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A variety of wildlife captured on camera near I-10 East

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Over the last year or so, we have expanded our work protecting Sonoran Desert wildlife linkages to the Rincon-Santa Rita-Whetstone Mountains wildlife linkage that is fragmented by Interstate 10 east of Tucson. 40 wildlife cameras are now collecting data in this wildlife linkage thanks to the amazing help of our volunteers and community partners! 

A few updates to share:

*With our Desert Identifier volunteers that sort our wildlife camera photos currently on hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have a backlog of photos waiting to be sorted at a future date. Jessica Moreno, our Conservation Science Director, is currently transitioning our sorting software and database to a remote platform. This will allow volunteers to access and sort photos safely from their homes! We are excited about this development and will let you know when the new system is up and running. 

*So far, with the photos we have been able to analyze, we have photos of 11 different mammal species plus turkeys. This includes coyote, two species of skunk, fox, bobcat, bats, badger, mule deer, white-tailed deer, javelina, and opossum. See photos below for some of this amazing wildlife!

*This data is being used to develop a funding proposal with our community partners for the Regional Transportation Authority Wildlife Linkages Working Group. The proposal will be requesting funds to install wildlife fencing and complete culvert enhancements to make this wildlife linkage area safer for both wildlife and people. 

Thank you for supporting the protection of Sonoran Desert wildlife linkages! 

 

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The latest monitoring data from the Oracle Road wildlife crossings!

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Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) just released the latest and greatest monitoring data from the Oracle Road wildlife overpass and underpass. This represents FOUR FULL YEARS of monitoring these wildlife crossings since construction finished in March 2016. 

Some notable data and results include:

  • 26 different species have been observed using the crossings, including 11 species at the overpass and 25 species at the underpass.
  • Over 10,000 wildlife crossings have been documented by AGFD cameras – 10,843 to be exact. These crossings are fairly evenly split between both structures, with 5,490 crossings at the overpass and 5,353 at the underpass. 
  • Over 98% of the crossings are by four species: mule deer, javelina, bobcat, and coyote. 
  • Total crossings at each structure have increased year upon year since construction finished. This means each year more and more wildlife are using these wildlife crossings. 

For more results, you can read the full monitoring report HERE

To learn more about why these crossings were built, how they were funded, and more, head over to the following webpages:

 

Mule deer on the Oracle Road wildlife bridge in March 2020. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

 

A mule deer uses the Oracle Road wildlife underpass in April 2020. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

 

Friends of the Desert newsletter #57 is out in the world!

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Although we know most of us are pretty preoccupied with the current global pandemic, we decided to still send out our spring newsletter, hoping to inject a little joy and positivity into your mailboxes and inboxes. 

Check out the following articles in our Spring 2020 Friends of the Desert newsletter:

  • New project collecting data on Rincon-Santa Rita-Whetstone mountains wildlife linkage
  • Healing scars in the desert: wildlife crossings an important piece of protecting the Sonoran Desert
  • Local community rallies to save Tortolita Preserve
  • And more!

And, as always, thank you for supporting a protected and connected Sonoran Desert!

New wildlife cameras generate spectacular photos

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Thanks to a new partnership with volunteer, welder, and ecology student Raynor Vandeven, there are now four wildlife cameras out in the field with professional photography equipment capturing images of Sonoran Desert wildlife. These cameras are located in an area along the proposed I-11 route, in the Tucson Mountains, near the Oracle Road wildlife crossings, and in the I-10 East wildlife linkage area. 

We are so grateful to Raynor for his willingness to share these images with the Coalition and can’t wait to start sharing more of them with you in the weeks and months ahead! 

(Note: the photos below are examples of Raynor’s wildlife photography and were not taken in the locations described above. )

 

 

 

Join us for a new Desert Excursions field trip on March 21 or March 30!

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Would you be interested in going on a field trip to learn about one of the Coalition’s programs, meet some great people, and get outside into our beautiful Sonoran Desert for a morning or evening?

We’d love to have you join us on two field trips being offered on Saturday, March 21 and Monday, March 30. See below for details! 

Field trip options include:

1.  WILDLIFE CROSSING EXPERIENCE

Saturday, March 21, 10am-12pm

What does it take to build a wildlife crossing? In 2016, the Oracle Road wildlife crossings were closed to the public to allow wildlife freedom to roam – and wow, did they! We will have a chance to make a special visit to the bridge and underpass so you can get a critter’s perspective on this landscape-level link that connects the Catalina and Tortolita mountains. We will check a nearby wildlife camera to see what has been passing through, examine wildlife tracks, describe our future native plant restoration plans, and share the most exciting results we have to date. We’ll end with an optional lunch at a nearby locally owned eatery. Maximum 8 people. Optional lunch afterwards.

A field trip to the Oracle Road wildlife underpass with community partners.   

 

2.   BATS AND TRACKS ON THE SANTA CRUZ RIVER

Monday, March 30, 5-7pm

Come along for a relaxing evening with Coalition staff on the northwest side of Tucson as we explore the Cortaro Road and Ina Road bat project. Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno will show us how to identify wildlife tracks along the Santa Cruz River, where we may see sign of bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, and even badger. Get crafty and make your own plaster cast of your favorite animal track to take home. We will visit the bat boxes and talk about why they are the most successful man-made bat habitats in the country to date. At dusk, we can sit back and enjoy your drink of choice while watching the spectacular bat outflight against a backdrop of the glorious desert sunset. Maximum 8 people. Family friendly, kids welcome! 

