Posts Tagged ‘CSDP’

The first Tortolita BioBlitz was a huge success!

Posted on:

On Saturday November 19th, 46 participants made almost 700 observations of over 135 species!

The first Tortolita Preserve BioBlitz was a huge success! What a great way to share and explore this amazing open space!

We held seven small group outings during the BioBlitz, and all the participants enjoyed getting a chance to explore with guides from Arizona Master Naturalists, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, and Tortolita Alliance. One of the guided walks headed by CSDP’s Jessica Moreno focused on identifying animals by scat and tracks. Species identified included Grey Fox, Mule Deer, Bobcat, Coyote, and even the tiny and industrious Kangaroo Rat! Another walk conducted by Jennie McFarland from Tucson Audubon Society and Steven Prager from Audubon Southwest yielded a list of fifteen species including a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; the first time this species has been documented here on E-Bird. Another highlight was the identification of Gregg’s Nightblooming Cereus happily existing in the understory of a Palo Verde.

In addition to the outings, many people worked hard collecting observations on their own. We had several people visiting the Tortolita Preserve for the first time and others new to iNaturalist making a big contribution to the success of the event. Identifying observations made by others is another area in which our group really contributed. We had people making identifications during the BioBlitz. This is such an important part of the outreach component of iNaturalist, so a big thanks to people who worked on identifications!

Check out the project:
Tortolita Preserve Fall BioBlitz · iNaturalist

A group of people stand in a dirt parking lot waiting to hike into the desert to look for signs of wildlife.

Jessica Moreno leads a dawn wildlife track and sign survey for the Tortolita Preserve BioBlitz to a group of BioBlitzers. Sunrise really lights up those tracks! It was a cold start, but warmed up quickly.

Kit Fox: CSDP Photographs Another First

Posted on:

By Jessica Moreno, Conservation Science Director

It’s late morning in early May when my phone buzzes with a text message from my friend and long-time Desert Monitor Josh Skattum. It’s a black and white photo from our “UTA” camera in the Tucson-Tortolita Mountain corridor, a blurry ghost of a fox with large, pointed ears and a small animal in its mouth, trotting swiftly through a moonless desert night. “Kit fox?,” Josh types. It looks plausible… I promise to look at it more closely and confirm.

The desert kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) has exaggerated features and could easily be included in a sci-fi wildlife field guide, fitting comfortably among the illustrations of banthas, sandworms, or tribbles. They are tiny canines, just 3.5 to 6 pounds, the weight of a full-grown Chihuahua. That small package comes with oversized 3- to 4-inch-long ears that helps dissipate the heat, a fluffy tail that nearly doubles its body length, and fur packed between their toes creating custom-made sand shoes.

Their soft sandy-colored coats are sometimes trimmed in bright rusty orange as if their edges were dyed by the desert sunset. In the moonlight, you might only glimpse pale fur and a black-tipped tail that doesn’t sport the signature bold black stripe found on the more commonly seen gray fox. But the kit fox’s delicate pointy face, bright eyes, and overlarge ears give them the same playful and mischievous countenance.

Several more nocturnal photos later, and I am more confident in my ID. Josh even documents a likely burrow site. Just to be doubly sure (and for fun), I ask for the help of Raynor Vandeven, a talented photographer who builds his own custom-made camera traps to produce incredible wildlife images. He sets out to see if he can get a more photographic image for us – with almost instant success.

These photos are the first time a kit fox has triggered one of the wildlife cameras we use to monitor the movement patterns of animals that use Pima County’s wildlife corridors. These areas tend to be the most threatened by roads and development – and also exactly the kind of low desert habitat that is preferred by kit foxes. And here they are, fulfilling their special role in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem as mesocarnivores.

A mesocarnivore is a small to mid-sized mammal that eats mostly meat (50 – 75% of their diet) but also eats other things – fruits, plants, fungi, insects – and is therefore an omnivore. Ecologically, they serve a role similar to the fewer-in-number large carnivores, like mountain lions, with some differences, such as spreading seeds that help plant dispersal, influencing disease dynamics, and being able to drive community structure (the types and number of species that live in a place and how they interact with one another). The disappearance of mesocarnivores on the landscape, both in abundance and diversity of species, is a canary in the mine for ecological health.

