Spying on Mountain Lions, Bobcats and Other Animals
I’m maintaining between 4-7 wildlife cameras for the Bay Area Puma Project (BAPP) and for me. They feed my addiction for secretly spying on wildlife doing their natural thing. In addition to collecting general data about our local apex predators, some of the cameras are positioned strategically to support specific studies like the 280 corridor study.
The 280 corridor study
The study focuses on a 10-mile segment of Interstate 280, a 57 mile long highway that runs from San Francisco to San Jose. We’re pinpointing the places where wild animals successfully crosses 280 and those spots where they lose the battle while attempting to cross the busy interstate.
The west side of the highway is un-peopled, it has miles of open space, complete with lakes, mountains, forests, grass—a wild environment, rich with life. The area is teeming with animals. It’s a working eco-system that includes a wide variety of wildlife.
The east side of the freeway is a different story. Homes, businesses and bustling thoroughfares dominate the landscape. There are still some open spaces east of 280 that remain wild. Unfortunately, animals are losing their lives attempting to cross from one side to the other. Our local lions are among the victims. They follow the deer or they disperse to the east, looking for new territory. The lucky ones who make it across often end up near homes and are sighted by residents. Some people think they are cool; others are not as receptive to them.
Our study includes placing a number of wild life cameras on both sides of 280. Based on what we find, we’ll make recommendations to CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) for installing and repairing fences in specific areas as well as pointing out locations where modifications can be made that will allow wildlife to safely pass over or under the freeway. Recommendations will take into account the wild spaces and populated areas.
Zara McDonald, Courtney Coon, Brad Nichols and Audrey Jost are the scientists who designed and developed the protocols for the study. Additionally, volunteers will maintain other cameras located in the north end of the study area.
I’m checking and blogging about two of the cameras in the south end of the study. The first one is focused on a path that extends over the freeway. Although both ends of the path funnel into unpopulated areas, it’s enclosed on each side with fences and wire. I’m curious to see if anything larger then a rabbit will feel secure enough to venture on it during the day. Perhaps deer and predators will feel safe to traverse it at night and in the early morning hours. I’m counting on the camera to solve the mystery.
The second camera is in a promising spot, pointed up a game trail on the east side of the freeway. There aren’t fences on either side of the freeway, which makes it a likely place for animals to cross. Neighbors have reported seeing lions nearby on the road and in their driveways. On one side of the trail are trees and low bushes that theoretically can provide cover for shy predators.
Check back next month for the next installment of my wildlife camera adventures. I can’t predict what our cameras will capture—perhaps pumas and other predators will be sighted in the lenses, or maybe we’ll only catch deer and rodents. Who knows? Stay tuned…