East Bay Animal Encounters

We take a look at the wild critters that live out there and where to catch a glimpse of these outdoor but often hidden superstars.


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Ah, the great outdoors. That’s what we’re exploring this issue. But rather than wonderful water sports, eye-popping vistas, awesome hikes, or notable bike loop rides, the focus this year is the critters that live out there and where to catch a glimpse of these outdoor but often-hidden animals.

As an urban nature and animal lover, I thrill over ordinary human-animal encounters, from a mere deer strolling at dusk in Mountain View Cemetery to a portly raccoon on its haunches hissing and bounding off my stairs into the backyard out of dog range. I find the mighty gathering of dive-bombing seagulls who convene around the seventh innning of every Oakland A’s game something to behold. I once counted 34(!) bunnies scampering from brush to bush and back again across trails at Chabot Regional Park at dusk in an hour’s time (zero humans spotted). Just last week, I marveled as a mother skunk and three babies waddled across Keller Avenue and into the cover of overgrown grasses, the mom dropping back repeatedly to hurry the slowpokes. I’ve heard coyotes yipping and then seen them slinking around paddocks, and I’ve witnessed fluffy-tailed foxes dive under benches and dash like cats into nearby thickets out of view. I still long to see a bobcat or mountain lion, though I have seen a jaguatirica in Brazil.

In “Go-To Wildlife Watching,” page 26, the goal was to present a somewhat systemized scheme for where one might encounter local wildlife. Freelancer Sarah Phelan polled naturalists, Ph.D. candidates, and others for their ideas on interesting East Bay wildlife phenomena. She guides outdoors enthusiasts and animal lovers to places where they can, at least in theory, spot newts and tarantulas scurrying and ladybugs and monarch butterflies converging. This creature feature also homes in on nearby spots for seeing nursing harbor seals, roosting night herons, migrating least terns, feeding bats, and nesting barn swallows. A few lucky souls might eye the running grunion or preening prairie falcons.

I’ll be just as content with random snake slitherings, opossum observations, nighttime owl hoots, or locust-like sound of goats chowing down on chaparral and Scotch broom.

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