Field safety guidelines at the Angelo Coast Range Reserve

All users of the reserve are responsible for complying with environmental health and safety regulations (from

Mary Power,

Peter Steel,, phone 707 354 1504


Emergency phone numbers

Closest medical facilities:

Long Valley Health Center. 50 Branscomb Road, Laytonville – (707) 984-6131

Mendocino Coast Clinic, 205 South St., Fort Bragg (707) 964-1251

Call 911 if helicopter evacuation is needed


Closest Hospitals with Emergency Room:

Frank Howard Memorial Hospital. 1 Marcela Drive, Willits CA  95490

From Angelo, drive to the south end of Willits, look for the 2nd entrance to Baechtel Drive and turn left (east).  Normal phone is (707) 459-6801; Emergency Room: (707) 459 3050 (call ahead for rattlesnake bite so they can fly in anti-venom).

Mendocino Coast District Hospital. 700 River Drive, Fort Bragg CA 95437 – phone (707) 961-1234


First Aid trained personnel

Peter Steel, Resident Reserve Manager. 707 354-1504

Office: Environmental Science Center. Home, within Reserve on north side of Elder Creek. 42101 Wilderness Lodge Road, Branscomb, CA 95417

Tony Howard, Fire Battalion Chief,,

707 984-6777, cell 707 391-6714

Communication plan—In case of an emergency or problem (e.g. folks are lost overnight on the Reserve): report problem to Peter Steel, the Reserve Manager in person or by landline or cell phone from one of the known points where service is available. Cell phone service is available from the meadow near cabins in Wilderness Lodge Meadow, and land telephone lines are available at the Environmental Science Center and the Headquarters at the southern edge of the Reserve.


Tick bites

Lyme disease is carried by the Western Black-Legged tick, at Angelo. Daily check of the entire body. Remove tick if attached by grasping as close to head as possible and pulling straight out. Do NOT crush tick before or after removal (e.g. killing between fingernails), because the Bourrelia (Lyme) spirochaetes released can burrow through in tact human skin. Save tick if possible for analysis (in alcohol or strong saline solution). After a bite, check for Lyme disease symptoms.  These can be flu-like low fever and muscular or joing aching, or Erythema migrans—a white circle that stands out against red inflammation from bite.  Erythema is definitive, but it doesn’t always appear when one gets infected. This circle (right) is quite different than ordinary inflammation from a tick bite (left). If ticks are attached more than 24 h, consult a physician about getting antibiotics to avoid late stage Lyme disease some years down the road, particularly if flu-like symptoms appear. Reserve users can consult and be treated for Lyme on a walk-in basis at the Mendocino Coast Clinic, 205 South St., Fort Bragg (707) 964-1251.

Did you know? When ticks take a blood meal from Sceloporus lizards on the West Coast, a factor in the lizard blood purges the tick of the Bourrelia bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Photo by Joyce Gross. Read more about Lyme disease.

photo from Robert Lane ppt.
Western black-legged tick, from left: larva, nymph, adult male, adult female. Photo by Bob Lane.
Western black-legged tick, from left: larva, nymph, adult male, adult female. Photo by Bob Lane.
Have you thanked a fence lizard today? When ticks take a blood meal from Sceloporus lizards on the West Coast, a factor in the lizard blood purges the tick of the Bourrelia bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Photo by Joyce Gross.
Have you thanked a fence lizard today? 









This little guy makes a coil about 5″ in diameter, right near the outdoor sink at the Environmental Science Center. Photo by M. Power

Rattlesnakes bites

Rattlesnakes are not aggressive at Angelo; the danger is in stepping on or too near them before you see them. We have seen rattlesnakes where folks hop out of their cars in the Headquarters parking, coiled under pillars at the Environmental Science Center, sheltering under logs across trails, and warming themselves on the roads and in mid-river emergent boulders. Do not approach snakes closely, do not walk where you can not clearly see where you step (use a walking stick to feel your way through dense vegetation, it’s also handy for lifting poison oak out of your path). If bitten, let the wound bleed freely for 30 seconds. Apply a cold pack. Keep area immobilized at heart level. Take victim to hospital (Willits Emergency Room—phone 707 456 3050–alert ahead if possible so they can get a fresh supply of anti-venin—they will likely have to have it helicoptered in.)




Mugwort often grows near poison oak, and some have found that it prevents a rash if rubbed over skin that has touched poison oak. Photo by M. Power

Poison oak

Avoid contact with this plant. You’ll get a gestalt for it, but it is quite variable in its growth habit, and can be a creeping ground vine, a stout bush, or a tree climbing megavine. If contact is made, wipe contacted area with dilute ethanol solution, or mugwort (an herb often growing near poison oak at Angelo—at least this works for some of us). If rash develops, apply a wet compress with baking soda or vinegar or use a topical ointment. Avoid scratching the rash. If the rash goes systemic (spreads across much of your body that didn’t directly touch the plant, causing swelling), you may need benedryl injections from the hospital in Willits. Go to their emergency room. Poison hemlock, Death angel mushroom, Death camas and Newts

There are several plants, mushrooms, and one animal (besides rattlesnakes) that are toxic and potentially fatal if ingested. Inhaling a single seed of poison hemlock has landed a person in the hospital. Learn to recognize these plants. (By the way, Taricha (our colorful newt) is also toxic, and a person who swallowed one (on a bet) died from its tetrodotoxin—the same poison of Zombie lore and legend.)


