Areas of Focus for 2012
A. The Santa Ana Mountains – Palomar Mountains corridor south of Temecula, CA. This area is designated as a wildlife / conservation corridor by the Riverside County MSHCP. It straddles Interstate 15 with several designated wildlife crossings, including one bridge and several culverts of variable sizes and shapes. No GPS-collared cougars from our study have utilized these crossings to date. Development proposals are under consideration by Riverside County that would degrade the quality of this corridor, making acquiring knowledge of its current function important. We were unable to capture any cougars in this area in 2011, but obtained camera evidence of cougar use of some areas near the crossings, and are continuing capture efforts there.
B. The 241 tollroad and other nearby highways and streets in Orange County have been the sites of at least 16 cougar, numerous deer, and other wildlife mortalities in the last 10 years. Extensive data has been collected about these roadkills, and we have begun combining this data with cougar movement data, cougar movement models, and on-the-ground assessments in order to provide advice to the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency (OCTCA), the Orange County Transportation Authority, and Cal-Trans about steps that could be taken to reduce the roadkill toll. In association with this effort, as well as for the purposes of increasing accuracy of our general cougar movement modeling, we are currently programming the GPS collars placed on cougars in the northern Santa Ana Mountains to take datapoints every 5 minutes 24 hours per day. At the time of this report, we have collected this every 5 minute data from 3 cougars (F85, M86, and M87). We believe that data from these 3 cougars and any others in the area that are GPS-collared and programmed to take every 5 minute data can substantially improve the accuracy of predictions made by models of road crossing points on the 241 tollroad and other highways.
Model outputs from M64 will be combined with other information we have relating to wildlife crossing size and shape to help inform the design process to make that crossing area more functional for wildlife should the proposed extension go forward.