Text by Mark Oatney and Grey Hayes
Photos by Mark Oatney
Federally-listed as an Endangered Species in October 2001. Known only
in five populations, all within Santa Cruz County.
Hunt, breed, and dig larval burrows along sunny single-track trails and
dirt roads in coast terrace meadows that still support native grasses.
The trails that are breeding habitat are created and maintained by passing
cattle, hikers, mountain bikes, wildlife and other users.
During the beetles Spring mating season, they are at great risk
of being trampled upon by recreational trail users. Mountain bikes, which
travel at relatively high speeds and have continuous contact with the
trail, are by far the greatest threat. Joggers are also a concern, as
are to lesser degrees hikers and horseback riders.
in critical habitat are temporarily closed to all users each year. Beetles
emerge at the beginning of warm weather, which can be as early as January.
They remain active through late Spring. The burrows of the first larval
stage are shallow and have been found crushed by bicycle tires and hooves.
Thus, trails remain closed until the trails have dried out and later larval
stages have dug down to more secure depths- this may run as late as June.
Four of the five populations of Tiger Beetles are under pressure from
developers to build and expand roads, parking lots, housing, and ballfields.
The ever-increasing population of UCSC is also resulting in more recreational
users on trails of concern.
All populations of the beetles are found in grasslands which still support
native grasses. This relatively sparse flora is easier for these hunters
to navigate. Aggressive species such as Velvet Grass, Tall Fescue, French
Broom, and Eucalyptus sp. are also taking over and destroying grasslands
and their potential as Tiger Beetle habitat.
Parks continues to allow "take" of Ohlone Tiger Beetles without
formal consultation with professional scientists or the USFWS. Instead,
Parks promises to "one day" prepare a "safe harbors agreement"
that would more formally protect the beetle. With the timeline so unsure,
and Parks resources to scant, the beetles may not make it on Parks land
until the safe harbor agreement is finished.
Ohlone Tiger Beetle was
lead news story in the
6 Feb 2003 issue of the
It was also the cover story of
the 24 April 2002
Congratulations to the press for bringing important local environmental
issues to the public's attention!
was crushed by a mountain bike's tread.
Splayed legs indicate that crushing was the cause of death.
UCSC campus and surrounding parks now temporarally close some trails and
require bikers to walk along others during the critical mating season. Unfortunately,
these measures are often ignored by mountain bikers and other users, resulting
in significant beetle mortalities. Efforts by law enforcement agencies on
campus and park lands to enforce trail closures and campus laws against
single track mountain biking have thus far been entirely inadequate to protect
this endangered species.
Tiger Beetles, like many other rare and endangered species found in coastal
prairie, require disturbances which lower the canopy cover and reduce build
up of dead plant litter. Higher canopies and thicker plant litter keep the
sun from reaching the ground and warming these beetles and their prey. More
carefully applied land management techniques, such as controlled burns and
grazing, could further help the viability of beetle populations by controlling
invasive species in the coastal terrace