Meagan Bethel: Conservation Coordinator
Favorite place in Sky Islands? The San Rafael Valley, located south of Sonoita and east of Nogales. It is a valley covered in grasses, with streams winding through and oaks on the hills. It is a great place to take a drive and escape the desert for a while.
What is your favorite animal? I feel like my favorite animal changes depending on how I feel. It was the Mexican jay last month, the wolf when I was in middle school, and the armadillo lizard last week. However, I’ve always had a soft spot for the ocelot. It was a presentation on Ocelots in 4th grade that got me interested in wildlife conservation. And a science fair project about them that led me to volunteer for SIA when I was in middle school.
What is your favorite plant? My favorite plant is the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). Creosote is a scrappy plant that is often overlooked. But it can thrive in Arizona’s harsh places, and the smell it gives off after rain is unforgettable. Also I like playing with the little fluffy seed.
What is your favorite part of your job? Identifying the wildlife camera images is my favorite part of my job. It is time consuming, but a great way to see wildlife species and behavior that you would rarely see in person.
Describe a cool wildlife encounter: I once mistook a black bear for a grad student. In 2017 I had the fortune of working on Mt. Graham studying the red squirrels, and one evening I, and several other field techs and grad student were out marking squirrel nests. I had a question about how to label something and wanted to ask the grad student for help. Last I knew she was working to my right and I head someone walking around behind a thicket of bushes in that direction. I figured it was her and called her name several times. Odd, she is within earshot, why isn’t she answering? I kept hearing footsteps in the leaf litter and decided to walk over and ask my question directly.
I had only taken a few steps when a black bear reared up and started scratching a tree, not 20 feet from where I was! The noise I heard was a bear not a person! The bear took no notice of me and went about it’s business while I retreated. It was a fun but spooky experience, as I’m now know not to assume what species is tromping through the woods.