California has recently been experiencing the most impactful drought on record. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly known. With rising global temperatures and severe unpredictable weather patterns, effects on wildlife habitat and suitability are constantly in question. Knoxville Wildlife Area sits just north of Lake Berryessa in Napa County. It contains large tracts of high quality upland game bird habitat that support populations of several different species. Some of these species include California quail, wild turkey, as well as mourning dove.
However, due to Knoxville Wildlife Area’s location in the upper reaches of a watershed and its rugged mountainous terrain, high quality habitat becomes fragmented due to the scarcity of water for approximately 3 months of the year on average (August – October). Average daily temperatures during this period at Knoxville typically range between a high of 90F-100F. The recent drought has only made things more difficult for wildlife here. This severe reduction in a limiting resource (water) handicaps upland game bird populations, and highly limits their range expansion into otherwise very suitable habitat.
Water development, whether in the form of a collection pond, developed perennial spring, or man-made guzzler, have been shown to increase upland wildlife range. It’s also a significant help to maximize population potential. This is especially true for upland game bird species that need water on a daily basis during hot conditions.
Due to the importance of this required resource to upland game birds on Knoxville Wildlife Area, National Wild Turkey Federation District Biologist, Kevin Vella, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Area Biologist, Stacy Martinelli, identified two core areas that were severely water-limiting. The National Wild Turkey Federation was successfully awarded a $17,000 grant from the Upland Game Bird Account and purchased/installed two 1,000 gallon rainwater catchment guzzlers at the previously selected locations.
These sites will provide water during a critical time of the year for a multitude of species. It will be very fascinating to how these sites are utilized by wildlife in the years to come.