In 2022, the Open Space Authority installed new, wildlife-friendly fencing at Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve. While it may not seem like the most dramatic restoration initiative, it is important for helping wildlife move throughout landscapes where conservation grazing is a critical strategy for grassland ecology and rare species management.
With the goal of enhancing wildlife movement, preventing fence-related injury, and improving conservation grazing management throughout the landscape, the Open Space Authority removed almost seven miles of five-strand barbed wire and chain link fencing and installed over eight miles of wildlife-friendly fencing.
What is wildlife-friendly fencing?
Wildlife-friendly fences have a smooth top and bottom, unlike barbed wire, which can harm wildlife that try to pass over the top or underneath. The bottom of the fence is also higher off the ground, unlike chain link, which is completely impermeable and prevents the crossing of wildlife altogether. This contains cattle, while supporting deer, coyote, bobcats, mountain lions, and other animals that depend on their ability to travel around to find food, water, and shelter.
“At Coyote Ridge, specifically, cattle grazing is an important part of Bay checkerspot butterfly management, as well as the health of serpentine and endemic species,” Basson notes. “We are using fencing to optimize these efforts in a minimally invasive way.”
Cattle grazing, also known as conservation grazing, has a variety of benefits. It reduces fire fuel and suppresses the growth of invasive plant species, which in turn provides space for native species to grow. This is a critical function for Coyote Ridge, which is home to rare serpentine plants and endemic (found only in this location) wildlife.
"Cattle grazing is highly important in managing landscapes, especially at Coyote Ridge."
Using the new fencing, different pastures were created for cattle so they can be distributed across the ridge as needed, making the grazing operation more effective and sustainable.
Open Space Technician Stephen removes barbed wire fencing from Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve (Photo: David Mauk)
From October 2021 to March 2022, Patrick Stevenson, Lead Open Space Technician, and Andres Campusano, Supervising Open Space Technician, and others got to work removing 6.5 miles of chain link and barbwire fencing. Additionally, they installed 8.4 miles of wildlife friendly fencing.
The project was funded in part by the Open Space Authority, with additional funding from a Central Valley Project Grant, the Valley Transportation Authority, Valley Water, Valley Habitat agency, and a Recreational Infrastructure Revenue Enhancement Program grant from California State Parks.
Staff and volunteers remove barbed wire fencing from Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve (Photo: David Mauk)
New wildlife-friendly fencing at Coyote Ridge
Additionally, staff installed an elk crossing in the fence that was scouted by the grazing tenants on the landscape. The Authority will monitor the fences moving forward to determine if the new fencing impacts moving patterns, and if there are other pathways they haven’t yet identified. If they do find new pathways, they will install crossings to support their movement.
Staff installed an elk crossing in the fence at Coyote Ridge and will monitor elk moving patterns
Habitat fragmentation is a growing threat to local wildlife that require a lot of space, like mountain lions, whose local population is largely at risk. Promoting movement of local wildlife throughout the Santa Clara Valley helps increase biodiversity, reduce impacts from disease, lowers the risk of inbreeding, regulates the larger ecosystem, and increases overall longevity of the species.
Learn more about what the Authority does to protect wildlife here.