FAUNA OF THE SOUTH OKANAGAN SIMILKAMEEN
The smallest rabbit in BC, the Nuttall’s cottontail is easily identified by its short fluffy white tail and its round ears. It has a grayish brown coat above, and is white underneath. The southern Okanagan Valley is the northern tip of the range of the Nuttall’s cottontail that stretches all the way to Mexico. They are often spotted at the Osoyoos Desert Centre garden munching on their favorite grasses.
One of the best predators in our ecosystem, coyotes love feeding on rodents, rabbits, berries and carrion. They roam the Osoyoos Desert Centre when humans are not around, leaving lots of evidence near or on the boardwalk.
Flora of the South Okanagan Similkameen
Mule deer get their name by having ears similar to a mule. Their rump is white and their tail is white with a black tip. They can weigh up to 210 kilograms, and can grow to over one metre tall. At Osoyoos Desert Centre, mule deer feed on antelope brush and many other native species.
Despite their name, the fur colour of the black bear can also be brown, white and even blue! They can weigh a whopping 300 kilograms and reach over two metres tall!
The rufous hummingbird arrival is the long awaited sign of spring. Males are bright orange with a vivid iridescent-red throat. Rufous hummingbirds are the most aggressive hummingbird in BC and are known to keep other hummingbirds away from the bird feeder. Rufous hummingbirds perform the longest migration route per body size, flying from Mexico all the way to Canada.
Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)
Male calliope have magenta rays bursting from its throat. It is the smallest bird in the US and Canada, and hence, gets bullied by the rufous hummingbird.
As its name suggests the chin, and head of this hummingbird is black. It does not have the flashy colors of the other hummingbirds in the Okanagan, but just like the rest of the hummingbirds here they can flap their wings faster than any bird around! So fast they can even hover and fly backwards!
The most frequently spotted bird at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, western bluebirds are year round residents. There are nest boxes located in various spots on the 67-acre site and mom and dad can often be observed feeding and tending to their young.
These beautiful bluebirds do not spend much time at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, arriving early in the spring, and continuing their migration to higher elevations locally or moving further north.
It's impossible to miss the California quails at the Osoyoos Desert Centre. They always try to stand out and stand guard on a post. They are very proud of their forward drooping head plume. Even though they are called California quail, their call sounds like Chi-ca-go. During rearing time, two adults can be seen with a flock of tiny quails following their parents wherever they may roam.
One of the largest and fastest raptor in North America, it can take down big prey like domestic livestock, cranes and ungulates; however, it will usually focus on rabbits and gophers. The golden eagle can be seen at the Osoyoos Desert Centre and is easily identified by its golden feathers by its head.
The most common hawk in North America. As they soar above the antelope brush habitat looking for their next meal, their reddish tail will be a helpful way to identify them. Sometimes they can be seen harassing the ravens in the back of the interpretive building.
Great Basin Spadefoot
Not a toad and not a frog, the spadefoot is its own unique amphibian. They spend most of their adult lives burrowed unground and in hibernation to avoid extreme hot or cold weather. They mate in early spring and their tadpoles develop very fast. By early summer young juvenile spadefoots are hopping around the Osoyoos Desert Centre.
These large salamanders can grow to 20 centimetres in length and can live for 12 to 15 years. The brightly coloured markings on their back resemble a tiger, hence their name. Tiger salamanders are secretive and in BC are endangered. The probability of spotting them is very low.
Great Basin Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola)
The largest snake in BC, the Great Basin gopher snake can reach up to 2.4 metres! Non venomous, these snakes are true constrictors. By squeezing or constricting their prey so hard that its heart stops, they are able subdue their dinner before swallowing it. They'll eat lizards, insects and birds but specialize in small mammals.
Western Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor mormon)
The most common snake at the Osoyoos Desert Centre is the fastest snake in BC. It's a non venomous snake with a grey to olive top and a white to yellow bottom. Racers are also great climbers and can often be seen on bushes or trees trying to capture their prey.
Also known as the “Two Headed Snake,” it can be difficult to tell a rubber boa’s head from its tail. It resembles a rubbery tube with a slight taper at each end – similar to what you’d roll out of a ball of clay. Its loose skin and many small, smooth scutes (scales) combine to give the snake its rubbery appearance. They do not bite and would rather hide beneath a log than confront a human.
The praying mantis, or European mantis, was introduced to the Okanagan Valley in the late 1930s to control grasshoppers. The prominent front legs of the mantis are bent, and held together, which gives it a look that suggests this mantis is praying! They are ferocious carnivores, and they mainly prey on other insects. They are loved by farmers, as they are a great biological solution for unwanted pests.
Western Black Widow
The only venomous spider in BC, its bite can cause flu-like symptoms. They build formless looking webs in old rodent holes, which they use to capture their prey. They are hard to spot at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, as they are quite fearful of humans. They would normally not bite a human unless trapped or cornered.
This species is the only scorpion found in Canada. It can reach 5 cm long, and its bite, although slightly venomous, is not as severe as its southern relatives. The northern scorpion cast an eerie greenish yellow glow under UV light, which is very cool for us humans to observe and very efficient for scorpions to avoid predators and find prey in the dark.