We need to have a little talk about wildfires and corridors.
We are well into wildfire season here in Southern California, and experts warn that our ‘new normal’ will include a longer fire season that will feature bigger, hotter, and more destructive fires. Here at Laguna Greenbelt, Inc, we can’t help but ask: What happens to all the wild animals when wildfires occur, and how can we help them survive these terrifying events?
Just like people, many of these animals flee. Check out one serendipitous capture of fleeing animals during the Canyon Fire 2 in Anaheim Hills in 2017:
Just like people, animals need pathways of escape when fire (or another disaster) threatens their home. Animals living in an area with ample open space are lucky – when a fire comes they have many options for escaping. But, for those animals that find themselves in landscapes fragmented by development – ‘fenced in’ by roads or other urban structures – wildlife corridors can offer important escape routes to a safe place.
Here in Orange County, this month’s Holy Fire burned over 22,000 acres in the Santa Ana Mountains, along the border of Orange and Riverside Counties. This includes part of Cleveland National Forest- the very ‘Cleveland’ referred to in the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor, which connects these Santa Ana Mountains to the Laguna Coastal Wilderness parks. On another day, during another fire, is it possible this corridor could be the only potential escape route for our wild neighbors?
The good news is the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor is marching towards completion. It’s a unique project because it requires putting a strip of habitat back into an area that is now highly urban. When it’s completed, animals in the Santa Ana Mountains – bobcats, coyotes, and more – will be able to travel to the coastal wilderness areas around Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo, and adjacent areas. Likewise, animals that have been isolated on the coast will be able to move inland to find fresh resources and mates…not only during a disaster, but anytime.
These animals are depending on us to keep working to make the corridor a success so that they have a chance.
When there’s a fire, escaping isn’t the end of the story. For bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, and deer, a wildlife corridor also means having a way home again. Isn’t that something that everyone can get behind?
*Learn more about the progress of the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor in urban Irvine, California at: https://wildlifecorridor.org
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