by Jen Stanfield
Sonoma Land Trust and Pathways for Wildlife staff placed infrared cameras along major rural roads in southern Sonoma County last summer to monitor underpass and culvert use by animals. We expected to leave the cameras in place for one year. However, we have recently experienced our first truly wet season since the wildlife corridor studies began several years ago, and it soon became clear that monitoring and maintenance for the cameras would be a wholly different experience from our past study.
Sonoma Valley program manager Tony Nelson and I hit the road a few weeks ago hoping to retrieve the cameras’ memory cards and swap out batteries, only to abandon the planned maintenance because the culverts were full of rushing water and access was limited or downright dangerous. We returned after the storms had passed to find that most of our cameras had been submerged and several were no longer working. While some equipment failure is to be expected over the course of a monitoring study, it’s disheartening to have to swap out so many cameras in one round. Luckily for us, after a week or so of drying out in our office, many of the cameras are expected to return to operable condition.
In addition to the effects on basic maintenance activities and equipment, all this water has had another impact. It’s made us wonder: How are animals getting across roads while the culverts are full of water? Sadly, during our recent round of maintenance, we noticed quite a bit of roadkill. We theorize that these animals had had to attempt road crossings while the underpasses were working at capacity to drain the surrounding landscape. We have collected some photos of animals (like deer) using the culverts when they are full of water, but that’s rare. Until this rainy monitoring season, the complex interactions of wildlife, roads and infrastructure have never been so apparent.
For more information on our camera monitoring studies, check out this blog post from last April.
Jen Stanfield is an assistant stewardship project manager at Sonoma Land Trust.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.