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Wild Critters of El Cerrito, Kensington in Action

This video features wild animals in El Cerrito and Kensington, some camera-shy and some camera-indifferent.

These guys were spotted around streets, parks, schools, parking lots, and homes in El Cerrito and Kensington over the past year or so. Some have appeared on Patch previously; others are making their debut in motion pictures.

The creature who pokes his head out of the ground in the opening scene was filmed Wednesday at Kensington Elementary School. He declined comment but appears to be a pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae), according to UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology Eileen Lacy.

"They (pocket gophers) are very common in open grassy areas in the East Bay," she said. "Often all that you will see are the small mounds of dirt that the animals create when they push loose soil out of their burrows but, at the right time of day (and with patience), you can see the actual animal as it pops its head out to forage on grass."

Update, April 28, 1 p.m.: We have more information about the burrowing critter. After we published this article, we were glad to hear from UC Prof. Emeritus James Patton of Kensington, who's Curator of Mammals at Cal's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. He confirmed by email that it is a pocket gopher, aka Thomomys bottae, and added:

Pocket gophers are found throughout the central and western US, south through Mexico and Central America to extreme NW Colombia.  Here in CA there are 5
species in the genus Thomomys, the most widespread of which is T. bottae. Individuals live virtually their entire lives in self-dug burrow systems where they forage for below-ground plant parts but occasionally come to the surface and feed on above-ground plants – individuals move tons of soil each year as they build and expand their burrow systems, and as such gophers have a major role in soil formation and renewal.  Virtually every large field anywhere in the Bay Area, or throughout the state for that matter, will be occupied by gophers – you can find their very characteristic mounds of earth on the ground surface everywhere.  They are also, not surprisingly, considered major agricultural pests! ... One doesn't often see a gopher because they rarely come to the surface.

sewellyn kaplan April 28, 2012 at 03:32 PM
This morning we actually watched a neighbor cat stalking a wild turkey --- until she realized the size of the turkey!
Toni Mayer April 28, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I remember sitting at a picnic table in Tilden several years ago when a gopher popped up. I just sat and watched it for a while. Can't say I welcome them in my yard. They've destroyed a few of my plants. I don't use poisons in my yard so I root for the raptors and cats in this battle.
Toni Mayer April 28, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Loved watching the video! I sometimes watch turkey vultures soaring over the Hillside Nature Area and hear Red Tail Hawks scream. I have an endless parade of squirrels and jays in the oaks on the other side of my fence and this week I've been seeing robins. So cool.

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