For their part, kit foxes primarily eat cottontail rabbits and rodents like kangaroo rats for their meat course. Very rarely they will eat the jackrabbits that complete with them for size. They will also eat carrion, birds, lizards, insects, quail eggs, saguaro fruit, prickly pear fruit, and mesquite beans. When food is plentiful, they might cache their meals by burying them, squirrel-like, and marking the spot with pee – a fox’s version of the office refrigerator lunchbox post-it note: My Lunch. Do Not Eat.

Kit foxes are solitary hunters and are often seen alone but are part of small family groups of parents and their young. Mates form a monogamous, permanent bond and both parents care for a single litter of 5 to 7 kits, or pups, that are born blind in March and April and remain in their cool den, with its keyhole-shaped entrance, until the monsoon arrives in June or July.

They can find food and mates, raise young, and disperse surprisingly long distances to new habitats – despite the challenges of mange caused by rodenticides, canine distemper and rabies, and the very pressing concerns of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and wildlife-vehicle collisions. Time will tell if rising temperatures and other threats prove too much, or are averted too late, for a species that has been with us since the Great Ice Age and survived the extinction of the larger Pleistocene megafauna.

Photo by Raynor Vandeven

 

Today these tiny, playful desert den dwellers are considered vulnerable in Arizona but do not have any protected status. Their distribution is extensive throughout the Great Basin, Sonoran, and Mojave deserts, but populations have generally been declining by 10-30% across their range, according to data collected on NatureServe. A fox to watch. 

Our nocturnal kit foxes continue to bless the desert night with their yips, barks, and chuckles. Tonight, I allow myself to imagine that they sometimes gaze up at the stars, above the haze of nearby city lights and horizon of creosote, stars that for untold generations have been their only constant. The chuckle in the dark desert night I hear sounds like an echo of Josh’s laugh.

 

Kit fox habitat (in bright green), in eastern Pima County, along with two of our wildlife linkage study areas in the Tucson-Tortolita Mountains wildlife linkage and the Catalina-Tortolita Mountains wildlife linkage.

Learn more about the history of CSDP on this new podcast episode!

Posted on:

On May 12, 2019, CSDP Executive Director Carolyn Campbell was interviewed by Amanda Shauger for the “30 minutes” program on local community radio station KXCI 91.3 FM. Over the half-hour show, Carolyn and Amanda discuss the history of the Coalition, the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and what we’re working on these days. Topics covered include how and why the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan came to be, protecting Sonoran Desert wildlife linkages, our fight against the Rosemont Mine and Interstate 11, our Critter Cam program, and more! 

The full show can be listened to at:

https://kxci.org/podcast/coalition-for-sonoran-desert-protection/

Thanks for all your support over the last 21 years! 

Volunteer Orientation

Posted on: No Comments

Join us for a Volunteer Orientation!

It’s still hot outside but the weather won’t fool us. Fall is right around the corner and the Coalition is gearing up and excited to announce there are more ways than ever to get involved. That’s right – you can take action and have a direct impact on conservation here in the Sonoran Desert!

From Desert Monitors servicing cameras in the field to staffing tables at outreach events, there’s a spot for everyone to get involved. Interested in learning more about the opportunities the Coalition has to offer? Join us for one of two volunteer orientations being hosted at the end of August. Learn about how you can become hands on helping drive the work that has been protecting open spaces in Pima County for the past 20 years.

This orientation is open to veteran volunteers who may want a refresher or are interested in other volunteer opportunities along with new folks who are interested in volunteering – all are welcome! 

Check out the details in the image to the left and please RSVP to either orientation by contacting Whelan at Sarah.Whelan@sonorandesert.org

Note: We do have a specific need for new Desert Monitors  to monitor our wildlife cameras so please be in touch if this interests you! 

Check out the volunteer orientation flyer here!

Volunteer Orientation

Posted on: No Comments

Join us for a Volunteer Orientation!

It’s still hot outside but the weather won’t fool us. Fall is right around the corner and the Coalition is gearing up and excited to announce there are more ways than ever to get involved. That’s right – you can take action and have a direct impact on conservation here in the Sonoran Desert!

From Desert Monitors servicing cameras in the field to staffing tables at outreach events, there’s a spot for everyone to get involved. Interested in learning more about the opportunities the Coalition has to offer? Join us for one of two volunteer orientations being hosted at the end of August. Learn about how you can become hands on helping drive the work that has been protecting open spaces in Pima County for the past 20 years.

