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Fish & Wildlife


The San Joaquin River abounds with fish and wildlife. Read on to discover some of the many species that make up the river ecosystem, and how we can act to protect their habitats along the river.

Coyote (Canis latrans)

Family: Canidae, Dogs

Description: Grizzled gray or orangish gray above, with buff underparts. Long, rusty or yellowish legs with dark vertical line on lower foreleg. Bushy tail with black tip. Ears prominent. Slender, pointed snout. Nose pad to 1" (2.5 cm) wide. Ht 23–26" (58–66 cm); L 3' 5"–4'4" (105–132 cm); T 11 3/4–15 1/4" (30–39 cm); HF 7 1/8–8 5/8" (18–22 cm); Wt 20–40 lb (9.1–18.2 kg); a very large individual may reach 55 lb (25 kg).

Similar Species: Gray and Red wolves are larger, with larger nose pads; both hold tail horizontal.

Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles

Description: 18-22" (46-56 cm). W. 4' 1" (1.2 m). A large hawk, uniform brown above, white below with warm-brown breast; tail dark brown and indistinctly banded. Longer, more pointed wings than Red-tailed Hawk. Young bird similar to immature Red-tail, but tends to have darker markings on the breast, whereas young Red-tails are more heavily marked on flanks and belly. A rare all-dark form also occurs.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese

Description: 17-20" (43-51 cm). A beautiful, crested, multicolored duck. Male patterned in iridescent greens, purples, and blues with distinctive white chin patch and face stripes; bill mainly red; tail long. Female grayish with broad white eye ring.

Habitat: Wooded rivers and ponds; wooded swamps.

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Alternate name: Black-tailed Deer

Family: Cervidae, Deer

Description: A medium-size deer. Stocky body, with long, slim, sturdy legs. In summer, reddish brown or yellowish brown above; in winter, grayish above. Throat patch, rump patch, insides of ears, and insides of legs are white; lower parts cream to tan. Large ears. Buck’s antlers are branched equally, each a separate beam forking into 2 tines; antler spread to 4’ (1.2 m).

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Family: Ardeidae, Herons, Egrets, Bitterns

Description: 39-52" (99-132 cm). W. 5'10" (1.8 m). A common large, mainly grayish heron with a pale or yellowish bill. Often mistaken for a Sandhill Crane, but flies with its neck folded, not extended like that of a crane.

Riparian Brush Rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius)

Family: Leporidae, Hares and Rabbits

Description: A small rabbit. Dark grayish-brown, mottled with black; some populations paler. Short legs. Small tail. Short, dark ears. L 10 1/2–13 1/4" (280–350 mm); T 3/4–1 5/8" (20–43 mm); HF 2 5/8–3 3/8" (67–85 mm); E 2–2 1/2" (50–64 mm); Wt 1.1–1.8 lb (500–800 g).

Endangered Status: The Riparian Brush Rabbit, a subspecies of the Brush Rabbit, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List.

Riffle Sculpin (Cottus gulosus)

In the Basin, riffle sculpin are most common in headwater streams where riffles
are the predominant habitat.

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui)

Smallmouth bass are typically found in large, clear reservoirs and clear, cool
streams with many large pools and abundant cover. They are common in large
tributaries to the San Joaquin River, in the Transition Zone. They may be
associated with the native fish of that area, Sacramento sucker, Sacramento
pikeminnow, and occasionally rainbow trout.

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass are a popular warmwater gamefish introduced into many
streams and reservoirs in California. Largemouth bass are typically found in low
to mid-elevation lakes and reservoirs, but are also common in foothill streams in
the San Joaquin Valley.

Sacramento Sucker (Catostomus occidentalis)

Sacramento sucker can be found in a wide variety of habitats throughout the
Basin and are a native species in the Transition Zone community. They may
occupy cool, clear streams or warm backwater but are probably most common in
pools of clear, cool streams and reservoirs at moderate elevations. Adult
suckers are abundant in the reservoirs of the Basin.

Take a look at streaming wildlife videos from our video project.

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