Tejon Ranch conservancy enews April 2018

On the Ranch

By Conservancy President & CEO Bob Reid

Conservation is about ecosystems, but a “conservancy” is about people.

It’s the dedication of a young biologist, whose own career may be uncertain, but finds a path of discovery in these hills and chances upon an idea about how we can identify and track feral pigs better. Or the Ph.D. who navigates the complexities of cattle grazing and grasslands, along with other researchers, to try to find a solution that works for both the land, as well as the bottom line of the companies that operate at Tejon. It certainly is the field biologist who keeps an eye on this place, compiling monitoring reports, organizing work parties to pull barbed wire and invasive plants and cap fence posts, and sleeps under the stars to be up with the dawn to spot breeding birds. And then there are the people who make your trips behind the gates possible; are they part of conservation? They certainly are, because conservation does not stand alone, but is co-joined with understanding, and what better way to understand than to experience, either as a tour guest or with a school partnership?

Let’s not forget those who keep the Conservancy running. If you’ve ever enjoyed a conversation with the operations and administrative staff, you know they are all about conservation―even more than conversation.

For none of us is this a job―as much as it is a passion and an aspiration.

And let’s not forget the volunteers, the docent naturalists who lead tours, the interns who energize our office, the dedicated crew monitoring our pronghorn herd, and the new team helping with wildlife trap cameras (thank you!). Heading up these volunteers are our board members, 12 individuals with busy lives, but tremendous talent to share, who come together to guide the Conservancy on the many issues of conservation, policy, funding, along with the amazing pro-bono legal team that helps navigate the complexities of this conservation enterprise.

Last but not least, you, partners in conservation, our donors. You give the Tejon Ranch Conservancy the resources to dig wells and build fences that make managed grazing and ecosystem restoration possible, that create school partnerships exposing young people to the land, that help rebuild our website (coming soon!), and that facilitate research from across the country here at Tejon.

Dear reader, you are conservation. This incredible effort to save these last remaining places, it’s for you and it’s about you. Your dollars, your hours, your smiles in wonder, and your questions are all what conservation is. We are in this together, and together we will remain, because once saved, it’s saved for future generations, and once lost, it’s lost forever. So…it’s up to you!

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO


Story and photos by Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak

At the tail end of winter, March is a time of spring reckoning on Tejon Ranch. Will there be impressive wildflowers? An abundance of weeds? Productive forage for cattle and wildlife? Relief for our drought-stressed shrubs and trees? Through the winter we wonder and come March, all is (mostly) revealed.

Photo: El Paso Canyon

In our area of California, over 75% of our annual average precipitation is recorded between November and March. Looking specifically at the Old Headquarters weather station in the southern San Joaquin Valley near the heart of Tejon Ranch, we expect almost 12 inches of rain annually, with just over 9 inches falling in that rainy season. Any California resident knows this has been a particularly dry winter and Tejon Ranch is no exception. Our first measurable rains began in January, and until March we’d received only 1.7 inches. Adding to that, it has been warmer than usual. Low temperatures during the winter months in this area of the Ranch average between 36°F and 40°F. This year our lows averaged between 50°F and 54°F.

Photo: Mountain lion track in El Paso Canyon

Collectively, precipitation and temperature play a critical role in the abundance and survival of all things living, from the beautiful native wildflower displays we hope for in the spring, to the abundance of acorns in the fall, to the thriving of wildlife that depend on these critical resources to create new generations. While we have observed and documented the effects of drought on the Ranch to date, every winter our hopes surge that conditions will be favorable to support our incredible wild landscape.

That brings us back to the revelations of March, the bookend to our classic rainy season and often our wettest month of the year. Precipitation totals aren’t yet in from our Old Headquarters weather station, but we estimate we’ve had another 1.5 to 2 inches. While this rain signals a welcomed reprieve from a parched winter, collectively we’ve still only had between 36% to 41% of our average winter precipitation to date.

Photo: Tree on the Haul Road

Through the winter, the Ranch has been greening up slowly and this last pulse of rain has dramatically jump-started the process. The miracle of spring is beginning, even in these drier times. Often, late rains give our native herbaceous plants an advantage over the surrounding Mediterranean grasses, which could result in showy wildflowers, albeit no “super bloom.”

