March 26, 2019

We were not 20 minutes in to this year's Great Egret tagging season when the team welcomed Egret 11, a splendid member of the ardeid family and a top predator who enjoys foraging near ACR's research center on the edge of Tomales Bay.

We will now follow GREG 11 via a small solar-powered GPS backpack. GREG 11 joins ten other birds we have tracked as far south as Mexico as part of the first study of its kind in the Western U.S. Some of the birds who traveled to the Central Valley during the winter have returned to the West Marin area. Great Egrets are at the very beginning of the nesting season right now, and are just starting to prospect nesting sites within Bay Area colonies and begin nest construction.

Follow this project as, together, we learn about how these iconic...

March 18, 2019

Audubon Canyon Ranch has joined with other conservation organizations and public land managers to form the Sonoma Valley Fire and Vegetation Management Collaborative. Here's an overview of The Collaborative and the work we will undertake.

Who are we? We manage 18,000 acres of protected Sonoma Valley lands.

We are a group of six conservation organizations and land management agencies that began working together in the wake of the devastating Nuns Fire of October 2017. Collaborative members have agreed to coordinate fire and vegetation management with each other and with CAL FIRE’s Sonoma Lake Napa Unit (LNU) in the Sonoma Valley region.

Members of the Collaborative are Audubon Canyon Ranch, California State Parks, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space,...

March 12, 2019

Our Living with Lions team this week shared the exciting news that two mountain lion kittens were born at Trione-Annadel State Park in early February to a female mountain lion being tracked by ACR’s research study.

This marks the first litter delivered by a 3.5-year-old mama cat (named P11 for the study), who in September was captured and fitted with a GPS-tracking collar just outside the park’s boundary.

“This news underscores the critical importance of Trione-Annadel State Park’s habitat for local wildlife populations. In managing our State Parks, we strive every day to balance preservation of natural resources with recreational access,” said Cyndy Shafer, Natural Resource Program Manager for the Bay Area District.

In general, mountain lion kittens have a 50%...

February 12, 2019

We greatly regret to report that mountain lion P15 (called Jupiter) was shot February 9, 2019, four days after he was collared as part of Living with Lions, a CDFW-permitted study trying to understand the movement and behavior of these top carnivores of the North Bay region.

P15 was a 13-month-old male lion recently dispersed from his mom, who is most likely P4, a female big cat also being tracked by the study. On February 4, the uncollared cat attacked an unsecured goat in the Mt. Veeder area of Napa County. After connecting with CDFW, law enforcement and wildlife rescue organizations, the landowner contacted ACR to have the cat collared for research instead of killed under a depredation permit.

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January 15, 2019

Dr. Quinton Martins and the Living with Lions team expanded the scope of our project last week with the capture and GPS-collaring of mountain lion P14 in the West County area of Sonoma County.

His capture and collaring was preceded by his predation of 2 adult llamas owned by ranch owners Paul Matthews and Maria Cardemone. Rather than seeking a depredation permit against this lion, Paul and Maria called us and agreed to allow us, as per our recent California Department of Fish and Wildlife permits, to collar this animal and learn more about its behavior.

Expressing the complex turn of events, Maria and Paul said, "So sad for us and our llamas and so exciting to be part of the ongoing exploration of the big cats and how they move thru our landscape. Always, we are on the...

January 02, 2019

The new year finds me with much to be thankful for—from my exciting, new job with ACR as a Prescribed Fire Specialist to spending the holidays with friends and family.

I’m especially grateful for the experience of the 2018 Yurok TREX (Training Exchange), hosted by the Yurok Tribe. On the Klamath River in northernmost California, they shared their cultural fire and land management practices.

On our first morning on the reservation, Bouverie Resource Ecologist Jared Jacobs and I watched the mist on the mighty Klamath River. It drifted up to meet the light rain falling on the forest.

Beautiful, but not great for getting fire started on the ground. But these inauspicious conditions did not hamper the spirits of about 50 multi-agency “fire-lighters.” We came to learn...

December 19, 2018

Greetings from the field,

On December 13 we captured young adult male, P13, in the southern Sonoma Mountain area, west of El Verano. P13 was the first male lion to go into the smaller version of my walk-through traps. This is the standard Tru-Catch height and width that P5 kept going around, but that we had caught females in. My other traps are 4” higher and wider and have worked for males and females. Will be interesting to watch this young male, who is living within the territorial range of P5. Will he remain under the radar, avoiding conflict, will he try to leave the range, or will he confront P5 in coming months?

Updates about several of the collared lions and their offspring:

P12, the young female is...

December 11, 2018

Nobody goes into land conservation expecting to keep their hands clean.

ACR staff and volunteers will tell you stewarding our preserves is dirty, sweaty and backbreaking work. But they’re not complaining.

It’s also very satisfying to tear out invasive plants, replant native flora and undo other man-made habitat damage.

These unglamorous but important jobs dovetail perfectly with our more far-reaching research efforts.

In other words, ACR’s success depends on a symbiotic relationship between habitat restoration and ecological research. Each supports the other.
We strive for ecologically healthy preserves so wildlife can flourish here. When the habitat is rich with food, water and shelter, it attracts egrets and the other animals we study.

That’s...

November 28, 2018

To a Great Egret, Tomales Bay is full of food, but that food is not always available. Every two weeks, around the new and full moons, the lowest tides and the greatest foraging opportunity coincide with the early morning, making breakfast on the bay an easy affair. During low tides, hundreds of acres of intertidal eelgrass are exposed, allowing egrets to stab at herring during spawning events or to hunt pipe fish, which try to wrap themselves around the egret’s bill to avoid being swallowed. As the tide cycle shifts and morning tides become higher, the eelgrass is exposed for fewer hours per day, reducing foraging opportunities on the bay. During these times, egrets switch to inland ponds and creeks to hunt small fish or walk the surrounding pastures in groups to capture rodents. ...

October 18, 2018

Mountain lion collaring activities are in high gear this fall, with any given week finding the team staking out a potential study subject in the Sonoma Valley, in the hills of Healdsburg or further north near Hopland. One of the most beneficial pieces of equipment in use is our cage trap that employs electronic sensors to trigger the trap when an animal the height of a mountain lion walks through.

Designed by lead researcher Quinton Martins and Keysight marketing director Neil Martin, the cage has seen several beneficial modifications over the past couple of years, including the use of netting rather than metal in the doors to reduce risk of injury to the lions.

In the photos above, the jackrabbit freely walks through the trap at about 4:00am, allowing researchers to...

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