“Success of conserved lands ultimately depends on a commitment to the ongoing, unseen, and often unglamorous work of patrolling, reporting on, defending, and sometimes repairing the most critical parts of those areas,” says Denise Harter, leader of the all-volunteer led Daley Ranch Tracking Team. Harter and her team conduct wildlife surveys, train volunteers, and do remote camera work to help monitor the success of wildlife tunnels around Daley Ranch and Lake Wohlford.
New developments and roads often disrupt normal habits of animals as they try to move through open spaces in search of food and water. Not only can this be dangerous to wildlife, but also to drivers who are involved in 6.1 million accidents annually due to animal collisions. Wildlife tunnels have been the most commonly used method of helping animals cross roads and highways, although plans for the first wildlife overpass in California are currently in the works. Every animal has certain needs for these tunnels including specific height, length, light, and incline. In order to monitor their success, Harter and her team make visits to look for animal activity and help prevent any interruptions to wildlife accessibility. Occasionally wildlife accessibility can be deterred by graffiti, homeless encampments, and other human activity. The addition of cameras to wildlife tracking can help deter some of this activity and help capture additional animal activity, although cameras cannot be relied on to collect all wildlife data.
Having wildlife tracking data can also be helpful in planning for wildlife crossings when new roads and developments are being proposed. The Escondido Creek Conservancy along with other local conservation organizations, like the Daley Ranch Tracking Team, are always on the lookout for these new developments to ensure the least amount of impact on our native wildlife.
If you’re interested in being part of this ‘underground’ movement in the Escondido Creek watershed reach out to Denise Harter on facebook.com/DaleyRanchTrackingTeam and you too can make a difference in your watershed.