Linkages Offer Connections for MSHCP Species
Many people travel long distances to look for the perfect meal or even the ideal mate. For mountain lions and other MSHCP protected species, potential and established linkages provide travel routes for the exact same purpose! These linkages connect to large open spaces, known as “cores” in the plan.
When animals like bobcats, mountain lions, and California gnatcatchers need to find new mates or food, they must travel. Obstacles that impede an animal’s usual travel routes can result in a decrease in fitness and local adaptation.
Isolation prevents gene flow – the transfer of genetic material from one population to another – and can create inbreeding problems. Mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains have demonstrated distortions of inbreeding such as kinked tails or other deformities due to this isolation.
Most of us understand that mammals need to have ways to safely move between large, protected lands, but what about birds? Don’t they fly?
Birds that migrate to and from the MSHCP can fly to other conserved lands, but some birds like the California gnatcatcher and cactus wren are not strong fliers. They are low-flying species capable of short flights within their habitat. Without linkages, gene flow among these birds is limited in isolated cores/reserve lands, no matter how large the cores are.
To protect natural linkages, the RCA is working diligently to acquire funding to purchase land that promotes habitat linkages. The RCA also guides and supports Permittees and agencies on the development of wildlife crossings for species to safely pass over or under roadways. The Clinton Keith Road wildlife crossing near Murrieta is a linkage that helps the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly, and the Route 60 Truck Lanes wildlife crossings in the Badlands aid a variety of mammals such as coyotes, bobcats, and more.
The RCA monitors established linkages within its owned lands. Remote cameras detect species that use linkages and wildlife crossings. These cameras have captured images of bobcats, mountain lions, birds, and other animals and provide documentation that these efforts are working.