For the past three years, POST has worked with our partners at Pathways for Wildlife (Pathways) — a research organization specializing in animal movement — on the Southern Santa Cruz Mountains Wildlife Connectivity Study.
After three years and with the help of over 50 remote-sensor cameras, POST and our partners at Pathways for Wildlife have captured some truly amazing moments that have captivated millions of people.
The goal of this study, which is in its final stages, is to understand how wildlife move over and under highways between the Southern Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo and Gabilan mountain ranges. As an extension of our work in Coyote Valley, this research will identify existing wildlife crossings that need improvement, as well as locations where new crossings would be the most beneficial for animals to safely traverse the region.
The project deployed over 50 remote-sensor cameras at existing bridges and tunnels under highways (culverts) and conducted systematic roadkill surveys in the study area. These cameras captured an assortment of species as well as surprising moments like the now-famous journey of a coyote and a badger. “Each image offers a window into the lives of these individuals and the challenges they face while navigating our built infrastructure,” said Ahíga Snyder, co-principal at Pathways.
When wildlife can’t move safely to meet new populations and mate, they remain isolated, putting some species at risk of local extinction. For example, far-ranging wildlife such as mountain lions face genetic isolation if they can’t interact and mate with neighboring populations. And the loss of this apex predator in our region would cause disastrous change throughout the food chain, disrupting the entire ecosystem.
“This scientific research is the foundation for future conservation work in the area,” Ahíga further explained.“It is bringing to light new opportunities to improve wildlife movement in the Southern Santa Cruz Mountains, which will further support our regional resilience. It’s incredibly exciting.”
Data collected by Pathways for Wildlife for POST for the Southern Santa Cruz Mountains Wildlife Connectivity Study. Clockwise: Coyote, Mountain Lion, Long-Tailed Weasel, Raccoon, Mule Deer, Bobcat
The results of this study will be instrumental in POST’s efforts to maintain our region’s rich biodiversity. Not only does the research tell us where animals need help, it’s another tool we can use to determine which landscapes are most in need of conservation so that wildlife can continue their important journeys in search of food, habitat and mates.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 86,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more