Desert Fence Busters Visit Tortolita Preserve

The Tortolita Preserve was established to preserve this precious piece of the Sonoran Desert. This area is full of native vegetation and wildlife and is a popular spot for recreation surrounded by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Within the preserve is a crucial wildlife linkage between the Tucson Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains. In this connected landscape, the Coalition has four wildlife cameras deployed to gather valuable data on trends in wildlife activity, species richness, and movement across the landscape and through this linkage.

These photos are from our BASIL, SKATUTM and STRONGARM cameras, monitored by Dave Barker and Jane Hunter. Our fourth camera is the TORTOISE cam, also monitored by Jane Hunter.

It is important that we make sure that this area is as connected as possible for the wildlife to migrate between these mountain ranges. Barbed wire fence was installed many years ago throughout the Sonoran Desert, including at the Tortolita Preserve, to identify property lines, contain cattle, and prevent humans, animals and off-highway vehicles from entering the land. Much of that barbed wire fence is no longer serving its original purpose and is referred to as “legacy barbed wire.” Legacy barbed wire fencing limits the movement of wildlife within the preserve and is very dangerous for them if they become tangled in the wire, which is rather common, especially for mule deer. For these reasons, the Desert Fence Busters identified two sites of legacy barbed wire fences at the Tortolita Preserve to remove to protect wildlife.

Source: Tortolita Alliance

On May 2, 2024, the Desert Fence Busters removed two stretches of legacy barbed wire fencing in the Tortolita Preserve: Site 1-Utility Easement (mid-section) and Site 2-Pan Handle (eastern portion of the pan handle along the Highlands border). [See map above.] The Desert Fence Busters had 17 volunteers break into two teams for each site and got to work! A total of 1 mile of fence was removed with a total estimated weight of 1,000 lbs – this work is heavy lifting, folks!

Since 2021, the Desert Fence Busters has removed legacy barbed wire fence at sites from just south of Three Points, north to Avra Valley Road, east to the Big Wash in Oro Valley, and now from the Tortolita Preserve. Here is a current summary of the Desert Fence Buster’s accomplishments:

  • Barbed Wire Fence Removed: 52.4 miles
  • Work Days: 28
  • Volunteers: 683
  • Scrap Metal: 52,650 lbs or 26.3 tons
  • Pounds of Scrap Metal/Mile: 1,000 lbs

As a result of their hard work, wildlife in the Tortolita Preserve will face less obstacles as they move through this crucial wildlife linkage between the Tortolita and Tucson Mountains. It’s very possible that this mule deer doe, photographed below, has an increased quality of life and is safer thanks to the work of the Desert Fence Busters. Stay tuned for the next project updates – the Desert Fence Busters will continue their work in Fall 2024!

Referenced: Desert Fence Busters Visit TP (