Along several stretches of the Reserve’s boundary with the
Pacific Ocean the cliffs are steep, crumbly and nearly impossible
to climb up or down safely. A fall from any of these ledges can
be disastrous. Always stay a safe distance away from bluff edges
and never attempt to climb the cliffsides.
This term refers to waves that are disproportionately larger than
all other waves in a series. These dangerously large waves occur
when different wave trains coincide, with their crests peaking at
the same time. They are unpredictable and will surprise you, washing
you from rocks or the beach into deep, cold water. Every year people
lose their lives to such waves along the northern California coast.
The best way to avoid being taken by surprise is to stay alert
and never turn your back on the ocean. If a large wave hits you,
drop everything and hang on tight. Be certain another large wave
is not about to land before you loosen your grip. Some areas of the rocky intertidal zone are particularly dangerous
because of steep, exposed rocks backed by cliffs. Researchers should
consult with the Reserve Manager before entering any intertidal
These large sharks are present in the waters adjacent to the Reserve.
The harbor seal haul-out in front of the laboratory and the sea
lion haul-out at the southern tip of Bodega Head probably attract
these top predators. Fortunately, there have not been any attacks
on research divers here, but the possibility exists. If you are
planning to conduct subtidal research in the Bodega Marine Life
Refuge, always check with the Diving Safety Officer prior to your
scheduled dive date(s). Once in the water it is best to minimize
time at the surface, and always maintain close contact with your
For more information on sharks of coastal California visit the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation.
For more information on shark attacks visit the International
Shark Attack File.
This highly variable plant can be irritating to the skin and is
found in some locations on the Reserve. At our site it grows low
to the ground, in the dunes nearest the Lab road and around rock
outcroppings on grassland hillsides. The leaves are shiny green
in spring, turn red in late summer, and drop from the stems during
autumn. The plant’s oils, which cause the irritation, are present year-round. If poison oak is touched or
brushed against, the affected area should be washed with soap and
water, or cleansed with Tecnu, as soon as possible. Avoid touching
your face if your hands have come in contact with the plant. Touching
field clothing or equipment that has brushed against the plant can
also spread the irritant.
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which
is transmitted to humans through the bite of a western black-legged
tick (Ixodes pacificus). Symptoms of the disease are often flu-like,
including fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, fever and chills. In
many, but not all, cases, a circular, bull’s-eye rash occurs
within the days of the tick bite. Treatment with antibiotics during
early stages of the disease is usually effective, but Lyme disease
has very serious effects if left untreated.
Though the incidence of the spirochete in western black-legged
ticks on the Reserve is low, the ticks are common here during winter,
spring and early summer.
Precautions against tick bite include wearing light colored field
clothes, so ticks are more easily seen; tucking pant legs into socks
or boots; using insect repellents that contain DEET (n,n-diethyl-m-toluamide);
and being alert to tick presence on your clothes or body after time
spent in the field.
If you are bitten by a tick, early removal is important to minimize
the risk of transmission of the spirochete from the tick to your
blood. Using a pair of tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin
as possible. Pull the tick straight out, slowly and steadily, giving
the tick time to release its grip. It is wise to save the tick for
testing on the chance that symptoms may occur following the bite.
If you suspect the possibility of Lyme disease, consult your physician. More information about ticks and Lyme disease in California.
Hantavirus is a potentially deadly disease transmitted via rodent
feces, urine and saliva. Although we believe the risk of hantavirus
is extremely low on the Reserve, we mention it here because of the
seriousness of the disease (more than 40% of those infected with
the virus elsewhere have died). We are not aware of a single documented
case in humans in all of Sonoma County, but the deermouse (Peromyscus
maniculatus), the principal vector of the virus, is common on the
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, and
abdominal pain, and may worsen over a brief period of hours to days.
Respiratory failure can follow rapidly.
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection other
than early diagnosis and proper medical care.
Transmission of the virus can occur through inhalation of airborne
particles of urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected mouse
or through the handling of infected rodents, nests, or droppings.
To avoid the chance of exposure, leave rodents alone and take proper
precautions when working in closed areas inhabited by deermice. More information about Hantavirus in California.
This text is modified from a brochure provided
by the State of California Department of Health Services.
Cougar sightings on the Reserve are rare, but cougars are probably
regular visitors to Bodega Head and Dunes, drawn by the large deer
population. There have been no reported cases of cougar attacks
in Sonoma County, but it is prudent to be aware of the possibility
and to remain alert while working on the Reserve.
If you see a cougar, consider yourself one of the lucky few, but
take the following precautions:
- Stop and remain calm.
- Do not approach the animal for a better look.
- Do not turn and run away.
- Make yourself appear larger using your coat, field equipment, etc.
- If the animal approaches you, throw sticks or other items and speak
loudly and firmly to it. Let it know you are not prey and that you
might be dangerous.
- If it attacks, fight back and try to remain standing.
More information on cougars in California.
Skunks are an important part of the ecosystem and have a hearty appetite for invertebrates, small vertebrates and plants. Skunks will usually come out in the evening and early morning hours, resting at night and sleeping during the day. However, in the winter and early spring, when they have young, they will forage for food at almost any time of day and it is not uncommon to see a skunk on the Reserve in broad daylight. Skunks are poor runners, which when coupled with myopic vision, may explain why so many are killed by cars.
By taking some precautions a person can avoid being sprayed during human/skunk encounters. Skunks are nearsighted and often confuse quick and loud movements with those of a predator. Therefore if you move slowly and talk softly during skunk encounters you can usually avoid being sprayed. If avoidance is not possible, and you and a skunk come face to face, the skunk will typically warn you before spraying. Skunks run directly toward a threat, stop (sometimes within inches), then stomp, hiss and assume a tail-high pose. If you encounter this threatening posture, slowly move away. If you are sprayed, a mixture containing hydrogen peroxide (32 oz), baking soda (2 oz) and liquid soap (1 oz) has been found to be the most effective smell removal agent. Source wikipedia.