Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Learning More About Our Wild Neighbors

By Tom Greco

A young deer photographed by
a Pepperwood wildlife camera
Every year, thousands of animals are killed on roadways in Northern California, a problem that impacts both wildlife populations and our safety on the road. In 2010 alone, California Highway Patrol reported over 1,800 wildlife-vehicle collisions state-wide. As residential and agricultural development continues to expand, so too will the habitat conversion pressures facing our region’s wild inhabitants. Some impacts from human activity are obvious – we have all seen dead deer or raccoon on the side of the road – but the stealthy nature of animals like black bears and mountain lions keeps most of their habitats a mystery. Through new advances in technology and a team of dedicated volunteers, Pepperwood is now gaining insight into the life cycles and movement patterns of our wild neighbors.
A bobcat photographed by a Pepperwood wildlife camera
Last summer Pepperwood installed 20 motion-activated cameras around our preserve, becoming the first location in Northern California to utilize the internationally recognized Wildlife Picture Index (WPI) system. This Wildlife Conservation Society method for analyzing wildlife will allow us to begin accurately recording what kinds of animals are present on the preserve, how and when they are using the land as habitat, and other valuable data. Unless we establish such a baseline for the health of our wildlife, we won’t know how populations are changing over time – and whether it is due to our management practices, impacts on habitat corridors, changing climate, or a range of other factors.

A pair of foxes photographed by a Pepperwood wildlife camera
Pepperwood works with wildlife biologist Dr. Sue Townsend to establish protocols and trainings we are applying here at the preserve to provide a model for other open spaces to begin implementing similar monitoring programs region-wide. This summer, Pepperwood worked with our partners at Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Mayacamas Mountain Sanctuary and Modini Ranch to install a second camera grid in our local wildlife corridor. These 21 new cameras are located about 20 miles north of our preserve. Given their close proximity, this expansion of our WPI project will be particularly useful for detecting potential differences in populations between sites as well as observing species migration patterns. In the future, Pepperwood aims to deploy a smaller set of cameras between the two larger sites so we can begin to see which specific routes animals choose to get from one location to the other.

"Critical Linkages" map developed by
the Conservation Lands Network
The Conservations Lands Network, a five-year science-based study with input from 125 organizations, produced a “Critical Linkages” map indicating the pieces of land most likely to be used by wildlife as they move between larger open spaces like state parks and other preserves. With the addition of more camera sites in surrounding areas, the data Pepperwood collects will help evaluate these predictions and help land trusts and other conservation organizations prioritize the acquisition of lands most beneficial to wildlife. By creating “wildlife corridors” of protected lands, we can reduce the impacts of human activity on our wild residents and give them the space they need to thrive.

Stay tuned for more updates about our Wildlife Picture Index project - Like us on Facebook to see the latest photos!

No comments:

Post a Comment