Photo: Live Oak Canyon

Wildflowers or not, a little precipitation, warming temperatures, and longer days mean the living world is waking up on Tejon, unfurling from winter dormancy and making a go at another growth season. Cottonwoods and willows are pushing out leaf buds, mosses and lichens are pulsing vibrant hues, loggerhead shrikes are stocking up their springtime larders, signs of animal activity are evident in the moist earth, and the green skirts of the Tehachapis are coming to life all around us. It is a miracle to behold, and every year it feels profoundly hopeful.

Photo: Cottonwood leaf buds in Tejon Canyon

Marveling at the wild world in peak vigor is a gift here, made more meaningful by the constraint of drought. We hope to see you out on the Ranch this spring to share in this pulse of life, this annual miracle. With any luck, we might have a few colorful wildflowers to enjoy too.

Photo: The corral at Campo Bonito


By Conservancy Public Access Manager Chris Fabbro

Wildflowers have finally made a showing on Tejon Ranch thanks to some late-season precipitation. Volunteer guides have conducted “test run” tours in areas on the north side near White Wolf (see poppy photo below), and we will continue to search for other areas around the Ranch for easy-access, natural displays this spring. Due to several considerations including weather, field conditions, road damage, existing events and staffing, we will announce tours on a week-by-week basis via social media. Please make sure you’re following “Tejon Ranch Conservancy” on Facebook, where each tour announcement will contain sign-up links. The focus in spring will be wildflowers, but hikes and driving tours will also be announced on Facebook.

Volunteering ramps up in spring, not just with tours, but with partners such as Sensational Sophomores (Cal State University Bakersfield) and American Hiking Society. In late March, 20 CSUB students from Sensational Sophomores assisted with a number of Conservancy projects, including Research and Stewardship, as part of their Alternative Spring Break initiative. From April 15-21, American Hiking Society is sponsoring a group of volunteers from around the country to assist us with Public Access projects. Space is available if you would like to help AHS on any one-day field project that week on the Ranch―please email cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org for more information.

Several people have pre-registered for June's docent training (June 9, 10, 16, and 17), as well as the separate California Naturalist certification course later in 2018, which is great news. Official registration will open later this spring. In the meantime, please pre-register with cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org. Docent training is the first step toward leading tours on the Ranch, and there is no cost to volunteers who provide one year of service upon successful completion of all steps, including the docent training, field training, Conservancy certification, and background check if working with minors. Separately, Cal Nat is a University of California-accredited Continuing Education training (eligible for college credit) that is being offered on the Ranch as an eight-day residence-based course. Tuition includes instruction, dorm-style lodging, all meals, and field trips. Follow us on Facebook for the official announcement.

April 7 from 4-8pm is the FREE kickoff reception for the Conservancy's 2018 Artist in Residence program, held in conjunction with Angeles Volunteer Association (AVA). The location for this public event is Heritage Square Museum near downtown Los Angeles (www.heritagesquare.org for directions). About a dozen visual artists and writers, several of whom are scheduled for Tejon Conservancy Arts Education events in 2018, will present nature-themed works created in the past year as part of AVA's Artist in Residence program. Heritage Square is a collection of restored mansions and Victorian homes, and $5 guided tours of a few of the buildings are available at 5 and 6:30pm. Free wine tasting and appetizers are provided by AVA.


Story and photos by Volunteer Naturalist Martyn Lenoble

On a beautiful crisp morning, right after the beginning of the new year, Conservancy volunteer naturalist Dan Potter and I were driving through Tejon Ranch conserved lands. We were there to assist with Conservancy wildlife cameras by changing batteries, swapping memory cards, and making sure the cameras were still functioning.

While trying to get our tasks done, we switched through the beautiful landscape from north-facing to south-facing hills. On the north-facing slopes, we found a light dusting of snow, but within seconds, on a switchback, we found ourselves in bright, warm sunlight.

We rounded a corner, from shadow to light, and found three California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) right in front of us, warming their wings, waiting for the thermals to lift them. We stopped the truck and watched them, their wings spread, facing the sun, on a beautiful acorn granary stump of old oak. It looked ceremonial.

