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Living with wildlife while managing working landscapes

Good fencing is one tool that allows coyotes and sheep to share the open range.
The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (UC HREC) will host workshops on Dec. 1 and 2 to foster understanding and encourage community dialog about ranching on a landscape with populations of coyote, black bear, mountain lions and other wildlife.

“Mendocino County supports many ranchers and our communities enjoy locally produced lamb, beef, milk, cheese and other agricultural products,” said Kimberley Rodrigues, director of UC HREC. “Along with these opportunities come challenges associated with living alongside some of our resident wildlife. The workshops will help local residents deal with these challenges.”

Rodrigues – who has a doctorate degree in environmental science and has been a leader in outreach, strategic facilitation and partnership development for 25 years – has been actively involved in wildlife management at the 5,300-acre HREC since she arrived in mid-2014.

“I quickly realized the biggest challenge to maintaining a sustainable flock of sheep here in our location is addressing predation issues, primarily by coyotes,” Rodrigues said. “With some improvements to our fences, changes in pasture rotations and increased use of guard dogs, losses of sheep to coyotes are now at an acceptable level. We hope to share our own experience, hear from diverse perspectives and experiences at these events and would like HREC to become a hub for future learning on this topic.”

Recent discussion and decisions made by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors regarding their contract with USDA Wildlife Services (WS) and their use of an integrated wildlife damage management program prompted UC HREC to provide a space for two workshops to allow learning on wildlife management and community conversation.

The Dec. 1 workshop will focus on scientific design and is implemented by USDA WS. It provides an opportunity to hear experts from USDA, the Californi Department of Fish and Wildlife, UC Cooperative Extension and Defenders of Wildlife to discuss the most up-to-date research in wildlife behavior and non-lethal control methods.

The Dec. 2 community conversation workshop is hosted by UC HREC and includes current research from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, wildlife biologists and discussion of the challenges associated with ranching in Mendocino County from the Magruder family and other local ranchers. The day will culminate in discussion groups on topics ranging from integrated wildlife management tools to understanding local, state and federal connections.

The public may attend either day or both days. Registration for the two workshops is separate.

“Topography, surrounding environments, community viewpoints, available funds and the kind of animals being farmed are all part of the picture – there is no easy solution,” said Hannah Bird, UC HREC community educator. “Ranchers and land managers need to know what tools are available to them and the implications and benefits of each of these tools. Attending both workshops will provide a deeper understanding of the issues.”

Community members, ranchers, land managers and members of non-profit organizations are invited to attend. The workshops will be at the Rod Shippey Hall, Hopland Research and Extension Center, 4070 University Road, Hopland, CA 95449. Registration is $30 for each day (including lunch) and must be made in advance. The registration deadline is Nov. 23. Space is limited.

Sign up for the Dec. 1 USDA WS workshop at http://ow.ly/TYhBd and the Dec. 2 community conversation workshop at http://ow.ly/TYhos.

More on the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center:

The Hopland Research and Extension Center is a multi-disciplinary research and education facility run by the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources Division. As stewards of more than 5,300 acres of oak woodland, grassland, chaparral, and riparian environments their mission is to find better ways to manage our natural resources and conduct sustainable agricultural practices, through science, for the benefit of California's citizens.

Author: Hannah Bird

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 10:38 AM
Tags: coyotes (10), Hopland REC (2), Kim Rodrigues (5), sheep (9), wildlife (31)

Don’t feed wild animals, says UC ANR pest expert

Squirrels carry fleas that transmit plague.
Did you know that it is illegal to feed wildlife? As tempting as it is to put out bread crumbs for birds or deer chow for Bambi, there are downsides to feeding wild animals, says a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources expert in human-wildlife conflict resolution.

California law states: “Except as otherwise authorized in these regulations or in the Fish and Game Code, no person shall harass, herd or drive any game or nongame bird or mammal or fur-bearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act that disrupts an animal's normal behavior patterns, which includes but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering. This section does not apply to a landowner or tenant who drives or herds birds or mammals for the purpose of preventing damage to private or public property, including aquaculture and agriculture crops.”

