Co-existence in the Warner Mountains: Carnivores, Ungulates, and Livestock
Becca Carniello, Masters candidate Humboldt State University and Scientific Aid for California Department of Fish and Wildlife
From a very young age I learned to appreciate the value of the natural world through activities such as: hunting, fishing, snow-shoeing, backpacking, and hiking. Because of this, I have always felt a deep calling towards natural resources preservation and conservation. I received my bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation Biology and Applied Vertebrate Ecology at Humboldt State University in 2019. Towards the fulfillment of my undergraduate degree, I completed an honors thesis project on hunter-harvested black bear population genetics. While working on my honors thesis, I realized how much I loved developing research questions and gathering and analyzing data that could help improve our abilities to manage wildlife populations and their habitats.
Figure 1. Camping in the Warner Mountains overviewing Patterson Lake.
Following the completion of my undergraduate degree, I applied and was accepted into the Natural Resources Master’s Program at Humboldt State and accepted a position working on the Warner Mountain Black Bear Project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. I absolutely fell in love with the Warner Mountains and all that Modoc County has to offer and sought to conduct my master’s research here. While working on the Black Bear Project, I developed my master’s research question on how wild carnivores and ungulates adapt to the presence of cattle grazing in the Warner Mountains. (https://wildlife.humboldt.edu/graduate-students/rebecca-carniello)
Figure 2. Black bears captured on trial cameras during the study.
To gather information on these adaptations, I placed 52 remote cameras throughout the southern portion of the Warner Mountains. I began my data collection in March of 2020 by snow shoeing up the Emerson trail as far as I could to place my first two cameras. After that, I continued to place cameras as snow levels allowed and had all 52 cameras out on the landscape by the beginning of June 2020. These cameras were strategically placed on game trails in several Forest Service grazing allotments and in the un-grazed portion of the Wilderness Area. The Wilderness Area cameras were especially difficult to place and required backpacking the Owl Creek trail from the Summit trailhead to the Emerson trailhead, but I could not have been more grateful to see just how beautiful the Warner Mountain backcountry is. Cameras were placed on allotments a minimum of two weeks before cattle were scheduled to begin grazing and were taken down a minimum of one month after cattle were scheduled to end grazing. I ended my data collection and had all of the cameras removed from the landscape by the end of November 2020 and recently finished going through all of the photos. I have identified all photos to species and will use them to test for differences in carnivore and ungulate activity patterns before, during, and after the grazing period. By testing for these differences and determining how wild animals are adapting, I hope that land managers can use the information to continue to fine-tune grazing strategies, facilitate coexistence with wildlife, and allow for the continued multiple uses of the Modoc National Forest.
Figure 3. Diverse wildlife call the Modoc National Forest home.
I am just starting to analyze the data and can’t wait to share the results with you all. This project would not have been possible without the support of the University of California Cooperative Extension in Modoc County and numerous volunteers.