We took a few pictures, documented their tag numbers, and enjoyed this rare sighting at a cautious and respectful distance. Seven and #57 seemed content together, almost in an embrace. Ninety flew off and decided a bath was more important. Except for its beak, it went completely underwater in a guzzler. It sat in the water for a few minutes, then got out and dried in the sun.

Dan and I barely spoke. We watched with awe and gratitude. It was a gift, certainly for me, as this was only my second encounter with this majestic bird. When we decided to leave and continue our task, we agreed―we were graced by an experience not many will ever have, certainly a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was incredible.

Thank you, Tejon Ranch Conservancy.


By Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence

The Conservancy has been working over the past several months to outfit several scenic locations on the Ranch with picnic tables, creating day-use areas ideal for picnicking, staging hikes, and outdoor education. Finally, we have something to show for our efforts (and brag about!), but more importantly, to use with Conservancy guests. Conservancy staff took full advantage of this year's balmy winter weather to build 15 tables, which will comfortably outfit four sites.

The two sites currently in use are the Gato Montes and White Fir day-use areas. Pictured is the White Fir location on the north-facing slope of Martinez Ridge at an elevation of approximately 6,000 feet. This is a fabulous setting in the white fir and black oak forest with views of Tejon's rugged interior and the northern Tehachapi and southern Sierra Nevada ranges.

To experience these and other breathtaking locations, independently book or join in a Conservancy-led Ranch tour with Chris Fabbro, Public Access Manager at cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org.

The California Naturalist Series

Written by Paula Harvey, California Naturalist and Education Program Coordinator

Photos by Chris Gardner, California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent


San Joaquin Kit Fox: Vulpes macrotis mutica

The kit fox is the smallest species of the family Canidae. The San Joaquin kit fox is one of the most endangered mammals in California. It is estimated there are fewer than 7,000 living, mostly on the edges of the San Joaquin Valley. Their habitat is typically grassland, wetland, and scrubland communities.

The San Joaquin kit fox is roughly the size of a house cat. It weighs 5 pounds and is about 20 inches long, not including its tail. Large ears, a long bushy tail, and long legs complete its profile. Furry toes help it walk through sand, protecting its feet from heat. It has a tan summer coat and a silvery winter coat. Distinguishing features include a black tipped tail and dark patches around its nose.

Although considered nocturnal, it is seen in the daytime throughout spring and early summer. Multiple dens protect it from predators, shelter its pups, and give refuge from summer heat and winter cold. Although this kit fox constructs its own dens, it also modifies dens of squirrels, badgers, and coyotes, and uses human-made structures such as culverts. Most dens have two or more entrances.

A kit fox pair will stay together for a year and mate between December and March. Gestation is 48 to 52 days. Litter size ranges between two to six pups, depending on the availability of food. The male provides food for the female and the pups. Pups emerge from the den after one month and leave in August and September. Sometimes female pups stick around until the next litter.

With a lifespan in the wild of six to seven years, its primary foods are rodents and small animals, such as black-tailed hares, desert cottontails, mice, kangaroo rats, squirrels, birds and lizards, ground-nesting birds, and insects. Coyotes, non-native red foxes, bobcats, and large raptors prey on kit foxes.

The San Joaquin kit fox was quite common in the 1930s before habitat was lost to urban and industrial development, and farming. Pesticides and rodenticides not only kill its food source, but build up in the fox and can kill it as well. It has been federally listed as an endangered species since 1967. Unfortunately after 50 years, it is still considered endangered.

Interesting facts:

• A San Joaquin kit fox can use as many as 24 dens in a year.

• A kit fox doesn’t need water. It gets enough liquid from its prey.

• It has been described as an “umbrella species,” meaning that saving the fox’s habitat will benefit other native plants and animals.

• It has very large ears and keen hearing. It’s able to hear rodents and insects underground. The large ears are also an important cooling adaption, radiating heat away from the body.


By Education Program Coordinator Paula Harvey

After a wet March, April promises to be a busy month for local faculty and students. We will be hosting a Professional Learning Community (PLC) event for 28 Kern High School District art teachers, where they’ll plan for student trips and discuss ways to use the Conservancy Education Program for the 2018/19 school year. They will also have an opportunity to sketch, paint, and take pictures of the stunning Tejon landscape.

