Meadow vole  (Microtus californicus)

Jason Bonham, Horticulturist

The Garden’s 34 acres is not only a phenomenal collection of plants, but also a rich habitat for amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. As a horticulturist for the Garden I have been able to observe some amazing creatures like the California newt (Taricha torosa). In the winter they breed in the Japanese Pool but during the rest of the year they spend their time in Strawberry Canyon and the Garden. Where I encounter them most often is in abandoned meadow vole (Microtus californicus) tunnels. These tunnels are found throughout the collection as are the destructive little creatures.

The Garden isn’t short on predators either. The Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans) is common in the garden. It is one of the only animals that can eat California newts without succumbing to their deadly neurotoxin. Ring-necked snakes (Diadophis punctatus) are found from time to time when overturning rocks or logs. When they feel threatened they curl their tails like a cork screw to expose a vibrantly colored underbelly. Pacific chorus (tree) frogs (Pseudacris regilla) breed in many of the Garden’s water features like the Herb Garden pool. Their colors vary from brown to green and everything in between. They can’t change their color but they can change from dark to light very quickly.

Garden Horticulturists with chickens

If you’re having a picnic in the Garden don’t be surprised to find a Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) watching nearby. These inquisitive birds eat everything from insects, seeds, and berries, to human handouts and even young birds. The one featured in the photo decided to go foraging in the office and got stuck inside until rescued for release outdoors.

The last animal I would like to highlight is the chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus). Yes, the chicken … let me explain: One day while a group of us was eating lunch in the Redwood Grove three young chickens walked out of the redwoods and entered the amphitheater. This situation was already odd given that there are no homes or farms nearby but then they proceeded to hop on my lap and share my lunch. Eventually, we scooped up the birds and a staff member took them home. The Garden is a great place to see some amazing (and some not so amazing) flora and fauna. Please come and see what you can find!

California newt (Taricha torosa)
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