Canyon creatures in the dark…

Coyotes in Tecolote Canyon

By Tina Rysedorph

It’s that time of year when many of us start thinking about spooky thingsand spooky creatures are often at the top of the list.  Things like snakes and spiders and those that sleep during the day and come out at night!

Creatures that are active in the dark may seem scary, but just like the snakes and poison oak discussed in previous TCIG articles, they are an essential part of our ecosystem.

What kinds of critters do you think are nocturnal (or crepuscular – active during twilight hours) in San Diego?  You have probably heard at least a few, even if you haven’t seen them!  Have you heard a coyote’s eerie howl or an owl’s soft hoot?  Apex predators like coyotes and great horned owls are usually active in our canyons from dusk until dawn, although coyotes are sometimes out and about in the daytime as well.  Another very cool canyon predator active at night is the bobcat.  All that may sound scary, but these predators help us by controlling populations of smaller animals such as rodents, and almost never pose a threat to people.

Other canyon creatures that like the dark are bats, barn owls, foxes, insects such as crickets and moths, raccoons, opossums, skunks, woodrats, certain kinds of spiders and some snakes on warm evenings.

main_image_great-horned-owl-150x150As they move around our canyons (and sometimes backyards) these critters may cause a few problems, such as overturned trash bins and a stinky predicament for our canine friends, but most of the time they are not doing us any harm and are often beneficial.  Predators control populations of smaller animals.  Bats may eat thousands of insects in one night.  Moths are important pollinators.  We really could not get along without them.

So go ahead and enjoy this spooky season, but don’t creep yourself out too much when thinking about those canyon creatures – because they’re not nighttime monsters, they’re nocturnal heroes!

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