Natural Sightings #570 - Valley Oak and Mule Deer.jpg

David Emenheiser took this photo of a massive Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) with its branches outstretched against a blue Tehachapi sky, as a couple of California Mule Deer walk by.

Valley Oaks can grow to enormous size, and are one of the biggest of North America's 58 tree oak species. There is a specimen south of the small community of Covelo, in Mendocino County, that measures more than 28 feet in circumference and is 153 feet tall.

Valley Oaks grow relatively quickly in locations with good soil and occasional water, and can reach more than 20 feet tall in 10 years. They can then live for 600 years or even longer if they don't fall prey to lightning, root fungus, excessive limb loss, etc.

California Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) often live their lives around oaks, sheltering in their shade during the hottest days, eating their acorns in autumn and browsing low-hanging leaves in spring and summer. Deer also often bed down in the taller, more lush grass that can be found inside the dripline (beneath the canopy) of Valley Oaks.

When feeding or moving through oak woodlands during brighter daylight hours when the sun is overhead, deer often cross the landscape by staying largely in the shade of oaks, walking from tree to tree.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Valley Oak is Shi'viidübä, pronounced Shi-vee-DUB-uh. The word for deer is ayiidä, pronounced aye-YID-uh.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.