By: Jessica Baggott
While some animals near the Belmont Slough make themselves known, others tend to blend in. Some of the animals that blend in are even endangered.
Oracle employees aren’t the only ones keeping d.tech company. As many students know, there are threatened and endangered species living in our neighboring Belmont Slough. What most students don’t know is anything specific about these species. Sophomore Phoebe Baggott is an example of this saying, “I think the mouse is called the Marsh… Field… Something Mouse?” Another example of this is junior Melina Shapiro who says, “Honestly, I really don’t have much knowledge about the Slough which is kind of sad because we’re right next to it and I don’t even know what animals are [living] in [there].”
Despite the majority of people within the d.tech community having a limited knowledge of the species in the Slough, a few select individuals have some limited information. Freshman English teacher and, as he puts himself, “amateur bird watcher,” Patrick Sullivan says, “I guess I don’t know very much. I think it’s the Snowy Plover and the Stilt [which are endangered.]” Sullivan was only half right. The Snowy Plover, a small bird which lives in a variety of aquatic habitats, is listed as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List which evaluates the conservation status of plant and animal species. However, the Black-Necked Stilt, which can easily be seen foraging for food in the Slough, has a stable population and is currently listed as low concern on the Cornell Lab for Ornithology website. Although Sullivan wasn’t confident about his knowledge regarding the endangered species in the Belmont Slough, he knows much more than most of the d.tech community.
What most student and staff members do know is that the nesting period of one bird delayed d.tech’s move into the new building. This infamous bird is the Ridgway’s Rail. A small chicken-like bird, the Ridgway’s Rail, or California Clapper Rail, was only distinguished from its close relative the Clapper Rail in 2014. The species is a medium sized, grey and rust colored bird, and is federally protected as Endangered due to habitat loss, pollutants, urbanization, and exotic predators. But, as it turns out, there are a number of additional threatened species in the Belmont Slough.
The endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, which is only found in the San Francisco Bay Area, was another species responsible for delaying d.tech’s move onto the Oracle campus. The mouse lives in salt or brackish marshes with a high density of vegetation where the mouse finds shelter. The species eats mostly green vegetation such as pickleweed, saltgrass, and seeds. The species is endangered primarily because of habitat loss due to development, residential encroachment, intrusion of fresh water into salt marshes, the gradual caving in or sinking of marshes, and predation especially by housecats. Due to residential encroachment, the species has little if any high ground to retreat to during high tide.
The last animal that is responsible for our delay into the new building is the Salt Marsh Wandering Shrew, a small mouse-like rodent which also only lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Similar to the Mouse, the Salt Marsh Wandering Shrew is threatened primarily due to habitat loss.
But why are the species endangered? There are myriad reasons why some of the native species to the Belmont Slough are now endangered, including rising sea levels due to climate change, habitat destruction due to development, and exposure to non-native or invasive species. Our neighboring slough is confined to a very small area surrounded by a high school, corporate campus, and suburb. This encroachment causes these species to suffer and decline in frightening numbers.
But what can we even do about these endangered species? First and foremost, we need to protect what habitat these species have left. This means not littering in the Slough and if you do see litter, pick it up. Additionally, since habitat loss is so closely related to climate change, try to conserve energy by turning off lights, unplugging electronics when they are not in use, and educate yourself on what it means to be energy efficient. Get involved with protecting our ecosystems and contact political representatives about taking immediate action on climate change. The endangered species in the Slough are depending on us to preserve what little habitat they have left. We are the ones that can keep not only their species, but their ecosystem thriving.