Coexisting with cannabis: Wildlife response to marijuana cultivation in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion
California Fish and Wildlife Journal
P. Parker-Shames, W. Xu, L. Rich, and J. Brashares
As legal cannabis agriculture expands in rural areas, wildlife will respond, but how? In the biodiverse region of Klamath-Siskiyou in southern Oregon, cameras positioned around small cannabis farms reveal individual responses of different species.
Southern Oregon is a biodiverse region and a pioneer in outdoor cannabis production. From this region, our wildlife occupancy study promises to inform environmental policy in other regions where cannabis cultivation is expanding. Using motion-triggered cameras, we captured and analyzed the occurrence of wild and domestic animals surrounding eight cannabis farms within the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion in southern Oregon. We assessed how cannabis production influenced the space use of black-tailed deer , lagomorphs, and gray fox. We found that wildlife communities on cannabis farms differed from surrounding uncultivated areas. Cannabis farms had higher levels of human activity, including a higher proportion of domestic dog and cat occupations, than comparison sites. Among wildlife detections, farms were generally occupied by smaller-bodied wildlife species. The presence of a cannabis farm helped explain detection probabilities of deer and gray fox, but did not affect lagomorphs. Overall, our results suggest species-specific responses to cannabis cultivation, suggesting potential impacts on surrounding ecological communities.