Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

2022 Wildlife Camera Project Recap

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2022 was another successful year for our Wildlife Camera Monitoring Program, and also our 10th anniversary of this community science-based project! Big thanks to ALL the volunteers that have been the engine behind this project from day one! 

 

Oro Valley Linkage Wildlife Monitoring

This is the project that started it all, and gives us the distinction of having the oldest and longest lasting community science wildlife camera monitoring effort in southern Arizona. Today we have 24 active cameras on either side of Oracle Road, that have gathered over 300,000 images of wildlife, including a mountain lion who moved through the underpass this year. We have also identified 24 wildlife species in this area, with the addition of a black bear this past year. 

Watch a presentation about this project here.

This happy coyote was photographed near the Oracle Road wildlife underpass by our CONFORTI camera, monitored by Pat & Henry Miller.

 

Tucson Mountains Linkage Wildlife Monitoring

We have expanded this project this year, with 24 cameras on either side of I-10 between the Tucson Mountains and Tortolita Mountains, and 6 more planned to be placed in 2023. These cameras have captured nearly 124,000 wildlife photos over the life of the project! We have also identified 26 different wildlife species in this area, with the addition of the kit fox this past year.

Working with Pima County, this data is already informing a project to build a wildlife ramp from the only accessible wildlife crossings near Avra Valley Road, to provide entry into the Santa Cruz River over the water levy. We are also working on gaining permanent protection for the Tortolita Preserve, and planning a wildlife bridge over I-10 and another at Rattlesnake Pass.

Two coyote pups in the Tucson Mountains. Photo by Raynor Vandeven.

 

Sopori Ranch Linkage Wildlife Monitoring

In partnership with the Arizona Land and Water Trust, we are monitoring this linkage and using the images to promote this wild corridor. Today we have 5 cameras that have produced nearly 4,000 images and growing.

Watch a video showcasing this area here.

A deer navigating a wash in the Sopori Creek area.

 

I-10 East Linkage Wildlife Monitoring

The I-10 East project involved two seasons of roadkill surveys and two years of monitoring key culverts and bridges for wildlife use and passage rates. Exactly 45 wildlife cameras were active between January 2020 and January 2022, during which time we collected over 789,000 photos and have identified over 36 species across our 10 monitoring sites, including both mule deer and white-tail deer, Mexican opossum, black bear, mountain lion, Gould’s turkey, white-nose coati, ringtail, striped skunk, hognose skunk, hooded skunk, Western spotted skunk, and badger.

Interesting records included a photo of a bobcat carrying a bull snake in its mouth, the Mexican opossum, and images of a likely mating pair of adult mountain lions traveling together.

 This data report is being incorporated into a proposal for wildlife funnel fencing and improved underpass and bridge structures for wildlife. Pima County is also using this data to justify a funding grant to make surface water improvements near these sites, and we collaborated to submit scoping comments in October 2022 for an upcoming ADOT project to help improve the area with highest roadkill mortality in our roadkill study between mileposts 292-294.

Read the Final Report here.

A deer heads towards a wildlife underpass in the I-10 East area with the lights of cars seen above. Photo by Raynor VanDeven.

 

SnapShot USA in full swing

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The Snapshot USA project is a huge collaborative effort to sample mammal populations with camera traps across all of the United States. The study is designed to sample sites in all 50 states stratified across habitats and development zones (suburban/rural/wild/urban) with an objective of at least 400 “trap nights” (or days) per sub-project/ organization. 

This year we were able to contribute camera data from 12 cameras in our Oro Valley study area, for the study period of September and October.

Despite a few challenges with vegetation growth creating lots of blank images, we contributed 3,208 photos of species including javelina, jackrabbits, coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, white-tail deer… and even a surprise black bear on the MALLOW camera! The entire effort has collected photos of 384 species at over 2,000 camera sites across the U.S.

As science papers come out of this data, we will share the results and findings with you, and we look forward to contributing again next year!

Twelve wildlife camera images in a grid with the animals circled in a red, taken from a screenshot of website.

Pima County’s Open Space Conservation Acquisitions: An Overview 

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Pima County has invested heavily in acquiring conservation properties, especially in fulfilling the goals of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The County recently released a new report about all their open space conservation acquisitions.  Along with providing a comprehensive overview of this decades-long program, the report specifically touches on the transparent public processes underlying the prioritization of eligible lands, funding mechanisms, and benefits these lands bring to the community.

