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California Poppy at Wind Wolves Preserve

Dear Friends,

While the world quarantines and self-isolates to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we want to take a moment to recognize the impact to our local community. We see the pandemic’s reverberations all around us: our physical health and mental well-being, educational opportunities for our youth, and our economic prosperity. While disrupting our daily routines and livelihoods, this disease has also challenged us to change the way we relax and recharge, as access to cherished places, such as Wind Wolves Preserve, is temporarily restricted. We are in this together, and The Wildlands Conservancy's Wind Wolves Preserve will continue to be an important resource for the Kern County community, and beyond, for many years to come!

We promise that as soon as we can do so safely, we will reopen our gates, campgrounds, hiking trails, bike path, and facilities, providing free year-round access to our County's natural beauty for tens of thousands of residents. We will continue to fulfill our educational mission by hosting thousands of local school children for free field trips. Did you know that nearly 200,000 local kids have participated in a free naturalist-led field trip at Wind Wolves Preserve since 1998? We will also always be 100% free so that every member of our community may know the wonder and joy of nature. When we reopen our doors, we invite you to come visit, spend a day volunteering alongside our rangers, or take a guided night hike with one of our naturalists. We look forward to meeting you on the trails soon!

Landon Peppel
Central Valley Regional Director


desert tortoise education program
Naturalist Brittany with Desert Tortoise

In early March, Wind Wolves Preserve hosted a group of 40 parents and children from the Bakersfield Migrant Program for a two-day camping program: Nature’s Niños. This unique program introduces local youth to the joys of outdoor recreation and fosters a love of the natural world. During their stay at the Preserve, families participated in naturalist-led educational activities that engage childrens’ curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. They pitched tents, tested their own seed dispersal designs, met our reptiles, hiked after dark, roasted marshmallows by the campfire, and braved the cold of an early spring night on the Preserve. For most participants, this was their first camping experience! On their second day, families joined our rangers and naturalists to pot native pollinator seedlings at the Preserve nursery, learning basic facts about habitat restoration. Thanks to our sponsor, Dignity Health, Wind Wolves Preserve was able to provide participants with healthy meals, transportation, educational supplies, and camping equipment, including tents, lanterns, and sleeping bags.

This is the fourth year Wind Wolves Preserve has hosted Nature’s Niños, but the program was a first for several new members of our education team, including bilingual Naturalists, Sayra and Neida, and Ranger, Josh, who provided Spanish translations throughout the program. Sayra remarked of her first experience teaching the program, “There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a happy kid enjoying nature.” Neida felt an additional personal connection to Nature’s Niños, having grown up in the Migrant Program herself. “Programs like this one allowed me to explore places outside of my small town,” she reflected, “becoming a part of it was such an amazing experience!”




Artificial kit fox burrow
Artificial kit fox burrow


The San Joaquin Kit Fox is the smallest canid in North America at about 32 inches long and 12 inches tall at the shoulder.

Kit fox pups start to venture outside at about one month old and move out of their parents' den at around 4-5 months. They live about 7 - 8 years.

Kit foxes eat ground squirrels, antelope squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits, insects, birds, and occassioally grasses.

The San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) is a subspecies of kit fox found only in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Populations have become increasingly fragmented since 1930 due to habitat being converted to agriculture, urban development, wind farms, and oil fields. In 1967 the federal government listed the subspecies as endangered, and a few years later, in 1971, it was classified as threatened by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Wind Wolves Preserve is one of the few remaining places in the Central Valley the San Joaquin kit fox calls home.

Kit foxes live in burrows dug from loose soils in grassland and scrubland. Serving as protection, shelter, and a nursery, these dens are critical to kit fox survival. With the help of volunteers from McCormick Biological, Inc. and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Wind Wolves Preserve installed 6 artificial kit fox dens in late January. Planting the dens, made of 6-inch diameter corrugated plastic pipe, required the crew to dig long trenches, insert the tubing, and cover these tracts with earth, leaving only the burrow entrance and exit exposed. “The materials for the artificial dens are rather affordable,” remarked Preserve Manager, Melissa. “The difficult part was digging the trenches! However, it is satisfying work to aid in the recovery of an endangered species, and we hope to see evidence of their presence at these new dens soon.” San Joaquin kit foxes are spotted at the preserve often in the early morning or late evening, and we anticipate these dens will provide additional habitat for our population. The next phase of the project is the installation of wildlife cameras near the new dens to monitor kit fox activity.




Planting Tree SeedlingsPlanting tree seedlings

In December 2019, Wind Wolves Preserve partnered with the Land Life Company, Mojave Desert Land Trust, and American Conservation Experience to restore habitat in the Preserve’s San Emigdio Canyon. Over the course of three days, the Land Life crew planted over 13,000 native trees, including honey mesquite, valley oak, coast live oak, and canyon live oak. Though only a few inches tall now, in a few short years, we anticipate these trees will provide both shade for hikers along the San Emigdio Canyon Trail and habitat for local wildlife, including loggerhead shrikes, red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, American kestrels, mourning doves, coyotes, and cottontail rabbits.

Many of the seedlings are located along stream-side areas known as the riparian zone. Riparian zones fill several important functions in their ecosystems. They often serve as wildlife corridors that allow animals to move up and down the mountains while being concealed from predators and protected from the elements. They typically provide year-round vegetation for browsing animals, such as deer and elk. Because we live in a dry climate without much available water, riparian zones harbor a disproportionate diversity of plants and animals compared to surrounding areas. Trees, shrubs, and other plants growing in riparian zones improve water quality, as they control soil erosion, reduce flooding, and filter out pollutants. Since we recognize the benefits of healthy riparian zones, future plantings will continue to improve San Emigdio Creek and Canyon.




