CARLSBAD— Mingling with animals in Carlsbad usually means a pesky raccoon rifling through the garbage or a skunk skittering underneath a house.
Those aren’t the only species that call the city home.
Bobcats and deer actually meander through environmental corridors hidden in plain sight throughout the city.
As part of a wildlife movement study, city staff and other environmental agencies began monitoring the large mammals to find out how to help them thrive in the urban environment.
Carlsbad staff and leaders from local, regional and state environmental agencies gave an annual update on the city’s environmental practices and progress April 30, including a recently introduced monitoring program.
“The Habitat Management Plan is using… a federal and a state program to do a comprehensive level look at conservation and by doing that we can address the habitats that are needed for threatened and endangered species,” said Carlsbad Senior Planner Mike Grim.
Last fiscal year, the city received a Local Assistance Grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife which allowed them to monitor the wildlife in the region with motion-activated cameras.
“This was huge for Carlsbad,” said Marcus Spiegelberg, San Diego regional preserve manager with the Center for Natural Lands Management. “Movement is one of the most critical elements of the success of the Management Habitat Conservation Program.”
The goal was to observe and understand how bobcats and deer use the environmental corridors.
The footage, taken from June 2013 to March 2014, yielded surprising information.
A bobcat that was caught on tape had a tag on its ear and city staff put out a region wide e-mail to learn more.
A researcher at San Diego State University said she recognized the bobcat and it likely traveled to Carlsbad from Rancho Peñasquitos.
“At least one individual has gotten from Rancho Peñasquitos all the way up here and it’s probably more likely others,” Grim said.
The camera footage allowed staff to collect data and identify problem areas for animal movement.
The cameras give staff reliable information instead of second-hand anecdotal evidence.
“You’ve got anecdotal data, where someone said they saw a deer or bobcat but you just didn’t really know where they were or how they were getting around,” said Grim.
Staff has also identified three major east-west corridors the animals use and three secondary corridors that connect the major ones.
One major corridor extends east from the Batiquitos Lagoon and links up with Rancho Santa Fe Road.
Another corridor extends east from Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
The northernmost corridor loosely follows State route 78.
“We did find that many of the linkages are functional. The animals are going through these structures even if there is a human presence at other times,” Grim said.
While the corridors work, there is till room for improvement.
There are 104 pinch points throughout the corridors, which are areas that are difficult for animals to cross through, whether the space is too narrow or there are obstructions in the way.
The hope is to identify problems the endangered species are having and solve them to allow the population to bounce back.
“The end goal would be that our system and all the other conservation plans that we have allow us to take these species that are threatened and endangered and have them have full recovery where they have self-sustaining populations,” said Grim.
In 2004, Carlsbad became the only city in the region to have an approved sub-area plan. Oceanside is working towards one as well.
Over the past 10 years, staff has collected data on plants and animals in the area which provides crucial information to Carlsbad staff and surrounding regions with the same species.