June 2017 - Each month on a Monday, a team of Cabrillo National Monument biologists and volunteers head out to the field to uncover over 100 five-gallon buckets. Located throughout the park and adjacent US Navy land, the buckets have been sunk into the earth, their rims even with the ground. The buckets serve as pitfall traps, arranged in groups of seven, and connected by low drift fencing. They work by catching small animals that fall in while trying to go around the fencing. The team, led by Cabrillo biologist Stephanie Root, spends the rest of the week checking each trap daily. They identify, measure, and release any captured critters before covering the buckets again until the next month.
Most often, the team finds common lizards such as western fence lizards and side-blotched lizards in the traps. They also find and record a lot of small mammals such as desert shrews and western harvest mice. Sometimes, a bucket will contain a snake or a salamander.