David Rains Wallace is the Berkeley-based author of numerous books of natural history, including The Klamath Knot (reissued by UC Press in 2003), The Bonehunter’s Revenge (1999) and Beasts of Eden (UC Press, 2004). His 2011 book, Chuckwalla Land: The Riddle of California’s Desert (UC Press), received a 2012 Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal for Literature.


Land of the Salamander

December 31, 2012 by David Rains Wallace

North America has more kinds of salamanders--the tailed, mostly four-legged amphibians--than any other continent. Your backyard is probably full of them right now!


Naming the ‘fire lizards’ of the world

December 12, 2012 by David Rains Wallace

For an animal that's been given mythic properties, the salamanders of the world have some pretty colorful names.

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Point Reyes: Renewed by Fire

July 01, 2012 by David Rains Wallace

When I started visiting Point Reyes in the 1970s, the landscape from Limantour Beach up to the crest of Inverness Ridge had a special appeal. I had spent my early childhood in the New England countryside in the 1940s, so vestiges of the pre-Seashore ranching days made me nostalgic--homestead sites, dammed lakes, fence lines, timothy hay growing in old fields. On the other hand, watching the wild ecosystem come back, with its brush rabbits, jackrabbits, quail, hawks, and bobcats, was endlessly fascinating.

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Western gray squirrels, the forest thumpers

June 22, 2012 by David Rains Wallace

Tree squirrels can seem marginal in cities. But in the bishop pine forests at Point Reyes National Seashore, Western gray squirrels are the only animals known to open pine cones and disperse the seeds. They are bold, sizable, and entirely wild -- unlike their urban cousins. And their sheer bravado shows what a spirited creature a squirrel can be.


The Summit Loop Hike

July 01, 2007 by David Rains Wallace

This strenuous 5.3-mile hike circumambulates Mount Diablo’s summit, and traverses many of the mountain’s geological and botanical features. When I ...

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Speak of the Devil

July 01, 2007 by David Rains Wallace

Mount Diablo is such a towering icon of our landscape that it is sometimes easy to forget how much complexity lies within its familiar outline. Indeed, the mountain holds many stories: from the drama of its birth under the ocean, to its (mis)naming by early American settlers, to last year's rediscovery of the rare Mount Diablo buckwheat. Today the story continues, with the mountain and its surrounding ridges and canyons anchoring a bold vision for a broad swath of protected open space and wildlife corridors stretching from Concord to Livermore.

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Mount Diablo: A Place for Raptors

July 01, 2007 by David Rains Wallace

Mount Diablo’s woodlands and canyons provide habitat for a fantastic variety of raptors, from kestrels to golden eagles (of which ...

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First Encounters

January 01, 2006 by David Rains Wallace

When European explorers and naturalists began coming to California a few centuries ago, most sailed right past the fog-shrouded Golden Gate. But those few who did stop here, including the botanist-poet who first described the California poppy, left tantalizing clues to the world they saw before the Gold Rush transformed the Bay Area from backwater to boomtown.

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Where the Elk and the Antelope Played

January 01, 2004 by David Rains Wallace

A million years ago, in a climate much like ours today, the land around an ancestral bay teemed with large animals: mammoths and saber-tooth cats; bears, horses, and peccaries. By 300 years ago, the mammoths were gone, but grizzlies, elk, condor, and pronghorn were abundant.European settlers wiped out many of those animals, but programs to reintroduce some of them are now under way. Which raises the question: What should a healthy, native megafauna look like now?

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Frog or Toad…What’s the Difference?

April 01, 2002 by David Rains Wallace

Originally, these Anglo-Saxon words referred respectively to species of the genera Rana and Bufo, Britain’s native taxa. (Rana and Bufo ...

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