This map from page 13 of the report shows the full suite of conservation lands in Pima County, including the open spaces owned or managed by Pima County in green and open spaces owned or managed by other jurisdictions (such as the Forest Service, National Park Service, etc.) in yellow.

 

You can check out the full report HERE.

Thank you for supporting our work as a partner and advocate for connected and robust protected open space in the Sonoran Desert! 

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. 

Badger, badger! New badger photos and data from our wildlife cameras

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For 10 years we have had wildlife cameras on the landscape monitoring important linkages. We first captured photos of badgers in 2012, and they have made consistent, if rare, appearances since. Badgers are an understudied animal in Arizona and we know very little about their status in Pima County. We now have a total of 40 images of badgers across 19 camera sites, with a 27% occupancy rate (the number of cameras that detected badgers versus the total number of cameras out there). We have seen badgers at two sites in the Tucson Mountains study area, and at 8 and 9 sites West and East, respectively, of Oracle Road in Oro Valley. Our partners at Arizona Game and Fish Department confirm that one of the badgers we photographed crossed the wildlife bridge, moving east to west, earlier this year. We are diving into the data to learn more about them in our Sonoran Desert landscape, including a fun look at identifying individuals!

We thought you would enjoy these photo highlights, and a neat look at our preliminary results showing more badger activity during new moon nights than full moon nights. Why do you think badgers might be more active on new moon nights than full moon nights, when it is darkest? Badgers are nocturnal, although females may come out in the day with her young in Spring. They are also fossorial carnivores, meaning they live most of the time underground and are very good diggers. Most of their prey live in burrows as well, including ground squirrels, pocket gophers, packrats, kangaroo rats, and rattlesnakes. Badgers may be appearing on our cameras more often during the new moon for a variety of reasons. One possibility is that badger activity is correlated with prey activity, and conditions that increase hunt success. Are rodents are more active during the dark new moon than the brighter full moon, too? Can badgers, adapted to hunting at night and underground, sense their prey better on dark nights? In science, the best answers lead to more questions!

Many thanks to Pat and Henry Miller for contributing three badger photos from their own camera to our study.

If you haven’t heard it, you may enjoy Petey Mesquitey’s song “The Coyote and the Badger” on KXCI radio!

 

This graph shows how our wildlife cameras have captured more badger activity during new moon nights than full moon nights. Fascinating!

 

Photo by our CSI wildlife camera, monitored by Sam Wilbur and Josh Skattum.

 

Photo by our former FOX wildlife camera, monitored by Judy and Paul Mercer.

 

Photo by our CSI wildlife camera, monitored by Sam Wilbur and Josh Skattum.

 

Photo by our DOVE camera, monitored by Gary and Lenora Brown and Steve and Diana Holmes.

 

Photo by our PEREGRINE camera, monitored by Josh Skattum and Sam Wilbur.

The latest and greatest monitoring results from the Oracle Road wildlife crossings

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In March 2019, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) released their latest monitoring results from the Oracle Road wildlife crossings. AGFD typically releases monitoring results twice a year so we should have an updated monitoring report sometime this fall. 

March 2019 AGFD Monitoring Report on the Oracle Road wildlife crossings

Two summary graphs from the report are highlighted below:

This graph shows the total mule deer crossings at both the Oracle Road underpass and bridge. Mule deer started using the bridge almost immediately after construction finished and have been used it steadily ever since (blue line). More recently, mule deer have become more acclimated to using the underpass, with increasing numbers successfully crossing all the way through the underpass since Winter 2018. It is well established that some wildlife species will use wildlife crossings right away with little acclimation while others may take years before they become acclimated and then will start using the crossing regularly.

 

This graph shows the total crossings by all wildlife species at both the Oracle Road underpass and bridge. Wildlife started using both crossings very soon after construction completed and have been using them steadily ever since. This new connectivity across Oracle Road increases the health of our local wildlife populations by allowing them to reach new home ranges and find mates (which then supports healthy genetic diversity) and also increases the safety of Oracle Road itself with a reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions. Miles of wildlife fencing was also installed as part of this project – the fencing directs wildlife to the crossings themselves and was designed using the best available science to accommodate a wide range of wildlife species.

