If you recently found yourself in Mountain View, California then you may have walked right past a mountain lion and didn’t even know it!
This past May a mountain lion, known by the research crew at UC Santa Cruz as 46m, made his way from his home in the forests of Santa Cruz Mountains down to the city of Mountain View in search of new territory. During this journey 46m crossed a major freeway and found himself lost among a forest of apartment buildings instead of trees.
Luckily the police and researchers tracked down 46m in a parking garage and brought him back to his habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
This event is a reminder (to me and hopefully to you) that animals live among us, they share our home. In fact, they were here before us when cities were nothing more than trees and open space. Here in Santa Cruz, during the hazy hours of dusk or the pitch black of night many creatures can be spotted. Throughout the years I have seen bobcats, deer, foxes, rabbits, skunks, possums, and raccoons.
According to the UC Santa Cruz puma research project who tracks 46m, mountain lions live in a fragmented habitat. Meaning their habitat is broken up by urban settings such as cities or roadways. So what can city planners do to accommodate these creatures that also call Santa Cruz (and the surrounding areas) their home?
Consider Santa Clara County, who recently adopted a Habitat Conservation Plan for Coyote Valley. This Plan contains a conservation strategy to mitigate impacts and contribute to the recovery of animals in the Plan coverage area. In particular this area covers the habitat of a variety of endangered plants and animals including the San Joaquin kit fox and Western burrowing owl. The plan lays out a framework for habitat management, restoration, monitoring and funding. Perhaps the County of Santa Cruz in partnership with the County of Santa Clara could look into creating a Habitat Plan for the Santa Cruz Mountains.
I believe it is imperative that cities ensure that all species are taken into account when planning for development. Just because we as humans can speak for ourselves does not mean that we should forget about those species who cannot. We need to be their voice. I cannot stress enough the importance of biodiversity for this planet. Do we really want to wake up one day and the only things living are humans, cockroaches, and rats? We as planners are responsible for taking into account all life when creating policy, zoning codes, and approving permits for development.