Black bears

Do not leave smelly garbage or bottles or scraps with food odors that attract bears to living quarters.  Rinse smells out of bottles before recycling them.  Do not interact with or disturb adult bears or cubs. Make sure you are not positioned between a sow and her cub(s). If you see a cub or cubs nearby, look around for Mom. Make sure you’re not between her and the cubs, and not down slope from her.

Mountain lions

Do NOT run. Fight back. Look big, be loud. Protect your neck and head.  Some of us have considered wearing tiger masks with eyes staring up out of the backs of our heads when we work near noisy riffles under lots of tree overhang, when cats have been sighted nearby.


Yellow jackets (ground nesting wasps) like this kind of habitat.


Despite the soft geological parent materials of the basin, the topography of Angelo is steep (due to tectonic uplift) and the Eel River is canyon-bound and deeply incised. In places, cliff banks along the river can be undercut, and this may not be obvious from above, when one is standing on the undercut. Do not attempt to climb into the channel or out of it in steep areas—walls and large boulders in walls give way frequently. If you must ascend or descend in a relatively steep area, stagger yourselves so that boulders, which are easily dislodged by the upslope climber, do not injure the person below.

Where “dead falls” of dead trees and debris have accumulated so that you must climb over them to pass, remember that these are often used as nest sites by yellow jackets. If you get stung by several yellow jackets, monitor yourself for an allergic reaction, and if this becomes severe, start driving to the Willits Emergency Room. Also, if you know that you have allergies to wasp stings, please bring an up-to-date epipen and know how to use it. For everyone, carrying benedryl tablets with you in the field during yellow jacket season (summer) is wise. Also, broken tree limbs can be quite sharp, so you can get impaled if you fall on one. Climb through deadfalls carefully!


If users are caught inside the Reserve in a wildfire, vehicular egress out of Wilderness Lodge Road is likely to be blocked by fallen trees. Users should try to get into a cooled burned area, or take temporary shelter where the vegetation is sparse (the middle of the largest open reserve meadows, or very wide, tree- and shrub-free gravel bars along the river). Look for a depression in the ground and clear as much vegetation and flammable “ground litter” as you can. Then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the heat. Avoid natural chimneys and topographic saddles. A natural chimney is a narrow, steep canyon that concentrates heat and updraft (e.g. stay out of canyon-bound river corridors where the channel is confined by tall banks). Saddles between hills are wide natural paths for fire, winds, and vegetation; fires tend to be drawn up and over these depressions with great speed and intensity. Fires racing through these natural conditions can exceed several thousand degrees Fahrenheit and quickly use precious oxygen.

If you’re in a vehicle, move it to bare ground or a sparsely vegetated area, close all windows and doors, lie on the floor, and cover yourself with a jacket or blanket. Keep calm, stay in the vehicle, and let the fire pass. If there is time, users near the Wilderness Lodge Meadow could build backfires if needed to reduce fuel around them, then wait the fire out under wet blankets. Backfires, though, can escape control, so don’t set them unless you can’t be safe otherwise.  When the wireless infrastructure is in place, we will have telephone and radio links with which to guide helicopter rescues.

Positioning your car
  • Find a clearing away from dense bush and other high fuel loads.
  • Where possible, minimize exposure to radiant heat by parking in a cutting or behind a natural barrier such as a rocky outcrop.
  • Position the car facing towards the oncoming fire.
  • Park the car off the roadway to avoid collisions in poor visibility.
  • Don’t park too close to other vehicles.
Inside your car
  • Stay inside your car – it offers the best level of protection from the radiant heat as the fire front passes, unless there’s a well-protected building nearby.
  • Leave the engine running.
  • Turn headlights and hazard warning lights on to make the car as visible as possible.
  • Close all windows and doors tightly.
  • Shut all the air vents and turn the air conditioning on to ‘full’ and ‘recirculate’.
  • Get down below the window level into the foot wells and shelter under woolen blankets.
  • Drink water to minimize the risks of dehydration.
When the fire front passes
  • As the fire front approaches, the heat, smoke and embers will increase.
  • Smoke will enter the car and fumes will be released from interior plastics. Stay as close to the floor as possible to minimize inhalation of fumes. Cover mouth with a moist cloth.
  • Tires and external plastic body parts may catch alight. In more extreme cases the car interior may catch on fire.
  • If possible, stay in the car until the fire front has passed and the temperature has dropped outside.
  • Fuel tanks are very unlikely to explode.
  • Once the fire front has passed and the temperature has dropped, carefully exit the car – metal parts will be extremely hot.
  • Move to a safe area such as a strip of land that has already burnt.
  • Stay covered in woolen blankets, continue to drink water and await assistance.

Updated 2014