The untended areas of Lake Perris may seem rocky and barren at first glance, but an amazing variety of natural wonders are waiting to be found by those who seek them out. The predominant plant community, coastal sage scrub is host to a variety of birds and wildlife. Mule deer, roadrunners, bobcats, coyotes, cotton tail, jack rabbits, quail, gopher snakes and rattlesnakes may sometimes be seen by day though they tend to shy away from people. More frequently seen are a wide variety of lizards, rodents, water fowl, and birds of prey. Beautiful displays of wildflowers occur during the rainy season-generally November through April.
Lake Perris is ringed by various hills and small mountains. The coastal sage scrub community is predominant on the south-facing slopes of the Russell Mountains and Bernasconi Hills and is characterized by shrubby plants including desert encelia, brittlebush, sagebrush, black sage, white sage, buckwheat, and cacti. Conditions are somewhat shadier on hillsides that face north or northwest so that chaparral plants such as chamise, penstemon, and--caution!--poison oak are apt to be found.
Remnants of the original perennial grasses that once flourished in this region can still be found in the flat interior of the park surrounding the lake, but the majority of plants that now make up the valley grassland community (including Russian thistle) were imported from Europe by early settlers. Riparian areas near springs and seeps, and on east and south lakes include willows, cattails, elderberry and nettles.
More than a hundred different species of birds have been spotted at Lake Perris. Many are migratory, and stop at the park briefly during their travels, while others make their permanent residence here. Larks, loggerhead shrikes, roadrunners, California thrashers, quail, wrens, sparrows, hummingbirds, golden eagles, several varieties of hawks, ospreys, and even bald eagles may be seen. In addition, many varieties of waterfowl use the lake including pintails, widgeons, teals, mallards, shovelers, various geese, and sometimes whistling swans and pelicans. Blacknecked stilts, avocets, killdeer, willets, kingfishers, egrets, and herons are attracted to the water’s edge.
Day and night, hawks and owls are frequently seen hunting for mice, moles, wood rats, and other rodents. These animals provide food not only for hawks, owls, and snakes, but also for coyotes, long-tailed weasels, skunks, badgers, and bobcats. The bike trail offers an easy and convenient way to see some of the birds and other wildlife of Lake Perris. Early morning or dusk are the best times. Ranger-led hikes are conducted during the spring and early summer months.
( Burrowing Owl)
Most plants and animals at Lake Perris are well adapted to the hot, dry environment. Chamise leaves are tiny and waxy to maximize water loss due to evaporation. Some grasses and wildflowers rush from bloom to seed in just a few short weeks and are able therefore to complete their life cycle within the brief wet season. Kangaroo rats are so well adapted to dry environments that they seldom drink water, and manage to extract the moisture they need directly from their food.
The plants and animals of Perris valley have changed considerably over the last two hundred years due to human activity, but the natural history of this area can still intrigue the observant visitor.
For visitor safety and the safety of the animals please do not harass or interact with the wildlife and always tred carefully when not on a paved road.
Do not catch or pick up the animals in the park. Animals are not 'out to get you' but they do not understand the difference between a human who 'wants to see them' and a predator that 'wants to eat them.' If they can not run away and they can not scare you away then they will use other forms of self defense. They act out of instinct and fear so please, for their safety and your own, do not pick up or catch the animals.
Do not feed the animals. Feeding the cute bunnies and funny squirrels or even the deer will cause them to move further into areas where humans are. Their predators will follow them. If you see animals such as loose dogs or cats, do not feed them. Inform a uniformed employee so that the animal can be taken to the local animal shelter.
The Lake Perris State Recreation Area is their home and habitat as the cities spread throughout Southern California. Just sit back and enjoy the natural beauty of these creatures in their natural habitat.