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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Report from the Field ... and the Desk

Have you ever wondered how many earwigs can live inside a bear-proof camera box? No? My name is Amy List, and let me tell you: the answer is more than you can imagine in your wildest nightmares. My job here at the Conservancy as a Wildlife Technician is to maintain an array of 48 wildlife cameras placed on a 48 km square grid located in the heart of Tejon Ranch. This study area contains some of the steepest, densest, and most interesting terrain on the ranch. It stretches from windswept Martinez Ridge, along the rolling hills of Tunis Ridge, and down into the deep Incense-Cedar forests of El Paso creek. 

Winters Ridge in February - the high country portion of the study area

Aside from a thriving earwig population, this area of the ranch is also home to a host of wildlife species, including wild pigs. Developing techniques of monitoring and managing wild pigs is the focus of this research, which is being conducted through a new partnership between the Tejon Conservancy and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS), and their cooperative partner Conservation Science Partners (CSP).

A typical day in the life of a cow.
All the cameras are strategically placed along wildlife corridors such as game trails and roads - no bait needed. These cameras take a high quality photo every time they are triggered by heat and motion. I then sort through the photos, categorizing and archiving them for future use. Wading through over 100,000 photos a month, the majority of which contain dopey-eyed cows and frolicking squirrels, is an endurance exercise in boredom. Occasionally, however, something truly wonderful appears and we are allowed a glimpse into the behaviors of elusive and fascinating animals. These camera have captured some incredible moments so far - a bobcat carrying her kittens to a new den site, tiny bear cubs taking their first steps, young pumas playing tag, and recently a staggering amount of piglets. 

Here for your enjoyment are some of my personal favorite wildlife photos from the last five months.
A sounder with a crowd of piglets on Tunis Ridge. 
Spotted skunk on Hunter Ridge. 
A puma relaxing near Pastoria Creek 
Bobcats often appear intrigued by the camera's bright flash 
This striped skunk, on the other hand, had a defensive reaction to the flash. 
Bobcat mama on Hunter Ridge carrying her kitten. She returned a bit later for the other kitten. 
Young pumas playing on Winters Ridge.

Coyote on Martinez Ridge.

Bobcat eyes catching the light on Tunis Ridge. 

Puma walking with purpose on Hunter Ridge.

Young black bear cubs play at a popular spot for wildlife on Winters Ridge.

A trio of bear cubs walk across the Haul Road.

Mule deer fawns on Winters Ridge.

A grey fox in a patch of wildflowers on Tunis Ridge.