Have you ever watched as a fawn, a coyote or a quail scurries in a panic to find its way around, over or through a fence?
Fences of all descriptions crisscross Sonoma County, and they are a major obstacle for animals simply trying to find food, water and shelter.
There are literally thousands of miles of fence in the county, built for many different purposes: for privacy, to keep pets or livestock in, to mark boundaries, to protect crops, to keep deer out, to protect property from vandalism, to keep animals from entering roadsides. There are many types of fences, some that allow wildlife to safely pass through while others that are actually quite hazardous.
According to those who have researched this issue, the most lethal type of fencing is woven-wire, with one or two strands of barbed wire over the top. These fences block smaller animals from crawling underneath, and often snare one leg of animals like deer that attempt to jump them. Perhaps you’ve seen the remains of a doe or fawn that has met its fate in this manner, left to die dangling from one foot on the far side of the fence. In fact, one study in Utah found that fawns accounted for 90% of the mortalities on woven wire fences.
These are uncomfortable realities, but ones that many different land owners and land managers are confronting. We are doing out part at Sonoma County Regional Parks, working with partners and volunteers to remove old fences in places like Sonoma Valley Regional Park. The best fence often is no fence at all.
We also are working to replace old barbed wire fences with new ones that have smooth wires on the top and bottom, none of which is more than 40 inches tall. They adhere to guidelines set out by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, and mirror those being used all across the West.
In the North Bay, trouble spots include:
• The whole of Highway 101 between Petaluma and the Golden Gate Bridge, and particularly south of the Highway 580 junction, including several stretches where wooded hills rise on either side of the road;
• Highway 12 through the Sonoma Valley, which traverses a wildlife corridor; and
• Three segments of Highway 37 roughly along the shoreline of San Pablo Bay — at the mouth of the Petaluma River, near Highway 121 and Tolay Creek, and near Mare Island, west of the Napa River.
See California Roadkill Observation System.
An opossum, a coyote, a gray fox, a raccoon, a crow and several ground squirrels — all dead — were just a few of the sightings Marlene Radigue reported in recent weeks from a stretch of Highway 12 through the Sonoma Valley, near her home.
A steadfast witness to the deadly encounters between vehicles and wildlife along the roadway, the Glen Ellen woman has spent several years somberly documenting the results, then respectfully moving animal remains to the edge of the road so scavengers can take over without the risk of being killed themselves.It’s sobering work. But it offers hope of change, as well.
Radigue, a textile designer, is part of an effort through UC Davis to identify California highway “hotspots” — areas where deadly collisions between motorists and animals are statistically high — in order to raise awareness about safety risks to both animals and motorists, and guide planning and design decisions toward increasing wildlife crossing opportunities in the state’s complex highway system.
More than a thousand volunteer observers have contributed to the project since its inception in 2009, creating a growing database that’s the basis of an updated report on “wildlife-vehicle conflict zones” released by the UC Davis Road Ecology Center last week.
Read more at: Map reveals roadkill hot spots in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat
Have you had an encounter with a mountain lion? Organizers of Audubon Canyon Ranch’s mountain lion study want to hear from you. Fill out their survey at surveymonkey.com/r/MTLIONACR.
In his office at Glen Ellen’s Bouverie Preserve, Quinton Martins has several collars equipped with GPS technology that he has used to track and study leopards in remote places around the world.
The South African biologist and acknowledged authority on big cats is now gearing up to track a different predator — the mountain lions that call Sonoma and Napa counties home. Audubon Canyon Ranch has hired the famed researcher to conduct the groundbreaking study, which the nonprofit agency hopes to use as the basis for protecting what remains of the habitat in which the lions and other creatures live.
Nobody knows for sure how many mountain lions roam Wine Country. That’s one key question Martins hopes to answer with his research. He said under optimal conditions, he would expect to find as many as 50 adult mountain lions living in the 1,000-square-mile territory included in the study.
The general public, however, usually only hears about the cats when something unfortunate happens, such as the rare occasion when a lion attacks pets, livestock or humans. Or, when a lion is the victim of circumstance, as was the case March 1 when an adult female was struck and killed by a motorist on Highway 116 near Monte Rio.
