Two california gulls standing on top of a tufa mound with a reflective lake in the background.

Fence post: An update from Mono Lake’s landbridge

The temporary electrified fence protecting Mono Lake’s nesting California Gulls has been up and running for about three weeks now. After a long and snowy winter the gulls’ calls signal spring’s arrival, and it’s gratifying to know that as they build nests and lay eggs out on the islands, they are protected from coyote predation.

Gull researcher Kristie Nelson works on one of the fence sections that extends into Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, and is made up of five sections that overlap—an electrified long middle section, two shorter electrified sections at the ends near the water’s edge, and two passive sections at the ends that extend out into the water where electrification is not possible. Due to the big winter, Mono Lake is rising gradually right now, and will rise faster in coming months, so routine inspection of the fence and adjustment of the ends is important as the watery moat that should naturally separate gulls from coyotes grows in size. However if lake water were to lap up and short out one of the electrified end sections, the majority of the fence would remain charged.

Follow-up visits show that everything is working well and holding up to the Mono Basin’s weather so far. The fence has withstood several snowstorms and periods of intense wind exceeding 60 miles per hour. Wildlife cameras have yet to document a coyote encountering the fence, but they can’t cover the full fence length and there are no signs that coyotes have made it past the barrier.

As a reminder—a one-mile radius around Mono Lake’s islands is closed to people from April 1 to August 1 each year to protect nesting birds. The area where the fence is located is included in this closure and the fence maintenance team has special permission to work the fenceline. We will be bringing you updates and photos about the fence throughout the nesting season, so if you’re visiting Mono Lake this year, please do not include a trip to the landbridge in your itinerary.

The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, which was exposed by five years of drought from 2011 to 2016. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
Coyotes approaching the fence will see it, but from a distance there is no visual impact. Warning signs are posted along the length of the fence. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
Two electrified trip wires were installed in front of the fence to prevent coyotes from attempting to dig under the fence. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
The fence monitoring team will be checking on it throughout the nesting season. So far the fence has withstood some late-winter snow and windstorms very well. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
Eleven motion-activated wildlife cameras with infrared nighttime flash capability were installed along the fence to keep track of any coyote activity in the area. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
Cameras near one end of the fence, where the lake’s rise will be most apparent. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
The special camera in the previous photo takes a panoramic view of one end of the fence. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.
Camera 11 captured proof that the California Gulls are here! Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.
The fence has so far withstood high winds and severe dust storms. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.
On calm days the water laps quietly at a distance from the fence. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.
But the landbridge is so flat that on windy days, waves easily slosh toward the fence. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.

Top photo courtesy of Point Blue Conservation Science.