Feeding wild animals may help non-native, invasive, nuisance and feral animals survive, says Niamh Quinn, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.

“Many of these species have public health risks associated with them, which can cause serious illness in humans,” Quinn said. “Rats and squirrels carry fleas that transmit plague and feral cats also carry fleas that carry typhus. Both of these diseases can be transmitted to people and cause serious illness, or even death.”

During the summer of 2015, two tourists at Yosemite National Park contracted plague, but humans are not the only ones at risk from disease. Wildlife can also become more exposed to disease as a result of people feeding them.

The Pacific Flyway is a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in America, extending from Alaska to Patagonia. As part of the Pacific Flyway, California is a temporary home for many species of birds. Due to people feeding them, some of these birds no longer naturally migrate.

Adult roof rat
“Unfortunately, when we feed birds at parks with lakes and ponds, we are encouraging these unnatural situations and not helping the health of these bird populations,” Quinn said. “This can cause unnatural numbers of water fowl to congregate in ponds, rivers and lakes and creates perfect conditions for avian botulism and cholera to take hold. Bird die-offs can occur naturally in wilderness areas and are prominent in drought conditions due to low water resources.

Sustaining nonnative and feral animals can also have negative impacts on native wildlife, she said.

“For example, the eastern fox squirrel, which has now been released in many cities in the state, is competing with the native western gray squirrel,” said Quinn. “Sustaining the nonnative and invasive eastern fox squirrel could further aid in its distribution in the state, which would spell disaster for the native gray squirrel.”

Adult house mouse
Leaving nuts and seeds out for squirrels can also encourage other nonnative wildlife like roof rats and house mice.

“Not only do these species have public health issues associated with them, they also compete with native wildlife,” Quinn said. “They prey on bird eggs and can compete with native rodents for food resources.”

Indirect feeding of wildlife can also lead to serious conflicts between people and wildlife, Quinn warned.

“Bears that become accustomed to human food often have to be trapped and re-released and some are even euthanized,” Quinn said. “Coyotes are now common-place in some of our cities in California. Relying on human food could cause habituation of these wild animals and cause conflicts to rise. It is important that we cover our trash cans and make sure that we keep wildlife out of them.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has an initiative called “Keep Me Wild” with the slogan “Wild animals don't need your handouts. They need your respect.” Quinn urges people to consider the long-term welfare of wildlife the next time they are tempted to feed wild animals.

For more information about managing pests around homes, visit the UC ANR Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website: http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html.

Posted on Friday, October 30, 2015 at 11:01 AM

UCCE wildlife specialist Robert Timm retires after 27 years

Bob Timm, shown next to sheep corrals, studied ways to prevent coyotes from preying on sheep.
Robert Timm, director of UC Hopland Research & Extension Center and UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, retired July 1, wrapping up a 27-year career with the University of California.

Timm's career has focused on managing wildlife damage and providing science-based advice for people to solve conflicts between humans and wildlife, which increasingly arise as both human and wildlife populations expand. One of his research subjects was finding better ways to prevent coyotes from preying on sheep.

He compiled, edited and published the reference book “Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage” in 1983 and co-edited the 2004 revision. Since 1989, he has served in many leadership roles on the Vertebrate Pest Council, including managing editor of the Vertebrate Pest Conference Proceedings since 2002.

In 2007, Timm planned the first Urban Coyote Symposium and published papers from the symposium as a management guide. He also created the website CoyoteBytes.org to provide current, science-based management recommendations to wildlife managers and decisionmakers at the city, county and state levels who were dealing with urban coyote conflicts.

As director of the Hopland Research & Extension Center, he was instrumental in the design and construction of Rod Shippey Hall, an outreach and research facility that was completed in 2012. The late Rod Shippey was a UCCE advisor in Mendocino County.

