Lake Tahoe is extremely privileged to partake in such splendor and ecological diversity. The Steller’s jay and mountain chickadee are just a couple of the more than 300 bird species that reside within Lake Tahoe Basin. Tree squirrels, beavers, raccoons, porcupines, and chipmunks are all common visitors during the summer months, but this entire biome is exploding with unique opportunities to spot extraordinary wildlife all year round. Some of the exquisite mammals you may find in South Lake Tahoe are:
The Black Bear:
The largest of the Sierra Nevada carnivores, there are an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 Black Bears in California. Black Bears can range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common. Typically bears tend to avoid confrontation with humans. If encountered, always allow them an easy escape. Bears can run up to 35 miles per hour, weigh up to 500 pounds and are strong swimmers and climbers. They can eat plants, nuts, roots, honeycomb, insect larvae, small mammals, and berries.
**In the woods, respect the bear’s territory and do not run. Make eye contact quickly, try to make yourself appear as large as possible, stay calm and quiet, back away and be sure to enjoy the experience from a safe distance.
The Mountain Lion:
Also known as cougar, panther, or puma. Their color can range from tan to gray and cubs are usually covered with blackish brown spots. Adults can range from 7 to 8 feet long and can weigh between 65 and 150 pounds. An adult male's home range could be over 100 square miles and females can utilize smaller areas (averaging 20 to 60 square miles). Mountain lion populations in California are estimated to be between 4,000 and 6,000.
**If approached, do your best to appear larger including raising your arms, waving them, speaking loudly, or opening your jacket. If necessary, fight back. Mountain lions typically try to bite the head or neck, so remain standing.
The coyote is often credited as the personification of the wild character of the west. Like wolves and foxes, the coyote is a kind of dog, and its scientific name translates to “barking dog.” The Coyote is a very curious animal and often lives close to human development and civilization. They usually hunt at night for rodents and other small mammals along the Lake Tahoe highways. It is possible for a coyote to hit speeds of 43 mph (69 km/h), and jump over 13 ft (4 m).
Bobcats are primarily nocturnal, and although they are relatively common in the Lake Tahoe area, they know exactly how to stay out of sight. Their sightings are more frequent during the winter when they are scouring for food. Some immature females can commonly be mistaken for large house cats and go unnoticed.
DISCLAIMER: In general, it is unsafe to hike alone. It is best not to feed the wild animals and we do not recommend approaching any wildlife, at any time.
Written By: Emily Hauck