This is a “Best of Wendy Langhans” Report.
Wildlife corridors are passageways between two larger expanses of open space. They serve several important functions:
• Allow wide-ranging species to roam and find mates
• Allow plants to reproduce
• Foster genetic diversity
• Provide escape routes for natural disasters (like wildfire)
• Assist repopulation after a disaster
We don’t have time to discuss all of these functions today, but let’s look more closely at genetic diversity and let’s begin with an animal we are most familiar with, the family dog.
This is the week of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and we’ve seen a variety of breeds of dog strutting their stuff, some as small as a Yorkshire Terrier and others as large as a Siberian Husky. Over the years, dog breeders have used in-breeding, the mating of closely related dogs, to create new breeds and “fix” the traits of the breed. But excessive inbreeding can also cause problems, because it can lead to the spread of harmful genes, reduced litter sizes and higher mortality rates. Yorkies, for example, have a notoriously finicky digestive system and can have more serious problems with their liver.
Now think what would happen to a wide-ranging species such as a coyote, if their habitats were isolated from each other, if there were no wildlife corridors connecting them. Over time, it could lead to more in-breeding and less genetic diversity, resulting in more genetically-based health problems and ultimately fewer coyotes.
When there are fewer coyotes, there a fewer songbirds, because coyotes keep a lid on the population of smaller mammals. And those smaller mammals, such as raccoons, are quite fond of bird eggs.
The more you study nature, the more you realize how interconnected things really are. Reducing the population of one species can upset the ecological balance of an entire habitat.
So the next time you hear about the proposed Las Lomas development in the Newhall Wedge between the I-5 and the SR-14, remember that this area contains the critical wildlife corridor between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Susana Mountains. And consider how wildlife corridors contribute to the ecological health of our local mountains, including something as subtle as the birdsongs we hear while sipping our morning coffee on our patios.
Note: Read Wendy Langhans’ report on the lastest vote by the Santa Clarita City Council on Gateway Ranch – expanding our wildlife corridor.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com.