Local bats take flight at dusk. Photo by Jessica Moreno.

 

CSDP supporters Caleb Pocock, Megan Kettner, Susan Husband, and Carol Foster on a Bats & Tracks field trip to the Ina Road bat boxes with CSDP Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno in December 2019. 

 

If you are interested in any of the above field trips, please fill out this brief SURVEY to let us know which trips you are interested in attending. Field trips will be filled on a first come, first serve basis and the RSVP deadline is Wednesday, March 18. After you fill out the survey, we will send you a personal email to confirm your attendance on the field trip. We can’t wait to get to know you more out in the field!

Vote today for CSDP to win a $2,000 Banff Grant!

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Will you take 30 seconds today and vote for CSDP to win one of Summit Hut’s $2,000 Banff Grants? 

You can vote right now at: https://woobox.com/77j9qu 

Five wonderful non-profits have been nominated and the top two vote-getters will receive $2,000 at the Banff Mountain Film Festival on Friday, March 6. Only one vote is allowed per email address. You can also vote for us once per day at either of Summit’s two store locations. Voting started on February 1, 2020 and ends at midnight on February 29, 2020. 

Thank you for all your incredible support of a protected and connected Sonoran Desert, whether it’s speaking up against the proposed I-11 route, sending in a donation, volunteering for our wildlife camera program, writing an email, attending a public meeting, or voting for us to win a 2020 Banff Grant

Join us for Environmental Day 2020!

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Thinking about what you can do for the environment this year? Join us for Environmental Day at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, February 5, 2020. We’ve got a bus chartered to bring community members up to Phoenix for the day to meet your state legislators, see the Legislature in action, and learn more about what bills are up for debate this year. 

There are two optional events scheduled to help you get ready for Environmental Day, plus Environmental Day itself. Please RSVP for any or all of them below!

1. TUESDAY, JANUARY 21: Tucson Legislative District Meeting, 6 PM – 7:30 PM at the Historic Y conference room, 738 N 5th Ave. Tucson 85705 – come out and meet your Team Leader and fellow residents in your legislative district, get an orientation to the schedule for Environmental Day, learn about current environmental bills in the legislature, and ask questions! RSVP here.

2. THURSDAY, JANUARY 30: Citizen Lobbying Workshop with Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr, 6 PM – 8 PM at the Historic Y conference room, 738 N 5th Ave. Tucson 85705 – Learn the ins and outs of the AZ State Legislature, how to be an effective citizen lobbyist, and more info on current environmental bills that we may want to talk about with our legislators. RSVP here

3. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 – Environmental Day! Catch a ride on our chartered bus, leaving Tucson at 6am from the Historic Y Building (738 N. 5th Ave, Tucson, 85705) and return in comfort by dinnertime. RSVP here.

If you’d like to attend any or all of these events, please use the RSVP links above, email Whelan at sarah.whelan@sonorandesert.org or give us a call at (520) 388-9925. 

Thanks for using your voice for the Sonoran Desert and all the wildlife of Arizona! 

Oracle Road wildlife crossings featured on FOX10 Drone Zone segment

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The Oracle Road wildlife crossings were recently featured on TV station FOX10’s Drone Zone segment in Phoenix. Check out this 3+ minute segment to see some amazing drone footage of both the Oracle Road wildlife underpass and overpass, along with a great interview of our partner Jeff Gagnon with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (click on the image/link below to access the full TV segment). 

Tortolita Preserve protected in new Marana General Plan

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Good news for conservation in Marana!

On December 10, 2019, the Marana Town Council approved the new draft Marana General Plan with a few major changes we requested. This includes 1) solidifying the long-term protection of the Tortolita Preserve and 2) removing a “Special Planning Area” from lands southwest of the Tortolita Preserve so these lands will remain low density if they are ever developed.

Thank you to all the community members that showed up and voiced their concerns about these issues over the last couple months, including the newly formed Tortolita Alliance! Our voices can make a difference!

If you’d like more information, you can read our full comment letter that we submitted to the Marana Town Council on December 9, 2019 and our previous comment letter submitted to the Marana Planning & Zoning Commission in September 2019. The full draft Marana General Plan is available on the Make Marana 2020 website

You can also read two media stories about the Marana General Plan and the future of the Tortolita Preserve published in December 2019, one from Arizona Public Media and one in the AZ Daily Star

What’s next for the Marana General Plan?  Marana voters will get to vote on this new General Plan in August.

What types of wildlife cameras do we use?

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Interested in purchasing a wildlife camera for yourself or as a gift for family or friends? 

The short answer from our Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno is:

I recommend checking out the reviews and the beginner’s buyers guide found at www.trailcampro.com. With new models coming on the market all the time, this is a great resource for up to date recommendations and tips. You get what you pay for, so I don’t recommend anything worth less than $100. To minimize animal disturbance, choose an infrared/IR camera over white flash.

For more information, check out Jessica’s longer article in the Desert Leaf, “Wildlife (caught) on camera” which gives more details on wildlife cameras, the different ways they are used, some rules and regulations to think about depending on where you’re placing them, and what to think about when buying one.  

If you do end up buying a camera and get some interesting pictures of Sonoran Desert wildlife, we’d love to see them!

Note: Another fun resource is the Backyard Wildlife of the Southwest Facebook page where wildlife enthusiasts from around the Southwest regularly post photos of wildlife taken with their wildlife cameras and regular cameras.