  • The Land Life Company aims to reforest the world's 2 billion hectares of degraded land. Their goal is to plant 3 million trees this year!

  • The Mojave Desert Land Trust grows native plants and protects the Mojave Desert ecosystem and its scenic and cultural resource values.

  • The American Conservation Experience (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing rewarding environmental service opportunities that harness the idealism and energy of a volunteer labor force to help restore America’s public lands.


by Megan Ellington

Naturalist Megan EllingtonWhen I was little, all I wanted when I grew up was to be a teacher. Of course, life happens, and does not always go according to plan. By my late twenties, that goal of being a teacher wasn't something I even thought about anymore. My name was now “Mommy,” and the things I wanted before seemed to be happily sidelined for the time being while I introduced my son to the world. Wind Wolves was our go-to hiking spot where my family could escape town for a while and find peace in nature. When I heard that the preserve was hiring, I quickly applied before even understanding what a Naturalist was, only because I knew that I wanted to be a part of this place no matter what my role would be.

Life as a Naturalist is a blast! My long ago dream of teaching became a reality with the added bonus of being able to share my love of nature and teaching outdoors with our local schoolchildren. I love seeing kids light up as they get to watch deer grazing, the wonderment of playing with Native American musical instruments, and the disgusted faces as they dissect owl pellets. It brings me more happiness then I could have ever imagined. I love working alongside our amazing education team and coming up with new and exciting ideas to enhance our programs and also love assisting the rangers with native plant restoration projects, where I get to add a little something beautiful to the preserve that will still be around after my time here has ended.

So yes, the world doesn't always go according to plan, but sometimes it lines up just right, and for me, this is it! Inspiring children to learn about nature, in nature, is life-fulfilling, and I am beyond grateful that I get to do this amazing job in this truly spectacular place with such wonderful people.

Megan has been a Naturalist at Wind Wolves Preserve since fall of 2018. As a Naturalist, she teaches school-aged children in our Outdoor Discovery Program, leads youth camping activities, such as at Nature’s Niños, and engages with visitors on weekends, including through free programming like Guided Nature Hikes, EcoKids, and Movies in the Canyon.



Hi Kids!

You have probably noticed that when the sun comes out after a rainstorm, all the puddles start to disappear. Where does the water go? Every puddle, no matter how small, is part of a world-wide system called the water cycle, in which Earth’s water continuously moves between different states of matter, changing between a liquid, gas (water vapor), and solid (ice or snow). Heated by the sun’s rays, water molecules break apart, transforming puddles from liquid on the ground to vapor in the air. This process, known as evaporation, occurs with much larger bodies of water too, including lakes, rivers, and oceans; there is just so much water to begin with, we don’t usually notice.

Water molecules breaking apart during evaporation
Water molecules (made of one oxygen and two hydrogen) breaking apart during evaporation. Source: Christopher Baird

The evaporated water is in the atmosphere around us all the time but it makes up much less than 1% of all water on the planet. Eventually, the air may cool enough for molecules to join up again and return to a liquid state, a process called condensation. Condensation forms droplets on the glass of an iced drink and also forms clouds in the sky. When gravity pulls the liquid back down to Earth in the form of rain, snow, or hail, it is called precipitation.

Clouds forming by condensation
Clouds forming by condensation. Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

The water cycle is a natural filtering process, allowing us to continuously reuse the same water that has been on this planet for billions of years. It also connects people and places all across the globe, as water travels thousands of miles in the cycle, through the air and across the ground.

water cycle graphic
The water cycle. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)


Try the following activity at home to witness the water cycle in action! You will need a plastic sandwich bag, markers, water, blue food coloring (optional), and tape.

water cycle activity supplies


Click on the images below to enlarge.

Step 2 water cycle bag process

water cycle bag complete

1) Using markers, decorate your bag with important parts of the water cycle, such as clouds and the sun. You may choose to draw arrows to show the momvement of water ad label the three main processes: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

2) Pour a small amount of water in your bag (no more than 1 inch), and add 1 drop of blue food coloring. The water will represent a lake, ocean, or even a puddle!

3) Seal the bag tight.

4) Hang the bag in a window, preferably one that gets a lot of sun, by taping the top of the bag securely to the glass.

5) Wait. In a few hours, return to your bag, and observe any changes. Check on your bag again over the next few days.

Did you know that water can also evaporate from plants’ leaves? This type of evaporation has a special name: transpiration. As a plant “breathes” through small openings called stomata, it loses moisture to the air.

magnified leaf stoma
Magnified leaf stoma. Source: Photohoud, Wikipedia Commons

You can capture this lost water and observe transpiration in action by tying a clear, plastic bag around the leaves of a tree, bush, or house plant and waiting 1-2 hours. The amount of water you see depends on several factors, including temperature, humidity (moisture already in the air), wind, and the type of plant. For instance, plants from very dry environments, like cacti, transpire (breathe) less than plants from humid environments. How would you design an experiment to find out how changing one of these factors (an independent variable) affects transpiration (the dependent variable)? Remember to control for other factors that might affect your results by keeping them the same throughout the experiment. For instance, if your independent variable is the type of plant, you could test each of your subjects in the same place, so they experience the same conditions, like temperature, humidity, etc.

capturing transpiration in a bag
Capturing transpiration in a bag. Source: Kitchen Pantry Scientist