Two science coordinators from Kern County Superintendent of Schools will also visit and learn about the programs we can offer Kern County high school science faculty and students.

This school year’s final Kern High School District faculty tour will take place in mid-April, and College of the Canyons faculty will be touring in the latter half of the month. At the end of the month, students from three different high schools will be coming out for day trips―two art classes and two science classes.

If you are interested in bringing students out on the Ranch or in exploring ways the Conservancy can help support your high school or college art or science programs, please contact me at pharvey@tejonconservancy.org.

Photo by Paula Harvey

BEHIND THE GATES: Conservancy Activities in March

By Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence

The month of March generally coincides with warming weather, fields of wildflowers, and large numbers of visitors itching to experience what generally is a magical time of year to be in the outdoors. This March, however, could not have been more different, at least with respect to fields of wildflowers―and now it is April and we’re still waiting for the bloom to make its appearance. Bloom or no bloom―the Conservancy has been busy leading and facilitating a range of activities on the Ranch.

On the Public Access front, Conservancy staff and docents toured volunteers-in-training in the northern reaches of the Ranch (i.e., the White Wolf area), led a spring hike through the blue and valley oak woodland and vernal pool complex of Joaquin Flats, and introduced nearly two dozen Angeles National Forest volunteers to Little Sycamore and Gato Montes canyons, both iconic features on the Mojave side of Tejon. Last but not least, the Conservancy’s ongoing TRESS (Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series) program exposed a small group of inquisitive guests to San Joaquin Valley rangelands as well as to the riparian ecosystems of House and Tejon creeks. See more about TRESS below.

With respect to the Scientific Research front, Kip Will of UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology scoured the Ranch’s desert shrubs searching for (and successfully observing) an under-documented carabid beetle. Also of UC Berkeley, the Jamie Bartolome-led Range Ecology Laboratory visited Tejon Ranch to continue their shrubland carbon sequestration research and to assist the Conservancy with vegetation sampling associated with its grazing management initiative. Prahlada Papper, yet another representative of the East Bay, visited as part of his doctoral studies investigating hybridization in oaks. Steering away from the UC system, Daniel Palmer and Paul Siri Wilson of CSU Northridge have been visiting almost weekly as part of their efforts to understand the Ranch’s bryophytes and how species composition is influenced by substrate type. Finally, Kane Keller, a new faculty member at CSU Bakersfield, visited the Ranch for a second time in March to determine the potential for the Ranch’s grass and oak woodlands to serve as field sites for his study of the effects of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on legume-rhizobium mutualistic interactions.

Looking ahead, April will likely be just as busy―and if a bloom does materialize owing to recent “March Miracle” precipitation―be prepared to hold on to your hats!

Photo by Dan Potter


The third installment of TRESS is scheduled for Saturday, April 28. With the landscape greening and spring officially upon us, there will be plenty to view, experience, and most importantly, learn about. Please contact Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence (emayence@tejonconservancy.org) for more information. TRESS events are daylong outings on the Ranch―so participants are encouraged to bring a day pack with food and drink. Space is very limited for this hands-on day on the Ranch so reserve your spot today. Activity fee: $20 non-members; free to Conservancy members.

Photo by Tom Maloney

Great horned owls on Tejon Ranch

By Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

The above compilation captures the magnificent great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) as it prowls about the evening skies of Tejon Ranch. Our cameras provide a rare view into the dark, silent world of these remarkable predators. Learn more about great horned owls from California Naturalist Chris Gardner (and see his stunning photographs) in an upcoming issue.

Photo by Dan Potter

More About Conservation

Winter arrived in March this year! Check out these photos of Tejon Ranch in winter white.

Untouched lands Down Under are still getting chewed up despite environmental laws.

Much of wildlife camera trapping boils down to your ability to identify discrete pockets of dynamic habitat wherein wildlife will not only frequent but feel comfortable and relaxed, giving you the greatest opportunity to capture natural behavior. I suppose we were a little on the nose with this one…

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Tejon Ranch Conservancy ENews is written and produced by Conservancy staff and volunteers with the help of co-editors Tim Bulone, Paula Harvey, and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute an article to ENews please let us know.

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