Minding our Santa Clarita neighbors in nature

A family of geese rests near Bridgeport Marketplace Lake in Valencia. Cory Rubin/The Signal

While Theresa and Patrick Allen knew they’d be surrounded by wildlife when they moved to Bridgeport six years ago, they never expected it to make such an impact on their young children. 

Located in Valencia, Bridgeport’s 15-acre lake and surrounding area are home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks, geese, birds, turtles, some fish and even some egrets and herons. 

“We loved the idea of living in the midst of a wildlife refuge,” Theresa Allen said, “and when we saw that our house would literally be at the lake edge, overlooking the water, we were sold.” 

Bridgeport Lake in Valencia. Courtesy

It wasn’t long after they’d moved in that their 6-year-old son Trevor started begging them for a canoe, so he could delve deeper into his nature-filled backyard. 

Soon, Trevor could either be found out on the lake, by the lakeshore or with his nose in a book, as he researched the various wildlife he’d encountered, with his little sister, Sara, tagging along as well.

Now, Trevor’s become an advocate for the area’s wildlife, educating his friends and neighbors on the dangers of feeding the animals. 

An egret nest near Bridgeport Lake in Valencia. Courtesy

“There’s so many cool birds out there — and they aren’t even all native to the area,” the now-12-year-old said, adding that he hopes to become a professional birder one day.

And Trevor’s right, according to Ranger Frank Hoffman, head ranger and recreation services supervisor at the Placerita Canyon Natural Area, who said there are a number of non-native species at the lake, such as the great-tailed grackle birds and red-eared slider turtles. 

While many of the birds are migratory, with an abundant source of food, water, shelter and good climate available to them at Bridgeport, many have no need to migrate. 

Spring has sprung, and it’s the season where everything is growing and coming to life, even the animals — many of whom will be having babies in the spring and summer months — which means you’ll soon be spotting more and more animals here in the SCV. 

A male Mallard duck, sporting iridescent green plumage on his head, stands on one leg as he catches the last rays of the sun at the Bridgeport Markeplace Lake in Valencia. Dan Watson/The Signal

This includes at Bridgeport, where ducklings and goslings can already be spotted swimming alongside their mothers and often even crossing Newhall Ranch Road to go from lake to lake.

“A few years back, Trevor even made duck crossing signs (before the professional ones were put up) because he was worried about the ones who often get hit by cars while crossing,” Theresa added. “People treat Newhall Ranch like a speedway, so it happens too often.” 

Bridgeport isn’t the only area of the SCV where animal sightings are abundant though, as it’s often considered a city along an “urban edge,” surrounded by forests and open spaces, which is why so many animals can often be seen visiting the suburban area.

A family of geese swims in Bridgeport Lake in Valencia. Courtesy

The prey and their predators 

The No. 1 food source for a mountain lion is deer, so where there are deer, there are mountain lions, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Here in the SCV, there are many deer, according to Hoffman, and although mountain lions are seen year-round in this area, there will be more out and about during this time of year because they are also having kittens, according to Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, executive director and president of the Community Hiking Club.

Although they are often confused with mountain lions, bobcats are smaller and more numerous, especially this time of year, as they are also having kittens, Erskine-Hellrigel said. 

The gray fox is also indigenous to this area and are the only canine that can partially retract its claws, which is why they are known to climb trees, according to Hoffman.

A coyote in Santa Clarita. Courtesy of Corina Roberts

Coyotes are another animal that can be seen year-round, but because they will also be raising their pups in the spring and summer, they will need to find more and more food and may be spotted more often, Hoffman said.

There are also some bears who also travel into the area from the nearby mountains, though it’s not the best habitat for them, so sightings are rare, according to Hoffman.

“If you see a black bear, generally, they won’t attack you … but when they have a baby with them, watch out — you don’t want to get anywhere near them,” Erskine-Hellrigel added.

A bobcat in Santa Clarita. Courtesy of Corina Roberts

As the weather warms, snakes will begin to slither in, especially rattlesnakes, which are venomous, according to Erskine-Hellrigel.

“They can only bite when they’re coiled because they coil and then they spring towards you,” Erskine-Hellrigel said. “The length of their body is how far they can spring towards you and bite you.” 

However, both Erskine-Hellrigel and Hoffman agreed the snakes will most likely retreat if they aren’t provoked or threatened, as they aren’t generally aggressive.

These predators play an important role in the ecosystem by helping keep the rodent populations under control, according to Fish and Wildlife.

They’re also known to prey on the rabbits, as there will also be a significant increase in the SCV’s bunny population, because at the first sign of spring, breeding season begins and doesn’t end until late summer, said both Hoffman and Erskine-Hellrigel.

A mule deer in Santa Clarita. Courtesy of Corina Roberts

In the spring, many animals leave their young unattended for hours at a time as they forage for food, so it is important to never assume it has been abandoned, according to Erskine-Hellrigel and Fish and Wildlife.

During this time of year, officials agreed it’s important to be cognizant of the food left out as to not attract animals, such as covering garbage cans and putting bird feeders away to avoid attracting rodents or other prey of larger predators.

These officials also agree that residents need to be aware of the animals, be careful and respectful.  

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