Mammals living in Ventura County's coastal region

Photo by Dcrjsr

Desert Cottontail

Also known as Audubon’s Cottontail, this species is a common resident of the RVCT. They are typically range from tan to grey in color and sport their namesake white tail. Females of this species are typically larger than males. They are fond of arid regions and occupy sage scrub, oak woodland and grassland on the RVCT. They are herbivorous and feed on a wide variety of grasses and plants. They are solitary and when not feeding they typically will retreat to holes, brambles or thickets. They are less fecund than other members of the genus with gestation taking and average of 28 days with litters made up on an average of 3 pups, a weaning age of 21 to 28 days.

Brush Rabbit

The Brush rabbit is highly abundant at the RVCT. They almost exclusively occupy dense sage scrub habitat, but will be occasionally be found in oak forest as well. Their coats can be various colors ranging from tan to brown to grey and always with a white underbelly. They are distinguishable from the desert cottontail by their smaller ears. As with other rabbits, they are known for their high reproduction rate and typical gestation rate for females is only around 22-27 days producing 2-6 offspring producing 3-4 litters per year. They are herbivores and browse on many types of grasses, berries, and other vegetation. They are crepuscular and emerge from sage scrub in the mornings and evenings to feed.


Black Bear

Black bears are occasional guests at the RVCT. Several individuals have been filmed on trail cams foraging and bathing in water troughs. Bears have been sighted during personal encounters on multiple occasons. The Trust lies in the Ventura Foothills at the southwestern foot connected to the Transverse Ranges. Bears will visit through a regional wildlife corridor which connects with the Los Padres National Forest.  These bears are part of the State’s Southwestern Sub-Population that exists primarily in the hills and mountains down to San Diego County. Black Bears were not originally native to Southern California but filled the ecological niche of the California Grizzly Bear when it was eradicated in Southern California in the early 1900’s. Black bears began appearing in Ventura County in the 1930’s after migration from the Central coast and supplementation of this population by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife from the Yosemite Area in the early 1930’s.

The appearance of these bears can range from black to light tan in color despite their namesake. They are the smallest bears found in North America with individuals ranging in height between 4-7ft and weighing in at 100-200 pounds for females and males at 150-300 lbs.; occasionally Black bears can be as large as 600lbs.

The Black bears live in a large variety of habitat types, including all found on the RVCT, however, they are primarily found in areas that forested areas with a large amount of cover and food sources. Black bears are omnivorous foragers however their food sources are mainly plant-based with 95% consisting of some combination of grasses, nuts, berries, seeds, roots, herbs etc. Occasionally, black bears will eat non- plants including insects, small mammals, fish, young deer, domesticated animals and carrion.


Coyotes are commonly seen residents on the RVCT. They are frequently sighted in all areas and habitat types travelling both in packs and solo. These small canids are abundant in the Ventura Hillsides Area and are known as cunning and versatile hunters. Coyotes are comparable to the size of medium sized dogs with females ranging from 15-40 lb and males from 18-44 lbs. Their coats very in color and can range from grey to reddish to brown or a combination. The food sources of coyotes vary, but they usually occupy the niche of carnivorous predator with 90% or more of their diet being made up of some type of meat. Their main prey consists of, rodents such as rabbits, ground squirrels, rats and mice, birds, amphibians, lizards, insects and sometimes deer.

Coyotes are monogamous and mate for life. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and thrive in both wild and urban settings. Coyotes can run at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. Coyotes will form mutualistic hunting cooperation with badgers to dig up rodent prey. Coyotes range from the Very north part of Alaska to Panama. Coyotes are prominently featured in Native American folklore including in the local Chumash legends. Coyotes very often have a home “den” that is used for shelter rearing pups, sleeping and defense from other animals and other coyotes.

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lions, also known as cougars and Pumas, are the apex predators at the RVCT. They are occasionally seen and photographed by trail cams. Access to of wildlife corridors connect the Trust all the way to the Los Padres National Forest. This provides a way for the lions to travel unimpeded between wilderness and makes it likely that the RVCT is made up of one or more of their home territories.

