PSR Camp

Animals of Panamint Valley

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Most desert creatures are nocturnal or secretive and are seldom seen---with the exception of coyotes, ravens, ants, and flies. Desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and deer inhabited in the mountains surrounding Panamint Valley long before humans arrived on the scene several thousand years ago.

Coyotes, rabbits, bats, rats, mice, chipmunks and other rodents live in all parts of the valley and surrounding mountains. Quail are specifically mentioned as a favorite food of the miners, but there are also chukkars (introduced), ravens, jays, hawks, roadrunners, and all manner of smaller birds. A variety of snakes and lizards are found at all elevations, and of course there are numberous insects, bugs and butterflies. Desert tortoises are found in the southern part of the valley and are considered an endangered species. Watch for them crossing the road. They run slowly. Burros and wild horses are found in the mountains west of the valley, but they are non-native, having been brought in by prospectors and early miners.

The domestic animals currently living at Panamint Springs must protect themselves from native inhabitants that prowl about at close quarters. Charlotte the pig used to lounge at the front door where guests stepped over her imposing girth. At night she might visit a motel room to keep the guests company. Whe she became a mother, Charlotte and baby Porkchop were put in a pen to protect the tender piglet from the coyotes (and to protect the coyotes from Charlotte).

Any one of several cats may visit you during your stay, each with its own personality, but all endowed with the gift to survive on the margins of the wild and next to a busy highway. Gilly (short for Angelica) is the aging German Shepherd who keeps a vigilant eye on the proceedings and tolerates the several cats as she welcomes the many visitiors who enjoy her resort.

The first domesticated animals in Panamint Valley were horses the local Indians brought back from their raiding trips to the Spanish ranchos along the southern coast of California. The Indians, who often lived at barely subsistence level, stole the horses for eating, not riding. The remnants of an Indian stone horse corral is still evident in upper Pleasant Canyon.

Mr. Brier, one of the lost Death Valley emigrants of 1849, called one of his camps "horse-bones camp" because of all the horse bones he found near today's Indian Ranch on the east side of the valley north of Ballarat (a "living" ghost town).

The '49ers drove oxen into the valley in the first days of 1850, and the hard-used animals were in as poor condition as were their human masters. These tired animals had pulled heavy wagons for thousands of miles, much of it over roadless country, through sand, and over mountains. The deserts offered them poor feed and worse water, and their ox shoes had worn through. The lucky ones wore oxhide moccasins made from the hide of a brethren slaughtered for food. Reverend Brier said of the oxen: "When we cut them up, we found their bones had no marrow in----nothing but blood and water. Their flesh was poison, covered with yellow slime. We lived on the hides, boiled." When Scheldon Young, another '49er, was in Panamint Valley he wrote, "Lost one steer....(2 days later) Country looks hard ahead. Cattle are fast failing. Three was left today." Although some of the oxen carried small packs, they, as the horses the Indians brought before them, were there to provide marginal sustenance for their human travelers.