Practicum Project | 2011

Wildlife Use of the Los Piñetos Underpass, Santa Clarita, California

Students: Robert Freidin, Diane Schreck, Brooke Scruggs, Elise Shulman, Alissa Swauger, Allison Tashnek

Client: Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority

Advisor: Travis Longcore and Erin Boydston

Final Report

Corridors between fragmented habitats are critical to the maintenance of certain wildlife populations, especially those of larger, terrestrial mammalian carnivores. Commercial development is being considered in the small wedge of land between Sierra Highway and State Route (SR) 14. The Los Piñetos underpass is currently a corridor under SR 14 that provides a connection between Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) and City of Santa Clarita protected land and this site. Beyond this wedge is a habitat connection to the Los Padres National Forest, which makes the Los Piñetos underpass the most likely connection between two regionally significant blocks of protected habitat. To document wildlife use of this underpass, we installed ten remotely triggered cameras, in stages, over two months around this area. We installed seven cameras near and under the underpass, and three cameras as controls up to 1 km from the underpass, in protected lands. Following 429 trap-nights, our photographs showed use of the area by coyote (Canis latrans), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), Audubon’s cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and American badger (Taxidea taxus). The cameras along the road also captured human and vehicle activity, which we found to statistically differ temporally from that of the wildlife. We also produced data on species accumulation over time, relative activity of coyotes, and directionality of underpass use. Geographically, we found that animals traveling southeast via the underpass are veering toward an area of proposed development, and that the corridor location suggested by project proponents may not be in the area where animals are traveling, although further research on the proposed development parcel is warranted.