Mountain lions are largest native cats in north America and 4th largest big cats in the world. They can reach sizes of just over 2- 3 ft tall and 5-9 feet long from nose to tail. Their color is generally tannish with lighter areas on the undersides of the body. These animals, are evolved for power, speed, athleticism and stealth. The cats can perform impressive physical feats including being able to sprint at speeds of 40-50 miles per hour, leap 18ft vertically and 40-45 feet horizontally.

Cougars are exclusively carnivorous and pursue both small and large game. Its most important food source are Ungulates, such as Deer at the RVCT, but it will also take smaller game such as rabbits, coyotes , other rodents and insects. It usually stalks and takes prey by ambush taking them from behind with a bite to the neck. It is estimated that they will take a one a deer every 10-14 days which plays a vital role in population control.


Bobcats are the second species of wild cat that is found at the RVCT. They are occasionally spotted in the mornings and evenings but are difficult to spot due to their recluse nature. Because they frequent the same route, they are easiest to photograph on trail cams. They prefer to stay around woodland areas where they can easily climb as an escape route, but can be found in other areas with cover or a good vantage point where it can keep an eye out for prey.

They are significantly smaller than the mountain lion and belong to the Lynx family. Bobcats grow to a length of 18.7 to 49.2 inches long from head to tail, averaging 32.6 inches long. Their color varies greatly with some individuals being tan to light- orange to grey-brown and most commonly feature a speckled pattern with black tipped pointed ears. Their namesake is based on their unique tail, which is short and “bobbed.”

Bobcats are excellent hunters that are primarily active during the night. Like other cats they are very stealthy and quick and will take advantage of prey when the opportunity presents itself. They are exclusively carnivorous and feed mostly on small game such as rodents, (gophers, rabbits and mice), insects, birds, skunks and will sometimes take small deer. When larger prey are taken, bobcats will bury their kill under dirt or leaves and return to feed later.

Bobcats are solitary and guard a home territory from 1-18 miles in size with an average population density of 5 miles per cat depending on the availability of food. Males tend to have larger territories and overlap 2-3 female home ranges.

California Mule Deer

The California Mule Deer is a subspecies of Mule deer and is the largest resident herbivore at the Rancho Ventura Conservation Trust. The deer range in size with does ranging from 95-200 pounds and bucks to 120-330 pounds. Its physical characteristics include: large ears like those of a mule, which gives it its namesake, eyes on the side of their head which give them a 310 degree view, a grey-brown coat that provides camouflage and males having an antler rack just over half a year. Mule deer, unlike other deer are known to move with a bounding gate called “stotting,” which, is thought to be this species way of moving around over impeding obstacles such as vegetation and agilely ascending over steep terrain to avoid predators.

This subspecies exists from the western edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains westward to the Central Coast of California Southward to the Los Angeles Basin. These deer prefer hillside terrain and shady areas, such as oak and riparian areas. Deer in hot climates such as Southern California will stick close to water sources and rest in the afternoon and become active and forage in the evening and the mornings. The diet of deer consists of high quality nutrient dense plant items including plant leaves, shoots, forbs, grasses and flower buds. Mule deer have several natural predators including, coyotes, mountain lions and sometimes bobcats.


These intelligent animals are present at the RVCT but are seldom seen because they are nocturnal. Raccoons are known for their extreme adaptability, dexterous hands and memory and problem-solving ability. They are one of the most consistently omnivorous animals in the world with diets generally consisting of small vertebrates and invertebrates more so in the winter and spring with plants becoming slightly more prevalent in the summer and fall; however, this will vary regionally. Raccoon’s preferred habitat wooded areas near a water source. When in danger where they can quickly climb trees to escape danger. These animals will general avoid open areas as they are preyed upon by bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions, but will enter all habitat types and readily visit urban areas when in search of food.