, you would gasp in surprise. From the San Joaquin Valley to the foothills of Memory Creek ranch, native critters go a little crazy. My friend Jenny Grant told me years ago (after her close call with a Western Pacific rattlesnake) that rattlesnakes couldn’t be found in Tacoma. Nor, she told me later, any other creepy crawly critter. Just something she called “slugs.” I’m not sure what those are, but she said slugs are critters that love it wet and rainy, and they move mighty slow. Her little brother Gideon’s favorite past time is going after slugs with a salt shaker (since they love to eat Mrs. Grant’s plants). I reckon that’s one way to kill the things. Jenny told me that she once stepped on a slug in the dark. Oozy, gooey, slimy, and slippery. I think I would rather meet a rattlesnake or a tarantula.
What kinds of creepy crawlers live near you? Share if you dare in the comments. Mrs. M will share that (like Jenny) she has stepped on a slug in the dark while going down a path to her parents’ cabin below. One of her worst experiences ever! Eww *shudder* And anybody who eats snails (escargot in French) is just eating a “slug without a shell.”
Enjoy this Friday Photo gallery of 12 wild California critters that Andi has encountered during her life. Note: Every one of these critters has been experienced first-hand by Mrs. M or her family in “Andi” country in California. Most pictures (with the exception of the fire ant) are mine or the Ross ranch’s. Why? Because nobody but nobody hangs around fire ants to snap their pictures.
Andi’s California (wild) Creepy Critters
These are listed from favorite creepy critter to least favorite. Happy Photo Friday!
Blue Belly Lizard
My very favorite! Cory gave me Pickles when I was six years old. I kept him for a long time, until he got too old and finally died peacefully. They are also called fence lizards because they like to sit on top of fence posts and sun themselves. They don’t live long that way. Something will eat them. This beautiful blue belly gives these lizards their name. Only the males, however, have this pretty blue neck.
This is not a blue belly lizard, and I never figured out which kind it is. Probably the kind that the barn cats like to catch and eat. It’s soft with scales that are smooth, like a snake’s. Not hard like a horned lizard or anything. Anyway, it’s mighty hard to keep track of all the different kinds of lizards around here. Mother is always sweeping little lizards off the counters (and they are so fast you can’t catch them). Mr. Foster told the class (after he yelled at Cory to get his lizard outside!) that there are 60 different kinds of lizards in our state. No wonder I can’t keep them all straight.
Mother despises these creatures, but they are gentle giants and totally harmless. It’s fun to collect them up in the foothills during October. This is when the male tarantula comes out of his underground home to look for a female tarantula. I have kept a few tarantulas as pets, but they don’t last long. Mother insists they live in the barn. A town up in the foothills, Coarsegold, celebrates a Tarantula Festival every year!
This king snake is pretty big, way bigger than the little king snakes Cory brings to welcome me back to school. King snakes are the best snake in California! Why? Because they are a mortal enemy of a rattlesnake. They are also friendly and make good pets. Clyde is a small king snake.
Valley Garter Snake
When Cory can’t find a king snake to bring me, he uses a garter snake. These snakes are so colorful–orange, black, yellowish. Cory hid this tiny one in my desk (See it lying on the big snake’s back?) But he held up the big one way past his head. It was heavy, and must have been five feet long and thick!
I’d rather hold a big bullfrog, but Cory and Jack like toads. I . . . not so much. These toads come out in the evenings, especially when it’s wet, up through the gopher holes. One time, Cory and I kept grabbing them as they emerged, and we collected a bucket full. I let him have the whole pail. He took it back to town, and I never asked what he did with them. I did not want to know.
Do you see this bobcat’s short tail? He’s not as big as a mountain lion (not by a long shot), but he’s much bigger than the biggest barn cat. Look at his huge paws! This one went after our ducks one too many times. He got his poor paw caught trying to reach under the duck house and was trapped. Chad was glad, but I cried when he had to be shot.
I don’t like any of the rest of these creepy critters. And you will soon learn why not.
Big Brown Bat
One afternoon, Mitch called us outside. He was holding this gigantic bat in his gloved hands. (Is that a baby bat on the left?) Its wingspan was 18+ inches! Mitch spotted it asleep in the barn’s rafters. Mother told him to put it back. She said these bats are good bats. They eat their weight in bugs every night.
The only good thing about a gopher? Our barn cats will never go hungry. Between field mice and valley gophers, Bella and the other cats find plenty of fresh meat to feed themselves and their kittens. Everyone on the Circle C loves cats, and we can never have too many. Valley gophers are pests.
Mitch found this fellow lurking in the horse barn. He was huge, probably close to 10 inches long. Maybe he’s just a giant blue belly, but nobody picked him up to check his belly. I think he’s too big to be a blue belly. He needs to go away! I see little lizards all the time. One of our cats, Cinderella, loves lizards best. She’s always carrying one around in her mouth.
I thought scorpions lived in the desert, not in our house! Mother finds these tiny things (about 1/2″ long) hiding in piles of clothes. They are sneaky like that. I have been stung by these teensy-weensy scorpions but they don’t hurt any more than a bee sting. And they aren’t poisonous, just annoying.
Western Pacific rattlesnake
Ugh. I despise rattlesnakes. Hearing their rattle sets my heart racing. I know to freeze and then slowly, step by step, back away. Then I run get my brothers. Sometimes they shoot the snake but most often they grab a shovel and chop the head neatly off. Once Mitch brought me a rattle from the largest rattler he ever killed. I have that rattle in my treasure box.
There is one California creepy critter that I despise worse than rattlesnakes. A fire ant is only 1/8 – 1/4 inch long. It bites and stings at the same time, hanging on until it’s pumped you full of venom. The sting and hurts for hours and even for days.
Note: full disclosure. Andi did not experience fire ants. They sneaked into the U.S. in the 1930s and have been spreading ever since. This description comes from the Ross ranch. Kristel hates fire ants so, so much and has been stung multiple times. Good thing she is not allergic, or she could die. “I want to yank my foot off, even three days later,” she says. They are that bad.