The large acreage, range of elevations, and variety in soils and climates of the Santa Cruz Mountains provide diverse habitat conditions which support a number of rare wildlife and plant species. On District preserves, there are 70 rare species known to occur, of which 16 are listed as endangered or threatened species. Endangered and threatened species are officially protected under federal and California State endangered species laws. Rare species also include other plants and animals which are also uncommon in this region even if they are not officially listed under these laws.
Most of the rare species on District preserves are birds (37 breeding species). Many different types of shore birds can be observed at Ravenswood and Stevens Creek Shoreline, including the endangered clapper rail, especially during low tide. Raptors, such as golden eagle, and northern harrier, are often viewed flying over the preserves along Skyline Boulevard, especially during the spring and fall migratory periods. One day in the future, we expect to see the California condors soaring over our preserves.
There are 6 rare mammal species known to occur on District preserves including the endangered salt-marsh harvest mouse. The San Francisco dusky-footed woodrat occurs on most of the preserves, making houses on the ground and on tree branches out of large piles of sticks which are occupied not only by the rat family but also by other opportunistic small animals like mice, lizards, and salamanders. Many different species of bats find roosting habitat in trees, rock outcroppings and buildings on District preserves, and in some cases, establish maternity colonies.
Three species of rare reptiles and four species of rare amphibians are known to occur on District preserves. The western pond turtle is the only native turtle in this region of California and can sometimes be seen basking on logs of ponds in the preserves. The California red-legged frog occurs in ponds and slow stream edges of several preserves. Steelhead and coho salmon fish spawn in some of the streams that flow westward to the Pacific Ocean.
There are 15 species of rare plants known to occur on District preserves including the endangered Metcalf Canyon jewelflower. The Kings Mountain manzanita is a rare species of manzanita that occurs on granite or sandstone outcrops in forests and brushlands only in the northern Santa Cruz mountains with several large populations occurring in the District’s Skyline preserves.
Please note that because they are rare, these species should be observed from a distance and should not be disturbed. Collecting of any plants or animals is not allowed on District preserves.