The large paws of a puma pad lightly as they stalk their prey throughout the Santa Cruz mountains and surrounding areas. Part of the special character of the Bay Area is the diversity of wildlife that inhabit it. Pumas (mountain lions) are just one species in the vast network of life here. But in the last 50 years, much of their habitat has become fragmented by human development: homes, vineyards, roads and the like.

This development can confine animals to ever-smaller islands of habitat. The foundation supports research studying the effects of habitat fragmentation on mountain lion physiology, behavior, movement and ecosystem impacts. Quality scientific data on fragmentation impacts will support continued local efforts to maintain habitat connectivity.

Part of the special character of the Bay Area is the diversity of wildlife that inhabit it.

One project we supported to address this issue helped Sonoma Land Trust purchase land and conduct studies and improvement projects within the Sonoma wildlife corridor – a land area dense with both wildlife and development. The corridor is a prime location for research and investigating potential solutions to habitat degradation.

Another project currently underway is the construction of a wildlife tunnel in Santa Cruz County, which would allow animals such as pumas to safely cross the Laurel Curve – a treacherous stretch of highway for mountain lions and other wildlife.

Organizations like the Santa Cruz Puma Project have been committed to this issue for several years. Using night vision cameras, speaker systems and other technology, scientists have been able to study the habits of mountain lions in the Bay Area, as well as the impact that human development has in changing their behavior. This kind of technology, as well as wildlife trap cameras, not only provide candid “selfies” of animals in the area, but also help researchers track their movements. Understanding how wildlife search for food, water, mates and prey is crucial to restoring and conserving habitats and ecosystems where they live.

Bay Nature magazine recently highlighted the work underway to track and record puma and other wildlife habits, with the hopes of creating more solutions to the challenges of development and fragmentation. The story also features several photos from the wildlife trap cameras that are set up throughout the area.

View an interactive map of conservation areas in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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