Wildlife in the Upper Watershed
The climate in the highest reaches of the Tuolumne Watershed is harsh and the growing season is
short, but species such as pika, yellow-bellied marmot, white-tailed hare,
Clark's nutcracker, and rosy finch are adapted to these conditions and live in the upper watershed.
Wildlife species that occur in the montane zone of the Tuolumne watershed (altitude ) include golden-mantled ground squirrel, chickaree, marten, Steller's jay, hermit thrush,
and northern goshawk. Reptiles nclude rubber boa,
western fence lizard, and alligator lizard.
In the lower-montane zone, due to relatively mild, lower-elevation climate wildlife species typically found in these
habitats include black bear, bobcat, gray fox, mountain kingsnake, Gilbert's
skink, white-headed woodpecker, brown creeper, spotted owl, and a wide
variety of bat species.
At a variety of
elevations, meadows provide important habitat for wildlife.
Animals come to feed on the green grasses and use the flowing and standing
water found in many meadows. Predators, in turn, are attracted to these
areas. The interface between meadow and forest is also favored by many
animal species because of the proximity of open areas for foraging, and cover
for protection. Species that are highly dependent upon meadow habitat
include great gray owl, willow flycatcher, Yosemite toad, and mountain
The Lower River
A diverse array of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles,
fish and invertebrates take advantage of the ample supply of food, water and
shelter along the Lower River. In addition to the more abundant wildlife, several
sensitive, rare and endangered species depend on conditions provided by the
Tuolumne’s riparian complex as well.
These include the fall-run Chinook salmon (species of concern), steelhead
trout (threatened), Riparian Brush Rabbit (endangered), Riparian Wood Rat
(endangered), Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (threatened), Least Bell’s
Vireo (threatened), and Swainson’s Hawk (species of concern). Despite major
declines in the last two decades, the river continues to host the largest
naturally reproducing population of Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin Valley.