Wildlife of Pilkington Creek: Past and Present

Coyotes are often sighted in well-used open space areas in Santa Cruz. Photo: Courtesy of Jitze

Coyotes are often sighted in well-used open space areas in Santa Cruz. Photo: Courtesy of Jitze CC BY 2.0.

Although it is easy to spot many different plants growing along Pilkington Creek in Santa Cruz, California, it’s harder to spot animals, especially large ones. When the native Awaswas* native people lived here, there were many large game animals in the area, such as black bears, grizzly bears, black tail deer, tule elk, and pronghorn antelope.

Deer provided food and the resources to make tools and clothing for the Awaswas native people. Photo: Courtesy of Vivienne Orgel

Deer provided food and the resources to make tools and clothing for the Awaswas native people. Photo: Courtesy of Vivienne Orgel

Awaswas hunters disguised themselves in deer skin and creep within 20 feet of the shy creatures, swiftly felling the deer with a bow and arrow. Deer provided more than just meat. The Awaswas used every part of the animal to make tools such as antler wedges, bone awls, and scapular saws. The hide was used for moccasins and other clothing.

Coyotes and Mountain Lions Still Prowl Santa Cruz

Humans and mountain lions still share the hills and open spaces surrounding Santa Cruz, as shown in these two photos of the same trail taken only two hours apart. Photo: Courtesy of Santa Cruz Land Trust

Humans and mountain lions still share the hills and open spaces surrounding Santa Cruz, as shown in these two photos of the same trail taken only two hours apart. Photo: Courtesy of Santa Cruz Land Trust

Mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes also lived in Awaswas times and still roam this area today. Sightings of these animals are rare at Pilkington Creek, but bobcats and coyotes use the nearby Arana Gulch greenbelt behind the Santa Cruz Harbor. Mountain lions (also known as cougars or pumas) are common in Wilder Ranch and on the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus and have occasionally been spotted in downtown and westside neighborhoods.

These larger predators are forced to look for food and water closer and closer to civilization as their habitat is developed by humans. The large expanses of forest that once covered Santa Cruz County have been fragmented into smaller and smaller pieces, divided by roads and neighborhoods where these predators can potentially cause harm to domestic animals and people.

Most of the undeveloped land is composed of state parks, agricultural land, and greenbelts within city limits. All of this habitat is heavily used by people, and we are not as accustomed to sharing the land with wildlife as the Awaswas people were.

Read the rest of the story to find out which animals are the most common visitors to Pilkington Creek, at mobileranger.com.

Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour

This piece is part of the Pilkington Creek Walking Tour made possible by Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond at mobileranger.com.

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Julia Gaudinski


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