Mammals of Lake Tahoe
The following are a few of the mammals found in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Please be sure to keep your dog on a leash so as not to disturb these Lake Tahoe residents.
American Beavers have prospered building their dams and lodges in the many lakes and rivers of the area. American Beavers subsist mostly on the inner bark of cottonwood, aspen, and willows. Gnawed trees and twigs are most often seen rather than the shy American Beaver.
The American Marten is the size of a small domestic cat, but very slender. It is often confused with a weasel. American Martens have a brown back, pale under-belly and a patch of orange at the throat. They are agile climbers and often hunt tree squirrels and birds in branches of trees.
The largest of the the Sierra carnivores, the Black Bear is found in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. There are an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 Black Bears in California. Black Bears range in color from blond to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common color. For more information about Black Bears in the Lake Tahoe Basin visit our web page on Guidelines for Living In and Visiting Bear Habitat.
If any animal can be said to typify the wild character of the west, it certainly would be the Coyote. The Coyote is a very curious animal and often lives close to humans. They usually hunt at night for small rodents. Coyotes are often seen near highways in the Tahoe Basin.
Douglas Squirrel Or Chickaree
One of several species of tree squirrels found in the Basin, the Chickaree has a dark brown back and a bushy dark tail with silvery hair tips. This talkative squirrel is often seen scampering up and down trees searching for choice pine cones.
Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel
Often confused with the chipmunk, the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel has a broad white stripe-bordered back, but is larger than any chipmunk. Also the stripes do not extend up to the cheeks and face as they do on the chipmunk. Its diet is variable, including nuts, seeds, grasses, fruits and carrion. The golden mantle species is the most common and often tamest of the Sierra ground squirrels. They gather in campgrounds and lunch spots, as do chipmunks.
The Sierra Nevada mountain beaver is a rodent that depends upon moist plant growth and plush vegetation along streams and rivers for food in riparian areas and Aspen stands. Mountain beaver is the oldest known living rodent species. They dig out underground burrow systems and use them for cover and movement to access food near the entrance of their burrows. Life spans range from six to seven years. Colonies are typically small and are isolated from other colonies.
The mountain lion is also known as cougar, panther, or puma. Body coloration can range from tan to gray and cubs are usually covered with blackish brown spots. Adult range from 7 to 8 feet long (from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail), and can weigh between 65 and 150 pounds. For more information about Mountain Lions in the Lake Tahoe Basin visit our web page on Guidelines for Living In and Visiting Mountain Lion Habitat.
This species of deer gets its name from unusually large ears which resemble mule ears. The Mule Deer is closely related to the White tailed Deer which is not found in California. Mule Deer are migratory, and the ones in the Lake Tahoe Basin winter in the Carson Valley, about 40 miles to the east. Mule Deer are often sighted in the morning or evening browsing in the meadows behind Baldwin Beach.
The Porcupine is the largest member of the rodent family. When alarmed it turns a way, erects the quills, humps the body, and swings its stout tail. If any quills touch an inquiring dog, wildcat, or person, the barbed tips lodge in the enemy's skin. The Porcupine is active mainly at night, when it feeds on the succulent inner bark of conifers.
Most people are familiar with the Raccoon. The black mask over the eyes combined with its habit of getting into ice chests have given it the reputation of being a camp robber. Raccoons are nocturnal and feed on anything from fruit to bird eggs. It also has a peculiar habit of dunking its food in water before eating.
The Marmot is the largest of the ground squirrel tribe and is often called a "woodchuck" or "groundhog". Its upper back is yellowish brown, and it has a buff-colored under-belly. The Yellow-bellied Marmot dwells at high altitudes and is most often spotted during the summer months sunning itself on rocks. Marmots come out of hibernation in the spring and feed on meadow vegetation.
- Birds of the Lake Tahoe Basin
- Guidelines for Living In and Visiting Bear Habitat
- Guidelines for Living In and Visiting Mountain Lion Habitat
- LTBMU Indicator Species