Ohlone Tiger Beetle
Cicindela ohlone
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.

• Recreational Users
During the beetle’s 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.

Trails 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.

• Development
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.

• Invasive Plants
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.

• Land Management
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.

Press Update

The Ohlone Tiger Beetle was
the lead news story in the
6 Feb 2003 issue of the
Good Times

It was also the cover story of
the 24 April 2002
Metro Santa Cruz.

Congratulations to the press for bringing important local environmental issues to the public's attention!

This UCSC beetle 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.

Ohlone 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 meadows.

Left and Center: mountain bikers riding past "Please walk your bike: sensitive wildlife habitat" signs.
Right: mountain bikers running same stop sign after explicit information about the beetle was posted.