 

Want to learn more about the Oracle Road wildlife crossings, why they are located where they are, how wildlife know to use them, how they were funded, and much more? Our website includes:

2019 Critter Cam Field Day a success!

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Coalition volunteer Craig Civalier leads a group of elementary school children on a guided hike to learn more about Sonoran Desert wildlife at Catalina State Park in March 2019 during our second Critter Cam Field Day for Kids.

 

In early March 2019, the Coalition’s second annual Critter Cam Field day took place at Catalina State Park, serving over 400 local children. Thanks to an amazing team of volunteers, the activities went off without a hitch! Coalition volunteer Craig Civalier wrote the poem below in celebration of the day – thanks so much Craig!

 

Critter Cam Day

The kids were good today,

Buzzing round like bees,

Ran out of pencils,

Borrowed my pen,

 

Burrows in C4, ha-ha,

Microclimate close to the ground,

Water in D3,

Invasive species on the trail,

 

On to the critter cameras

Funny faces for evermore,

Weathered rock in C2,

Crumbled in your hand,

 

Butterflies keeping score,

This tree is your family,

Praying mantis ponds,

Scattered in the bush,

 

Handed thank you notes,

By three young girls,

Please take up science,

And save the planet.

 

© Craig Civalier 

 

Coalition volunteer Jefferson Stensrud lead students on a guided nature hike to learn about desert wildlife and check out one of our “Critter Cams” set up in the field.

Coalition Program and Operations Manager Whelan shows local students how to use a spotting scope to view Pusch Ridge and the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Coalition volunteer Kathie Schroeder and her hawk Sueño were an amazing addition to the Critter Cam Field Day for kids. Thank you Kathie and Sueño for all your energy and enthusiasm!

Coalition Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno engages students with a hands-on lesson about pheromones.

Local elementary school children work on an activity learning about wildlife tracks and tracking in the beautiful desert of Catalina State Park.

 

A huge THANK YOU to all our partners that helped make the 2019 Critter Cam Field Day for Kids a huge success, including:

Catalina Foothills School District (especially teachers Charlotte Ackerman and Kelly Taylor)

Arizona Game and Fish Department (Mark Hart)

Tucson Audubon Society

Sky Island Alliance (Bryon Lichtenhan)

Kathie Schroeder

Kris Brown aka Mr. Pack Rat

Coalition volunteers Jefferson Stensrud, Craig Civalier, Keith Kleber, Josh Skattum, Margie O’Hare, Carl Boswell, Axhel Munoz, and Kate Randall

Pima County Master Naturalists volunteers Peggy Ollerhead, Vicki Ettleman, Josh Skattum, Kathleen Sudano, and Melissa Loeschen

Catalina State Park

All the parents chaperones

The students for their never-ending curiosity and enthusiasm

 

Volunteer Orientation

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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!

Action Alert: Sign on to “A Conservation Vision for Arizona’s Water Future”!

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March 30, 2017

The conservation of our water resources is essential for the future health and resilience of both people and wildlife. A group of organizations, including the Coalition and spearheaded by Coalition member group Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter, recently drafted “A Conservation Vision for Arizona’s Water Future.” This visionary document outlines the many reasons and ways we believe Arizona water policy needs to be changed and revised. More than anything, the Coalition believes environmental water needs should be considered in Arizona water policy. This includes policies that try to keep our rivers, streams, and springs flowing and subsequently support our incredible Sonoran Desert wildlife. 

The vision document states in part:

“We believe a clearer vision of water sustainability for Arizona’s future is needed, one that would:
• Consider environmental water needs and propose policies to keep rivers, streams, and springs flowing;
• Consider the water needs of rural Arizona;
• Incorporate the high probability that climate change will afflict Arizona with multidecadal droughts, increased temperatures, and diminished water supplies;
• Include new possibilities for controlling water demand through creative and strong water conservation measures; and
• Include a comprehensive economic evaluation of alternative augmentation techniques and advanced water reuse technology.”

It also concludes, “We are committed to including a broad range of stakeholders (both large and small) in the discussion, including our towns and communities, rural communities, Indian tribes, grassroots and community groups, local businesses, and the environmental community.”

Will you support “A Conservation Vision for Arizona’s Water Future” by adding your name in support of this document? We are seeking both individuals and organizations to sign on so please inform any organizations that you are involved in that this opportunity for action is available to them too. Sign on here

You can read the full vision document here

Going forward, we will be keeping you updated on how this new vision document will be used to advocate directly to Arizona’s water policy decision-makers and other ways you can be involved. 

Thank you for supporting water policies that support our environment and wildlife!