Smithsonian Institution Logo Terminus Reservoir
Geology, Paleontology, Flora & Fauna, Archeology, History
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*A list of scientific names begins on page 49.

The typical conditions of flora and fauna that prevailed in prehistoric times in the lands in and around the area that became Terminus Reservoir are still characteristic of project areas above gross pool level and adjacent areas, where no development has taken place. This is a region of open grassland with a sparse covering of blue, valley, and interior live oak with occasional small groves. Valley oak was called white oak, water oak, or mush oak by early settlers in the region. Dense stands of black willow, black cottonwood, Fremont or common cottonwood, and western sycamore border the streams. Isolated flood pools along stream channels are bordered with cattails. From about mid-February to mid-April, annual wild grasses grow lush and wild flowers bloom in profusion. Among the more common wild flowers found are white and yellow Mariposas, California poppies, cream cups, white daisies, tidy tips, sunshine flowers, varigated and Hansen larkspur, fiddleneck, and popcorn flowers. Grass nuts, harvest brodiaea, blue dicks, and snake lily are quite common as are silky, varicolor, and royal lupine. Golden, white-centered, and blue and white lupine can be found occasionally. As the wild flower blooms disappear, the wild grasses dry and the hillsides are brown until the following year. The most common wild grasses are pine bluegrass, wild oats, and California needle-grass. Foxtail brome, soft cheat, mouse barley, pin clover, and sixweeks fescue also occur, but not in abundance.

Figure 2: Terminus Reservoir area before construction of the dam. Except for roads and orchards it appears much the same as when the Wukchumni inhabited the area.

Kaweah River is fished in season for rainbow trout, white or fork-tailed catfish, smallmouth bass, and sunfish. Trout fishing is generally limited to the months of May, June, and July, but other gamefish are fished for all year. Rough or trash fish found in the river are carp, Sacramento squawfish, hardhead, hitch, Sacramento sucker, and prickly sculpin.

The Terminus Reservoir area has abundant bird life, and a variety of warblers, finches, sparrows, buntings, and wrens live along the streams and in the adjacent woodlands. The Rufus hummingbird is found as a springtime migrant and the black-chinned hummingbird is a native. Other small resident or migrant birds include barn, bank, and tree swallows; the Mexican or western bluebird; and cedar waxwings. A large variety of medium sized birds are common and include the California or scrub jay, killdeer, belted kingfisher, red-shafted flicker, California or acorn woodpecker, Nuttall woodpecker, yellow-billed magpie, western meadowlark, redwing and Brewer's blackbirds, crow, common or brown-headed cowbird, western mockingbird, western tanager, and the robin. Representatives of the owl family, range from the tiny pygmy and saw-whet owls to the great horned owl and include the barn and screech owls. The red-tailed and red-bellied hawks are the only broad-winged hawks to be found and the smaller Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks represent the shortwinged hawks. The sparrow hawk, which can also be found, is actually a small falcon. California quail, band-tailed pigeons, and the mourning dove are the only game birds found, as migratory water birds do not frequent the Terminus region. The largest birds living in the area are the great blue heron and the turkey vulture. Although its principal range is to the southwest, it would be possible to sometimes observe the very rare California condor in the Terminus region.

Very common reptiles include the Pacific pond turtle, the coast horned lizard (often called horned toad), and the western fence lizard. Although common to the area, the California legless lizard is not seen often because of its burrowing habits. The side-blotched lizard, the western skink, and the western whiptail lizard are also inhabitants, but not seen frequently. The more common snakes present are the gopher snake, common garter snakes, and both terrestrial and water forms of the western garter snake. The racer, common whipsnake, and common kingsnake live in the area and, in very dry places, the long-nosed snake can be found. The only poisonous snake is the western rattlesnake. Where habitat is suitable, the California newt and the California slender salamander are found. The bullfrog, yellow-legged and red-legged frogs, the Pacific tree frog, and the western toad are numerous.

The largest wild animal presently inhabiting the Terminus Reservoir area is the mule deer. In earlier days, mountain lion, black bear, and dwarf or tule elk were plentiful, and California grizzly bear were frequently encountered. Large populations of beaver lived along Kaweah River, but were trapped to near extinction many years ago. Although few large or dangerous animals have lived in the region in modern times, the smaller mammals have continued to be abundant in the area around Terminus Reservoir. These include the adorned and Trobridge shrews (the world's smallest mammals), the broadhanded mole, the San Joaquin pocket mouse, the California pocket mouse, southern grasshopper mouse, western harvest mouse, the deer mouse, and the very plentiful house mouse. The California mouse is less common, but the California meadow mouse is frequently seen. The very destructive valley pocket gopher is rarely actually seen, but its existance in large numbers is shown by the mounds left in the wake of its underground passage. Other small mammals in the area include three species of kangaroo rat (Pacific, Heermann, and Fresno), the large dusky-footed woodrat, and the Norway rat. The California ground squirrel, the San Joaquin antelope squirrel, and the graceful western gray squirrel also inhabit the region. Larger animals in the area include striped and spotted skunks, kit and gray foxes, raccoons, ringtailed cats, badgers, river otters, bobcats, and coyotes. Rabbits, which were frequently eaten by the Indians, are represented by the shy, secretive brush rabbit, desert or Audubon cottontail, and the large blacktail jackrabbit. Few porcupine, the only North American animal with long, sharp quills, live in the area because the elevation is somewhat low for this species. In farming areas, the Virginia opossum, the only marsupial native to America, can be found, but not in large numbers. A total of 15 species of bat is native to the area.

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Last Updated: 08-Sep-2008