BAPP's field research is asking and answering important questions about the region's pumas, both in their natural state and as they adapt to human encroachment and activity:
· size and distribution of populations
· home ranges and movement patterns
· prey, predation and feeding
· reproduction, early life and dispersal
· interactions with the natural environment
· interactions with humans and the manmade environment
Understanding what is currently happening 'on the ground' provides a critical foundation for efforts to protect and sustain healthy populations. Being able to pinpoint where conflicts and issues are greatest helps prioritize conservation efforts, and provides a baseline reference for the success of those efforts. In addition, this research provides a local story to help motivate and inspire nearby communities to act. By helping people fully understand and appreciate the stakes, and how their decisions today will affect the outcome now and into the future, these efforts are promoting more responsible stewardship of the incredible natural environments around the Bay Area.
Bay Area Puma Populations
The Bay Area's puma populations can roughly be divided into three regions: the Santa Cruz Mountains, the East Bay, and the North Bay. The Santa Cruz Mountains are at an especially critical point due to the fact that they are dangerously close to losing all habitat connectivity with the rest of the state and becoming a 'habitat island.' Massive development in Silicon Valley has brought this region to the brink of ecological isolation, a condition which would undermine the genetic diversity of the species that live there and destroy the health and balance of the environment. Examining the connections between this region and East Bay is a key focus of BAPP and a number of other research efforts.
Another key region for Bay Area pumas is the East Bay. This territory has an unusually wide range of habitat types, ranging from the wide open spaces of the Ohlone Wilderness to the complex urban-wildland interfaces of Berkeley and Oakland. This makes it an ideal area to study the effects of human development on puma populations. By comparing key indicators across these regions, and studying the way the pumas are adapting to human presence, we can see more clearly how to better enable co-existence between pumas and humans.
Felidae Conservation Fund in partnership with East Bay Regional Park District and others is currently spearheading the launch of a new puma and bobcat study in the East Bay. Key research goals for this study include: 1) how the East Bay acts as a central connection point among several other major habitat areas, and 2) how local felids interact with one of the most extreme urban-wildland interfaces in the Bay Area at the transition between the East Bay Hills and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley. Currently in its startup stages with remote camera work in progress, this study is expected to begin GPS-monitoring of felids in late 2012.
North Bay puma habitats include Marin County, Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley and the North Coast. These regions have significant amounts of open space with intermittent rural and suburban development. BAPP's research team has begun examining these populations using remote cameras, with GPS-monitoring projected to begin in 2014.