The less headline-grabbing, but just as compelling, story is how these beautiful and powerful animals, which can reach 220 pounds and stand 3 feet tall, have managed to survive in an increasingly urbanized environment, hunting prey (mostly deer), mating and doing their best to avoid contact with humans who are, in Martins’ words, “super-predators.”
Read more at: Tracking Sonoma County’s mountain lions | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com
Jay Gamel, THE KENWOOD PRESS Measure to curb urban sprawl set to expire next year
Many organizations concerned with the future of the county’s Community Separator program are being proactive about the impending sunset of the voter-approved measure coming up next year. A survey commissioned by the Greenbelt Alliance indicates strong voter support for not only re-approving the concept of preventing urban sprawl, but even strengthening it to include a wider area of protection, such as riparian habitat, and protecting drinking water, among others.
Community separators basically seek to preserve a greenbelt around each Sonoma County city by prohibiting increased building density without a public vote. They do not restrict any other permitted development within the designated zoning overlay. To qualify for a county mandated community separator, each city had to establish its own Urban Growth Boundary – a limit on how far the city would seek to expand in the future.
With a few exceptions for schools, fire departments and other public interest developments, the community separator concept has been successful: there have been no increased density developments within them for the past 18 years, though there have been developments, such as Kenwood’s La Campagna/Sonoma Country Inn on the Graywood Ranch property, which was permitted through an exception for “overriding considerations,” such as enhanced tax revenue.
Two years ago, the county’s Board of Supervisors budgeted time and resources for its Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) to examine the effect of the community separators and what to do when they expire. A PRMD analysis is expected to be delivered before the end of the year. The direction was to review and strengthen General Plan community separator policies.
However, as far as strengthening the law, Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin said, “PRMD has limited resources to work on the necessary outreach to consider adding extensive land to the separators, in anticipation of a ballot initiative.”
The process for renewal of a similar or expanded community separator law involves either the supervisors putting it on the ballot, or it being created through a voter petition, requiring nearly 15,000 signatures in Sonoma County. The former is the preferred process of just about everyone concerned.
A wide range of interested people gathered at the Sonoma Land Trust office in Santa Rosa on Oct. 8 to hear the Greenbelt Alliance survey findings. Those present included representatives from the Sonoma Ecology Center, the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, Valley of the Moon Alliance, Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma Land Trust, Wine & Water Watch, American Farmland Trust, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy, Greenbelt Alliance, Preserve Rural Sonoma, and city council members from Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
Read more at: The Kenwood Press – Community separators could be a voter favorite in 2016
Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A busy stretch of road that runs along San Pablo Bay just south of Sonoma Raceway is considered a hot spot for roadkill.
Highway 37, which connects Novato to Vallejo, slices right through major habitat for jackrabbits, deer, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. The high speed limit and heavy congestion makes the four-lane highway an extreme peril for animals wanting to cross.
“For animals, it’s bad news,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.
With wetland restoration going on at Sears Point, he said, more animals will be drawn to cross the highway to get to the newly restored marshes to the south for food and habitat. They currently don’t have much of an option except bolting across the road, where an average of 37,000 vehicles travel a day, Caltrans said.
“A road like that with that much traffic makes it difficult for animals to move,” said Julian Meisler, baylands program manager with the Sonoma Land Trust.
The Land Trust is working on creating a safer wildlife passage under the highway. It has teamed up with groups such as the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Point Blue Conservation Science’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed program, known as STRAW, to restore the creek that flows through a decades-old cattle underpass. They’re planting willows, oaks, coyote brush and other plants to make the culvert more attractive for wildlife to use.
Animals avoided the underpass, about three-quarters of a mile west of the intersection of Highways 37 and 121, because of the lack of trees and shrubs to serve as cover, said Don Brubaker, manager of the wildlife refuge, which owns and manages the land to the south of the highway.
“We need to advertise this as a way to go (across) that wildlife understand,” Brubaker said, adding the best way to do so is by creating desirable habitat for animals.
Read more at: Highway 37 crossing for wildlife in the works | The Press Democrat