Nestled in the hills near the town of Elk Creek in Northern California, Montgomery Creek is a 2,000-acre ranch with long valleys, rolling hills of chaparral, and steep ridges dotted with grey pines. There are creeks, springs, and reservoirs that provide plenty of water for the wild horses and burros but also the wildlife that call our property home.
Below is an overview of some of the other wild animals that can be seen on our land, and why we appreciate their presence!
It’s not uncommon to come across a wily coyote while out on the trails putting in time with our horses-in-training. In a ranching setting, coyotes are often seen as being a nuisance animal that needs to be eradicated, however, they actually play a critical role in keeping ecosystems healthy. They are a keystone species, meaning that other species in the ecosystem largely depend on them, and their absence has a significant impact on the surrounding wildlife community. Without coyotes, our ground squirrel population would be out of control at MCR!
Another keystone species and top predator on the property is the bobcat. Bobcats usually hunt at night and are seldom seen by people. We lucked out coming upon a bobcat den with kittens while out on the trail with our horses!
Mountain Lions (Cougars)
Mountain lions are a natural predator to wild horses living on our public lands. They predate on foals and help to keep herd numbers in check. However, here at MCR we do not breed or have young horses in our wild herds so this has never been an issue at the Ranch.
Mountain lions (and other predators) not only play a crucial role to regulate prey numbers, they actually increase the health of a given population and of the land as well.
From the website Greener Ideal:
“Left to their own devices, a herd of herbivores, like elk, will stay in one place, eating everything down to the ground before they move on. However, a healthy predator population will keep a herd (or a population) moving around, looking for cover, and generally trying not to get eaten. This improves the health of the ecosystem as a whole. It leaves smaller plants and grasses for smaller herbivores, prevents erosion, and allows more saplings to mature.”
Did you know that the Tule Elk is a protected species and only found in California? They are a symbol of conservation efforts in the state over the last century and are considered a focal species. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Tule Elk are essential to the long term restoration of California’s native landscape, and serve a vital role as an umbrella species, for California’s native grasslands, oak woodlands, and landscape connectivity.
In an effort to have our sanctuary become self-sufficient, we are growing our own hay. The only time we don’t want Tule Elk around is before we harvest! Members of our team have been known to camp out in the hayfield to blow a horn at the first sight of Elk entering into the field!
When we purchased Montgomery Creek Ranch, we moved our mustangs onto a property that had an abundance of wild animals. From the start, we recognized that this was their home - not the other way around and we will continue to do our best to coexist with them.