Mountain Animals

All wildlife is important to the ecology of the area. Ecology is the relationship between the plants and animals of an area. With the exception of birds, most of these animals are rarely seen.

Grizzly bears, now extinct in California.

People have hunted or driven away many of the species which once lived here. Grizzly bears, for example, once roamed these mountains in great abundance, but were killed off during the pioneer days. Today, all California grizzly bears are extinct.
The San Bernardino Mountains are home to a rich variety of wildlife. Black bears, California mule deer, big horn sheep, and mountain lions are the largest of the mountain’s animals.

Black bears, which can actually be honey brown, cinnamon brown, or black, are not native to these mountains. They were brought to the Big Bear area in 1934 from Yosemite National Park as a tourist attraction. Today there are about 250 living in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Clockwise from top left: Black bear cub, bighorn sheep, cougar, mule deer.

Small mammals include the coyote, raccoon, bobcat, several types of squirrels, skunk, chipmunks, grey fox and even beavers.

There are many species of birds as well. Several breeding pairs of bald eagles nest along the shores of Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Silverwood, and Lake Gregory. Red-tail hawks and ravens are often seen soaring on the warm air currents along the south slopes of the mountains. The deep blue Stellar’s jays, noisy scrub jays, black crows, many species of woodpeckers, towhees, chickadees, and juncoes also make the mountains their home.

A variety reptiles also live in the San Bernardino Mountains. The most common of these are the Western fence lizard and alligator lizards. There are several snakes, including the Mountain king snake, Southern rubber boa (endangered), Western rattler (poisonous), Mojave green rattler (poisonous), racers, and gopher snakes.

Questions to Think About

1. What kind of bear was living in the mountains when the pioneers first came?

2. Where are you likely to see red-tail hawks?

3. What kind of snake living in our mountains is endangered?

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