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HOPPER MOUNTAIN NWR: RefugeHosts Santa Barbara Zoo Teens
California-Nevada Offices , August 20, 2009
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USFWS Wildlife Biologist Technician Ron Batie discusses the Hopper Mountain NWR geography with Santa Barbara Zoo SCL students (Michael Woodbridge, USFWS, 2009)
USFWS Wildlife Biologist Technician Ron Batie discusses the Hopper Mountain NWR geography with Santa Barbara Zoo SCL students (Michael Woodbridge, USFWS, 2009) - Photo Credit: n/a
Santa Barbara Zoo SCL students pose for a photo at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge sign on their first day at the Refuge (Michael Woodbridge, USFWS, 2009).
Santa Barbara Zoo SCL students pose for a photo at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge sign on their first day at the Refuge (Michael Woodbridge, USFWS, 2009). - Photo Credit: n/a

by Michael Woodbridge, Hopper Mountain NWR and Jen Paludi Santa Barbara Zoo
Science and Conservation Leadership (SCL) program team from the Santa Barbara Zoo, including a group of six teenagers, one teen advisor, and an intern, spent three days and two nights at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge (Hopper) to perform a trail maintenance project and learn about California condor recovery efforts. The weather was hot, and the mornings were early, but this group, along with the help of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff, made notable improvements on a section of trail greatly needing attention.

 

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s SCL program allows high school-aged children to explore the scientific issues that surround animals in captivity and in the wild.  The intense four-year program delves into conservation through science and leadership, including coursework and hands-on field conservation.

 

One of the main goals of the trip to Hopper was to perform meaningful service to assist the Refuge and California Condor Recovery Program. Specifically, a section of steep, uneven, and loose trail was widened and flattened, as this trail was a safety hazard for USFWS staff and interns driving ATVs on a daily basis to monitor a condor nest at the Refuge.

 

On the first day, camping gear was unloaded and a preliminary tour of the Refuge was given. Following tent construction, USFWS Public Affairs Officer Michael Woodbridge briefly introduced Hopper, followed by a basic safety talk by USFWS Wildlife Biologist Technician Ron Batie. After lunch, SCEP Wildlife Biologist Lisa Cox presented photos and videos of different stages of each condor nest from this season. The group then participated in a hike to an observation point called Three Canyons, where a spotting scope was set up to highlight the location of a condor nest that had failed due to bear depredation this past spring. On the hike, everyone observed bobcat footprints, some mountain lion prints, poison oak, sage, mustard and various other vegetation types. Once the sun went down, the teens went on a short night hike to the refuge helipad, noticing lots of eye shine, as light was reflected from their headlamps and flashlights. At least six deer were counted, as well as a large number of tarantulas.

 

The next day saw an early start on the trail maintenance project. After breakfast and packing lunches, the vehicles were loaded with tools such as shovels, rakes, rock bars, Pulaskis, McLeods, and pick axes for the enduring trail work. All of the tools and ample water were carried down to Snag Ridge, where trail work in the blistering heat awaited. The plan of attack for this section of trail was to both widen and level the tread by chopping into the hill side, moving substrate, and removing extremely large boulders. The reward of the day was a close soar-over by two condors. At nightfall, a walk to the flight pen and exploring the blind and isolation pens were coupled with ghost stories and strange noises.

 

On the last day, trail work began where the group left off and finished with sledge-hammering one last problem boulder. Tools were packed up, and the final uphill hike in the heat left the group tired and hungry. Supplies were caravanned back to the ranch house, where some down time awaited the dust and sweat-soaked workers. The vehicles were loaded, and the group made a pit stop at Green Tanks Observation Point to learn about radio telemetry techniques as the field vehicles wound their way up and down away from Hopper. Along the way, a bobcat, gopher snake, and rattle snake were all observed. The SCL group returned to the Zoo tired, hungry and inspired after having contributed such hard work to help the continued recovery efforts of the California condors.


Contact Info: Michael Woodbridge, 916-978-4445, michael_woodbridge@fws.gov



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