Wild Boar

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While visiting Mount Hamilton in California, I noticed a few large, dark mammals in a hillside. I decided to investigate and encountered one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world.

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The Wild Boar, is also known as Wild Swine, Common Wild Pig, Eurasian Wild Pig, or simply Wild Pig. Feral swine are not native to the Americas, they were first brought to the United States in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food.

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Today these mammals are a combination of escaped domestic pigs, Eurasian Wild Pigs and hybrids of the two. Their population is estimated at as many as 9 million and is rapidly expanding. Each female is capable of birthing at least two litters a year of six or more piglets.

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Wild Boar are among the most destructive invasive species in the United States. They are wreaking havoc in at least 39 states and four Canadian provinces, where they do damage to the tune of $1.5 to $2.5 billion annually. They tear up recreational areas, occasionally even terrorizing tourists in state and national parks, and squeeze out other wildlife.

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Their head is very large, taking up to one-third of the body’s entire length. The structure of the head is well suited for digging and acting as a plough, while its powerful neck muscles allow the animal to upturn considerable amounts of soil. They are “opportunistic omnivores,” meaning they’ll eat almost anything. They can do remarkable damage to the ecosystem, by hunting animals like birds and amphibians to near extinction.

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Wild Boar are very smart and can get to be very big – a Georgia example named “Hogzilla” is believed to have weighed at least 800 pounds.

Third Eye Herp

Garden Tiger Moth

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While hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore, I came across a few of these really cool looking caterpillars. The Garden Tiger Moth lives in the northern United States, Canada and Europe.

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Like the Woolly Bear (the caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth) from my home state of Ohio, this “punk rock” looking caterpillar prefers cool climates with temperate seasonality, since they overwinter.

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Tiger Moths tend to have conspicuous patterns on their wings that serve as a warning to predators, indicating the moth’s poisonous body fluids. Its caterpillar’s hairs act as a deterrent to birds and provide some protection against parasitic flies and wasps.

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This species resides in a number of habitats, including gardens, damp meadows, fens, riverbanks, sand dunes and open woodland. Because of the caterpillar’s generalist diet, it is not constrained to where it lives by needing a specific host plant.

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Like other Tiger Moths, the adult Garden Tiger Moth exudes a yellow smelly liquid from a gland at the back of its head as a deterrent to predators. This insect’s bold colors are ideal for frightening predators – as the moth normally hides its hindwings under its less colorful forewings when resting.

Third Eye Herp

Aquatic Intergrade Garter Snake

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Marin County (CA) is a locality where all three subspecies of aquatic Garter Snakes (Santa Cruz, Oregon and Diablo Range Garter Snake) naturally intergrade.

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Although garter snakes are found across the United States, aquatic garter snakes are only found in the coastal regions of California north of Santa Barbara and the southern Oregon coast.

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Aquatic Intergrade Garter Snakes eat fish, salamanders, toads and newts. They do not have venom, nor do they constrict to subdue prey. Instead, they quickly grab prey by mouth and swallow it whole.

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Like other garter snakes, they have a striped pattern. These snakes have characteristics of each of the three subspecies that are combined to create them. This snake can be seen most of the year when conditions allow, but is primarily found during Spring through Fall.

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These reptiles inhabit creeks, streams, rivers, small lakes and ponds. They seem to prefer shallow rocky creeks and streams and are often found in woodland, brush and forest.

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Although they are often associated with water, I sometimes encounter them quite some distance from a permanent water source. They are active during the day and after dark during very hot weather.

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These snakes are always unique and interesting finds while exploring the Bay Area of California.

Third Eye Herp

Yellow Sand Verbena

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While exploring Point Reyes National Seashore, this low-to-the-ground plant with striking yellow flowers caught my eye. It is native to the west coast of North America, from southern California to the Canada–United States border.

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Most members of this genus have pink or purple flowers, but those of this species are bright yellow, making it easily recognizable.

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Yellow Sand Verbena grows on beach dunes and sand dunes of coastal bars and river mouths along the immediate coastline. It is an important plant in helping to stabilize dunes to resist erosion.

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It bears attractive neatly rounded heads of small, bright golden flowers. The individual flowers have no petals; rather, they are composed of yellow bracts forming a trumpet shaped around its stamens.

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This plant is seen exhibiting psammophory, a method by which plants save themselves from herbivores by attracting sand to themselves, making them difficult to be eaten.

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Yellow Sand Verbena’s leaves are succulent-like, in common with many other coastal plants and are about as long as wide, growing on short, thick stalks. Its roots are edible and traditionally eaten by the Chinook Indians.

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A member of the Four O’clock Family, this wildflower is also known as Coastal Sand Verbena.

Third Eye Herp