Timm, as a graduate student in 1977, holds a coyote pup.
"What I've loved about being at Hopland is the opportunity to get to know a variety of people who have conducted field research, including campus-based faculty, students and CE advisors," said Timm. "These colleagues and friends are wonderfully diverse in their backgrounds, fields of study, interests and knowledge. It's an ideal situation for interdisciplinary brainstorming, sharing of techniques, and creating new approaches to answer important questions about the management of our resources. At this center, there are always interesting things happening."

Timm earned a B.S. in biology at the University of Redlands and master's and Ph.D. in ecology at UC Davis. He began his career at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he served for nine years as Cooperative Extension vertebrate pest specialist and assistant professor. In 1987, he returned to California to become the second administrator in the history of the “Hopland Field Station,” as it was then known. The late Al Murphy served as the center's first administrator from 1951 to 1986.

In retirement, Timm and his wife Janice plan to stay in Ukiah and spend more time gardening, fishing, traveling and attending Giants games. Timm, who has been granted emeritus status, also plans to finish several publications and continue participating in the Vertebrate Pest Council.

Posted on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Drought is a scapegoat for wildlife in urban areas

Mountain lions' range is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The California drought is being blamed for increased sightings of wild animals in urban areas, a situation for which humans are more likely responsible, reported Haya El Nasser on Al Jazeera America.

The story said a bear recently wandered into a Little League baseball game in San Luis Obispo and mountain lions are jumping fences in Northern California to kill goats. Experts said the sightings might be unusual, but not abnormal.

For decades, the article said, sprawling development into natural habitats has brought wild animals face to face with humans.

“In many cases, resources along the edge of the suburbs are far more reliable than resources out in the wild, because every year people are going to irrigate their fruit trees. Every year they're going to irrigate their lawns,” said Tom Scott, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist. “Animals are quick to use resources that are available.”

Scott said the drought is taking a toll on wildlife reproduction.

“This is the third year of drought, and that's three bad years of reproduction for wildlife species,” he said. “Wildlife population is starting to decline. It's attrition rather than a catastrophic drop, but if we went through another drought year, who knows?”

Posted on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Tags: bear (1), drought (162), mountain lion (3), Tom Scott (8), wildlife (31)

College students create wildlife habitats in a Wild Campus program

Students prepare to plant oak seedlings.
Put together a group of hard-working, do-good college students who care about environmental issues, and you end up with a really “Wild Campus.” At UC Davis, students formed the student-run Wild Campus organization two years ago to conserve wildlife in the greater UC Davis area.

Working with campus experts (such as faculty and staff in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology) and local environmental and conservation organizations, the volunteer students are improving the habitats for local wildlife and engaging the public in hands-on activities.

This is an extraordinary program that gives the students real-world environmental management skills, along with leadership opportunities and communications experience. Professor John Eadie, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at UC Davis, said of the Wild Campus program, “Hands-on activity is a huge part of the educational experience.”

Students plant tules in Putah Creek.
In the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, the students are establishing wildlife habitat areas and monitoring populations of amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, and reptiles. They will record the changes over the course of time. Recent work in the riparian reserve (aka “the living classroom”) has included planting native oak seedlings, and installing tule plants to provide protection for the Western Pond Turtle, a species of concern.

A past project — Build a Wild Home Day — involved working with the UC Davis Arboretum on a successful public outreach program to build bird and bat boxes for installation on campus. (Great photos of this program are on the group’s Facebook page.)

The Wild Campus organization has a large cadre of eager and dedicated students who are improvising and making the most of limited resources. However, they are in need of donated field equipment (used equipment is fine) and financial contributions.

Visit the Wild Campus website and Facebook page for a feel-good look at what these ambitious students are doing to improve the environment, along with ways you can help them succeed.

A juvenile Western Pond Turtle.
A healthy turtle habitat, a few months after planting.

Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

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