WIND WOLVES, Calif. (KERO) – Recently, the California Rangeland Trust announced an agreement to permanently conserve more than 14,000 acres on the Wind Wolves Preserve here in Kern County. The reserve is a unique ecological region and is in fact home to a number of endangered species.
Of more than 1,800 known cactus species, around 1/3 of them are considered threatened. One of these species is named after the town where it is found: the Bakersfield cactus.
With its dry heat and wide open spaces, the southern border regions of Kern County provide the perfect ecosystem for the Bakersfield Cactus.
“They prefer dry soils, with little herbaceous vegetation around them, so they don’t have to compete with other plants,” said Travis Bibee, a Wind Wolves ranger.
The cactus with its oblong pads is native and special to the Bakersfield and Kern regions. In the spring, the cactus grows a magenta flower, adding a splash of color to the greenish-gray plant.
With the landscape and weather providing the perfect conditions for this cactus to thrive, why has it been considered an endangered species for the past 30 years?
“Mainly because of habitat loss, many agricultural activities, many different agricultural uses have removed some of the old cactus sites. They are therefore only found in the foothills bordering southern Kern County, ”explains Bibee. “It is only found in this region. It’s genetically distinct from other Mojave Desert cacti, and in fact, it’s good habitat for other species like dwarf foxes and burrowing owls. This helps to bring diversity to these areas. “
Destruction of cactus habitat has been a constant problem since the 1930s. The former Bakersfield cactus tracts near Edison and Lamont have been destroyed by habitat conversion for row crops.
Almost a third of the historic population has been wiped out, but you can find a few protected in Wind Wolves and near Hart Park. However, the continued destruction of their habitats, the use of off-road vehicles, and trespassing on reserve lands only further damage the cactus.
“Humans have put some of these species at risk and we have to be good stewards by coming here, being in the wild and protecting these species,” Bibee said.