Bagging a Wildcat (Trail)

posted Mar 28, 2012, 8:59 AM by Park Ranger   [ updated Apr 6, 2012, 1:38 PM ]
Wildcat Trail

A "Wildcat Trail" is an unofficial -- and unwanted-- trail cut through a preserve or park without the management's knowledge or approval. And that's just what someone did at McKaig.   

On our recent McKaig Maintenance Morning, volunteers closed an illegal trail starting at the edge of the Roberts Elementary School play fields.  The illicit trail had many branches, making for difficult navigation, and it disturbed a large area reserved for wildlife.  Another unwanted access to that area from the Cadet Trail near the junction with Nancy Lang Trail was also closed.

Wildcat trails are not a good idea for several reasons. First, they are not properly laid out, graded, or maintained and thus can be a potential danger to users.  If you start down the illegal trail, you could get whacked in the eye by a branch while watching the dubious footing.  The trail could just peter out and leave you lost. Meanwhile, you add to soil compaction which kills ground covering plants and creates a channel for erosion.
Wildcat trails, although the name sounds natural, have nothing to do with wildlife.  In fact, the trail in question cuts through an area of McKaig that has been designated as "off limits" to humans so that the wildlife have a sanctuary from the frequent human and dog traffic on the designated trails.
We have two species of birds, Pileated Woodpeckers and Screech Owls, that were absent or transients in the Nature Center, that have now returned as permanent residents.  These species are bot very shy, and the presence of people could very well drive them away again.  According to wildlife studies, when their nest sites are consistently visited by humans, they fledge fewer nestlings. 
Please respect McKaig, our wildlife, and our hard working volunteers by staying only on the official, well marked and well maintained trails.  You can download a printable, full color, PDF trailmap from this website.