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Protecting Wildlife

Redwoods and Wildlife

Protecting coast redwood forests in the Santa Cruz mountains ensures that a rich diversity of life thrives here. From the humble banana slug crawling across the forest floor and steelhead trout swimming the shady streams to mountain lions roaming across vast territories and endangered marbled murrelets nesting high in the old-growth canopy, the redwood forest pulses with life.

Here are some of the most iconic and fascinating animals we support when we protect redwoods.

photo by Pathways for Wildlife

Here are some of the most iconic and fascinating animals we support when we protect redwoods.

Banana slugs (Ariolimax spp.) are native to the redwood forests of the Pacific coast in North America, and you can often see them out and about when the forest is wet. Visit redwood forest parks in the Santa Cruz mountains, and you can see banana slugs making their way through the forest floor where they are busily – albeit slowly – returning nutrients to the soil and spreading seeds and spores. Just remember to watch your step on the trail! Not all banana slugs are the iconic and eye-catching bright yellow. Learn more about banana slugs.

photo by Ian Bornarth

California Red-legged Frogs

So called for its red lower abdomen and underside of its hind legs, the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) is the largest native frog in the western United States. Sadly, California’s official amphibian is also a federally listed threatened species due to habitat loss and invasive species like the non-native American bullfrog. Their habitat must stay moist and cool through the summer, including slow-moving streams, ponds, and upland shelters such as rocks, small mammal burrows, logs, dense vegetation, and even man-made structures, such as culverts. California red-legged frogs help to keep insect populations in check and are an important food source in the ecosystem for other predators such as the endangered San Francisco garter snake in San Mateo County.

photo by Greg Schechter

Marbled Murrelet

Listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1992, the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a rare and elusive seabird, under threat by oil spills, unsustainable fishing, and onshore habitat loss. Spending most of its life along the shores and only coming inland to nest and lay a single egg, the marbled murrelet faces the challenges of human impacts on both ocean and forest habitats. Marbled murrelets are small and chunky; they’re often described as a flying potato with a beak. For more than half the year, birds sport grayish feathers with black-dipped wings and heads; during breeding season, adults turn a mottled brown to help them better blend in with the forest canopy to evade predators. Marbled murrelets fly over the redwoods at dawn and at dusk en route to the ocean to catch fish, or to their hidden nest in redwood canopies. Learn more about the marvels and mystery of the marbled murrelet.

photo by Kim Nelson and Dan Cushing

Peregrine Falcon

A conservation success story, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) nearly went extinct late in the 20th century due to shell thinning caused by the buildup of DDT and other poisons in the food chain. Today, peregrine falcons are rebounding thanks to the ban of DDT and full State protections, and nests along cliffs in the Santa Cruz mountains are being monitored by researchers. Diving at speeds recorded up to 242 miles per hour to catch their prey, primarily consisting of medium-sized birds like corvids which are known to steal eggs from the nests of other birds, Peregrine falcons are arguably the fastest animal on earth.

photo by Ron Knight

Red-tailed Hawk

Even if you haven’t knowingly seen a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), you’ve probably heard one. Their powerful scream is often used as a stand in for eagles and other raptors on television and movies. Named for their distinct tail coloring, their tail feathers are usually closer to a warm shade of brown than a vibrant red. Although red-tailed hawks can be seen soaring in circles above open fields and grasslands where they hunt, they typically nest in the crowns of tall trees like redwoods that offer great views of the surrounding landscape.

photo by Jaime Robles

Townsend’s Big-eared Bat

Of the diverse species of bats found in the Santa Cruz mountains, the Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) is the most rare and impacted that has been detected at our San Vicente Redwoods property where ongoing bat research led by Dr. Winifred Frick with Bat Conservation International is taking place with unobtrusive audio monitoring equipment. Plus, as our Land Team points out, they’re adorable. While considered a medium-sized bat, the out-sized ears for which they’re named are not. In fact, their ears can be half the length of their bodies. Their sensitive ears may play a role in their listing as a sensitive species. Unsurprisingly, their big ears are hypersensitive and roosts of Townsend’s big-eared bats will wiggle them around to try to identify an intrusion and will often fly away never to return. This may make them highly-susceptible to human disturbance which could drastically limit suitable habitat and can make research challenging. This California Species of Special Concern has been known to roost in large basal hollows of redwoods as well as caves where they are important members of the ecosystem keeping insect populations under control.

photo by National Park Service

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