Last year, my partner and I were granted permission to set up wildlife cameras at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots’ 39-acre property in Silverado, CA. After watching multiple wildlife camera enthusiasts on YouTube, we were inspired to start our own journey into the mysterious world of motion-activated cameras.

We started with one camera to do test runs and location scouting. Our first videos consisted of grasses blowing in the wind, tree branches blowing in the wind, cars driving up and down the property, children walking back and forth during class….we were a bit discouraged with the results, but persevered onward. We finally learned how to properly place cameras throughout the property and found a perfect spot free of tall grasses, tree branches, and areas where children frequent. After reinstalling the camera in the new location, the magic began. Bobcats, foxes, various bird species, squirrels, skunks, and mountain lions! We found the mother lode of spots to place our camera!

Astounded by the amount of wildlife at Big Oak, we were reminded of how important biodiversity is for a habitat. Big Oak is ripe, healthy, and full of many different species. Having different varieties of plant and animal species help to keep the ecosystem sustained. We are so honored to share the property at Big Oak with the native flora and fauna.

After months with one camera, we decided to add additional cameras in different locations. Seeing the paths the animals take through the property remind me to look for clues when we pick up the camera footage. Sometimes we see evidence of animals left behind; scat, tracks, tufts of fur, rub/scratch marks on nearby trees. These are the spots where we like to stage our cameras.

We also see some regular residents, including one of our favorites, Zeb the bobcat. Zeb has very distinct markings on his front paws that are reminiscent of zebra markings. He’s seriously the cutest bobcat ever (I might be a little biased). Zeb was also one of the first cats we witnessed on our wildlife camera footage. I clearly remember being ecstatic to see this gorgeous wild cat. I’m a big fan of cats, by the way :)

Zeb the bobcat.

Back in November, we filmed one of our most important videos to date. Months went by with a plentiful amount of mule deer on our camera footage which prompted us to think about the bigger predators in the area. Our cameras were perched upon a tree adjacent to one of the roads that run through the property. Lo and behold, after months with no sign of any animal larger than Zeb, four mountain lions trigger our camera to record…and oh my! What a sight to see FOUR MOUNTAIN LIONS…it was a big moment for us. Mountain lions are known to be solitary creatures, so seeing four of them roaming together was a special moment. We believe the video contains 3 sub-adults and a mother lion.

Mountain lion family at Big Oak Canyon.

This video is also part of a California mountain lion series created by University of California, Davis. It’s an eight-episode mini web series illustrating the nature of mountain lions in California. This video and the previous videos from the series are worth watching. Many thanks for Winston Vickers from UC Davis for featuring our video in your beautifully done documentary.

It seems as though this was the last time we’d see them all together as a family. We are so grateful for our camera being there to capture this BIG moment. Protecting these elusive creatures is very important not only to Earthroots but also to the ecosystem. Mountain lions are an indicator of a thriving habitat, and Big Oak is just that. Thankfully, we still see one of these lions regularly on the property. The Mountain Lion Foundation states that “Cougars that occupy home ranges are called residents, and possession of a home range enhances a resident’ lion’s chances of more consistently finding prey, locating mates, and successfully rearing young.”

Big Oak’s resident mountain lion.

This property is a prime example of what a healthy habitat needs to thrive. Food, shelter, water, and lots of space are key resources for our friends to survive, and Big Oak provides these resources in abundance.

Big Oak needs to continue being protected, nourished, and cultivated for generations to come. Earthroots’ conservation efforts throughout the years are reflected by the amount of biodiversity it contains.

Would you like be a steward of this land and support our conservation efforts to help keep this property wild?

Volunteer with us at our stewardship events! We’d love to have your help in maintaining Big Oak’s 39-acre property.

Donate – any amount is appreciated.

Take a class with us!

Check out our YouTube or Instagram for more wildlife videos from Big Oak Canyon! Also, be on the lookout for more wildlife video updates on our website.

Blog by Chrisha Favors, Earthroots community outreach coordinator, Homeschool field class instructor, and wildlife camera enthusiast.