By Neal Sharma,
Wildlife Linkages Program Manager
Coyote Valley - POST
The view from Tulare Hill across Coyote Valley into the Santa Cruz Mountains – one of the most important wildlife linkages in the Bay Area. Photo: Teddy Miller

Coyote Valley is full of wildlife. Many intrepid and resilient animals live in the valley floor, or use it as a pathway to move between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Diablo Range.

From a big-picture perspective, we have come to understand just how important this connectivity is for the long-term ecological resilience of our region.

Still, it’s not easy out there.

This is a landscape that has been greatly altered over time. It has been fragmented by habitat loss, busy roads, and an uncertain future. Protecting and restoring Coyote Valley will be essential in order to maintain and enhance its ecological function.

One of the key issues we are trying to tackle is that of how to make the landscape more permeable — so that wildlife can live their lives and fulfill their needs.

In an effort to better understand wildlife movement and behavior in Coyote Valley, POST and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority have partnered with the Wilmers Lab (at UC Santa Cruz) and Pathways for Wildlife to conduct a telemetry study on bobcats and gray foxes. Between Wilmers Lab and Pathways, the team comprises a keen blend of scientific expertise, local knowledge, and in-the-field know-how.

In a sense, we are letting the wildlife who live in this landscape tell us what they need, thereby allowing us to make data-driven decisions about areas that are most crucial to maintain and enhance for habitat connectivity.

We chose to study two different medium-sized carnivore species because we know that they are among the top predators in Coyote Valley at present. These animals are highly mobile, and they must cross roads and navigate other challenges in order to have access to enough resources (food and mates) to survive and reproduce.

Bobcats appear to be less sensitive than foxes to habitat change, so comparing the movements of these two species will give insights into the requirements of both “tolerant” and more “vulnerable” species as they navigate the landscape.

Bobcats and foxes are not the only wildlife we are working to protect through our efforts in Coyote Valley, but they are great indicator species on which to focus through this study.

 

Over the next one to two years, we will be following these animals using radio-collars that specialize in the tracking of fine-scale movement. For example, we will be able to tell when an animal is on the move versus at rest, allowing us to draw insights into specific place-based behaviors.

We may be able to identify road-crossing hotspots, habitat preferences, seasonal differences in travel routes, and more.  We benefit from access to great data about the presence of wildlife in Coyote Valley, but nothing like the fine-scale movement data that we are able to generate through this type of study.

In a sense, we are letting the wildlife who live in this landscape tell us what they need, thereby allowing us to make data-driven decisions about areas that are most crucial to maintain and enhance for habitat connectivity.

Stay tuned for the fall issue of Landscapes, where we will introduce you to some of the individuals that have made Coyote Valley their home.

UPDATE: Click here to read the second post in this series and meet five of the cats included in this study.

                            

This study is made possible with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and POST donors.

  • Stu & Deb Nuttall

    Awesome folks! Action is the largest motivator of more action and you have made that most important move. Stu

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

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