This orientation is open to veteran volunteers who may want a refresher or are interested in other volunteer opportunities along with new folks who are interested in volunteering – all are welcome! 

Check out the details in the image to the left and please RSVP to either orientation by contacting Whelan at Sarah.Whelan@sonorandesert.org

Note: We do have a specific need for new Desert Monitors  to monitor our wildlife cameras so please be in touch if this interests you! 

Check out the volunteer orientation flyer here!

A huge welcome to our new Conservation Science Director, Jessica Moreno!

Posted on:

The Coalition is excited to announce the hiring of our new Conservation Science Director, Jessica Moreno. Jessica has been working with the Coalition for the past year and a half as an Independent Contractor on a few specific wildlife linkages projects. She is going to be an important and valuable member of our team moving forward. In her new position, Jessica will be monitoring and protecting wildlife, connected habitat, and ecosystem health in the Sonoran Desert, along with engaging people to create stronger community connections and values with desert wildlife and open space. Jessica will be taking over the reigns of our popular Wildlife Camera Monitoring Project and our Critter Cam Program. In collaboration with our Program and Operations Manager, Sarah Whelan, and our amazing volunteers, she will be refining and further strengthening these programs, along with her many other projects. 

Jessica brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position. In her own words, here’s a brief biography:

I was raised by the desert. I don’t know exactly when this led to my decision to be a biologist, but maybe it was that moment, shin-dagger thorns in my jeans, when I saw the sunset light up the Atascosa mountains after my first volunteer trip setting wildlife cameras. Or maybe it was leaving my bed at night with a flashlight to find the spadefoots calling after a flash flood. But the desert led me right here.

After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Wildlife Management in 2007, I coordinated mountain lion and bobcat studies in the Tucson Mountains for the UA Wild Cat Research and Conservation Center. For the next seven years I work with Sky Island Alliance, leading the Wildlife Linkages Program, studying jaguars and ocelots in the borderlands, and protecting Wilderness through outreach, research, policy, and planning. I have served on the Arizona Wildlife Linkages Working Group, the Pima and Cochise County Wildlife Linkages Assessment Working Groups, and the RTA Wildlife Linkages Committee. 

With the Coalition I have found a community that brings my experience and passion full circle to protect the desert that I call home. CSDP’s superhero team of staff, partners, and volunteers is a joy to work with. I focus on our community science wildlife monitoring projects, from volunteer data collection to analysis, and applying what we know to build safe passages for wildlife.

I also serve on the Executive Board of the Arizona Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and in my spare time explore website design, writing, and photography. I have two children, Sofia and Mateo, and love outdoor cooking, wading barefoot in creeks, and the scent of wild open spaces. 

Want to meet Jessica? Please join us for our Member Group & Supporter Happy Hour on Thursday, September 20th from 5-7pm at the Public Brewhouse at 209 N. Hoff Ave. in downtown Tucson. 

Welcome Jessica! 

Clean and Quiet Shuttles Come to Sabino Canyon in 2019

Posted on:

 The Coalition has been partnering with both Pima Association of Governments (PAG) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) for many years, both on long-range transportation planning and passage and implementation of the RTA voter-approved plan that includes $45 million for wildlife crossing infrastructure. Recently, PAG and the RTA formed a non-profit called the Regional Partnering Center (RPC) to more widely engage in projects throughout the region.

We are especially excited about the component of RPC’s recently awarded project to operate the “Sabino Canyon Shuttle” service. This project focuses on new interpretive programming at Sabino Canyon, in multiple languages and on multiple topics. Given the ongoing popularity of Sabino Canyon with both locals and tourists, this is an incredible opportunity to share the most up-to-date and compelling information about the Sonoran Desert and all the accomplishments Pima County and partners have achieved under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. We are also excited about their plan to use electric vehicles in Sabino Canyon. This will reduce air and noise pollution, both of which will benefit the people and wildlife that visit and live in this spectacular and biologically-important area. The vehicles are scheduled to be introduced in January 2019.

Additionally, we applaud RPC’s commitment to managing the Sabino Canyon transit service in a way that provides underserved members of the community access to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area through a new link to the region’s public transit network. The Coalition is proud to be supporting the RPC’s efforts and to continue our partnership with the regional transportation entities in Pima County.

For a recent news article about the RPC’s plans for Sabino Canyon, head here