Project post doc, Max Allen, and I recently went out in the field with Tanya Diamond and Ahiga Snyder from Pathways for Wildlife to see where the Santa Cruz County Land Trust will build the new wildlife crossing culvert under Highway 17.
We started off our hike with Ahiga telling us the story of a male puma he had been tracking across the area. He set up camera traps across the newly-acquired property in spots he thought a puma might use, and was very excited to tell us about the series of photos documenting a male’s trek from Soquel Creek up to Highway 17.
Tanya and Ahiga bounded down the trail from camera to camera, clearly thrilled about the presence of this cat in the recently protected land, as well as their ability to track his movements. They checked each camera and clicked though the photos, “skunk… wind… wind… squirrel…” looking for more evidence of the puma.
As each camera turned up empty-handed, their excitement waned. Ahiga explained to us that he was still optimistic, but he was concerned about the cat. The last time he saw the puma had been right before an uncollared male was stuck and killed on the 17 not far from where the last photo was taken.
With each passing camera the chances of catching a glimpse of the cat decreased, and it started to sink in that Ahiga had likely documented that male’s final trek to Highway 17 where he had been killed.
Sadly, this male was one of 13 pumas killed on Highway 17 in the past seven years. However, the new culvert the Santa Cruz County Land Trust is installing could make him the last. Check out this short video about it.