818-597-8627 info@rcdsmm.org

Frequently asked questions about the creatures in the Santa Monica Mountains

How many species of plants and animals live in Topanga?

We don’t know! A preliminary list of the animals includes 22 amphibian and reptile species, 3 species of native fish, 9 species of bats, over 100 migratory and resident birds. We still don’t have a full list of all the mammals and are not even close to knowing how many arthropods (insects, spiders, etc.) share our watershed. That’s why it is important for you to let us know when you see something interesting! Email your observations to the RCDSMM.

Are there any state or federally listed species in Topanga?

Yes, Topanga is home to numerous species of special concern or otherwise listed species. Find endangered and threatened species endemic to Topanga here: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/

Are tarantulas native to Topanga?

Yes! They used to be found quite commonly, but have become more rare since the 1980’s. They are harmless to humans and quite interesting to watch. Let us know if you find any!

What do I do if I see a mountain lion or bobcat when out hiking?

Stand tall and make a lot of noise if you feel threatened. Stand quietly and be amazed at your luck if you don’t! Both these animals are common in Topanga, and while they love a tasty meal, humans are not their first choice! Don’t approach them carelessly, but it is incredible to share our home with these fascinating creatures. Feel free to let us know of your observations. We are trying to figure out exactly how many lions use Topanga as part of their home range. Send us a note if you see mountain lions in your area.

How can I get rid of crows flocking in my trees and yard?

Juvenile crows can be really raucous and annoying. They love to have a fiesta on the roof, just to keep you awake. The best way to get rid of them is to be sure there is no food source available (trash lids easily opened, dog/cat food left outsides, etc.). When in need, hose them down! They hate getting wet!

Is there any way to control ground squirrels?

Ground squirrels can really do a number on gardens, as well as de-stabilize slopes and cause lots of erosion. Humane control of these pesky critters is difficult. A number of methods have been proposed, like flooding their burrows (be careful on slopes!), setting up barn owl boxes to entice these predators to nest nearby, and setting live traps. Let us know your stories of success. Email your ideas to us.

How can I protect my pets from local predators?

(coyotes, owls, bobcats, mountain lions)
The best way to protect your pets is to keep them either indoors or in a secured outside area at all times. It is also a good idea to check your house and be sure you are not enticing the predators to your home by providing easy food or water sources.

Why are crayfish a problem in the creek?

Red CrayfishCrayfish are ferocious predators and love to eat everything they can find, especially our native frogs, newts, baby turtles and fishes. Originally from the bayous of Louisiana, they have been released into local creeks by well meaning but ill-informed humans. Studies done in all the creeks of the Santa Monica Mountains have found that where there are crayfish, there are very few native amphibians left. The Topanga Creek Stream Team is working to eradicate the small population in Topanga Creek. Contact the RCDSMM for more details on how you can help.

Why are bullfrogs a problem in the creek?

Bullfrogs, like crayfish are not native to local creeks, and are also ferocious predators. They frequently escape from backyard ponds and can wreak havoc on the creek. Please, don’t release non-native species into the creek! They are a real problem.

What should I do with my pet store frogs and turtles that I don’t want anymore?

If you have exotic amphibian and reptile pets that are no longer wanted in your home, contact the RCDSMM for information on where to take them so that they can be adopted into a suitable home. PLEASE DON’T RELEASE THEM IN THE CREEK! We will help find a better, safer place for them to go.

Who should I call if I find injured or dead wildlife? If you find a wild animal dead, especially along the road, please contact the RCDSMM with the time, date and location. We will do our best to get the animal to a local museum or educational institution where it will be greatly appreciated. If the animal is still alive, be careful in handling. Call local experts at the CA Wildlife Center or Animal Control for help.

How can I get rid of bees/wasps in my house?

If the bees are nesting in the ground, cover the area with black plastic and seal all the edges well. They will not survive this treatment. There is no easy way to relocate the ground nesting species. For swarms in your walls, you will need to call a local beekeeper to remove the hive, or an exterminator if you want to kill them. The big, black carpenter bees can be a real nuisance, drilling holes in wood everywhere, but they do not sting and are important local pollinators. Their population is in decline both locally and regionally. Instead of killing them, encourage them to move to other locations by filling their holes will ammonia soaked rags. With the spread of killer bees, be especially careful of disturbing the hives.

How can I get rid of bats in my roof?

The best way to humanely get rid of bats roosting in the house is to watch carefully at dusk to see where they are exiting. Then using insulation foam, hardware cloth, or plywood, seal up the entryway after you no longer hear any sounds from within. They will not be able to reenter when they return. Learn more at Bat Conservation International: batcon.org.

What can I do with racoon raiders?

Raccoons can really be pests, especially since their nimble little “fingers” allow them to open trash cans, and sometimes even kitchen doors! The best way to discourage raccoons and other wildlife neighbors is to keep any possible food sources out of reach. If you feed your dog or cat outside, this will definitely attract the attention of local wildlife! If you catch them red handed, a squirt from the hose is a real discouragement!