Animal planet

By Michael Padilla

Photography By Robert Holland

Friday, September 14, 2018

Sandia/California is home to snakes and bunnies and birds, oh my!

Robert Holland holds a gopher snake
NO RATTLES HERE — Robert Holland holds a gopher snake found near Building 912. Although they look like rattlesnakes from afar, gopher snakes are not poisonous.

Robert Holland and his team are outside Building 915 on Sandia’s California campus looking for a swarm of bees that were reported circling the plants and alarming passersby. Their mission: find the busy bees, figure out how to contain them and restore order to the campus.

The reported bees were never found. However, Robert said beekeepers had removed a previous swarm from the site. He added that the most important protection for bees is minimizing pesticide use.

An immature red-tailed hawk perches outside of Building 911
STANDING PROUD — An immature red-tailed hawk perches outside of Building 911.

Robert, known to some as Sandia/California’s “animal wrangler,” receives calls on a regular basis about the many animals on site. From snakes to squirrels to foxes, Robert is knowledgeable about and keen on the animals that reside on campus.

“The site is a habitat for a range of wildlife species, many of which nest, den or forage around various areas of the campus,” Robert says. “It’s important that we continue to be diligent in maintaining a safe distance from the wildlife that we share our open spaces with.”

For most of Robert’s 27-year career at Sandia, he has been associated with the California site’s ecology program. His long-held interest in ecology was strengthened by several field ecology classes that he took while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology.

A gopher snake curls up in a shady corner
DON’T TREAD ON ME — A gopher snake curls up in a shady corner to escape the summer heat.

Robert’s primary advice to the workforce is never to attempt to touch or capture wildlife because they can carry dangerous diseases. He also warns never to feed wildlife, including birds, ground squirrels and feral cats. Finally, he asks that workforce members close unattended storage spaces and equipment rooms and dispose of trash and food refuse in wildlife-proof bins.

Many of the animals are federally protected species, and Sandia's corporate Environment, Safety, and Health Policy prohibits trying to capture, touch, feed or approach wildlife. Anyone who has wildlife problems (snakes, squirrels, turkeys, etc.) at the California site should call Robert at 925-294-3755 or the ES&H hotline at 925-294-ESAH. For pest issues (mice, ants, etc.), contact Maintenance at 925-294-6400.

Six vultures sit on posts Two geese and one gosling sit together An owl sits on a red beam

BIRDS OF A FEATHER — Vultures, geese and barn owls are just a few of the many species of birds that can be found on Sandia’s California campus and the surrounding areas.

Frequently Seen Animals at Sandia/California

Table of frequently seen birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians at the Sandia/California site