Border Wildlife Study Hits 1-Year Milestone

This week is monumental for us. Exactly one year ago, our Border Wildlife Study camera array began clicking away to document the wildlife community along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the time we set the cameras up and left them to operate day and night, we truly didn’t know what the year would bring. In the following months, the pandemic changed our personal and professional lives, the driest year on record scorched the region, border wall construction started in earnest in fall 2020 on both the eastern and western sides of our 30-mile study zone, and President Biden’s inauguration gave us hope that border policy could change.

Throughout all of this, we watched a constant stream of wildlife species appear on our cameras—showing us definitively how rich the wildlife community is along the border and how much we can save by protecting this land from border wall construction.

While the fate of the border is still uncertain, as construction is poised to potentially continue and an incredible amount of restoration is needed, we can joyfully take a moment to reflect on the remarkable lessons about the wildlife in this species in the Huachuca and Patagonia Mountains.

1. There are 104 wildlife species recorded in the first year of the study and species richness continues to climb over time.

2. The most species of mammals are found in the shady habitat of the oak woodland forest in the Patagonia Mountains.

3. North American porcupine is on the move in Coronado National Forest along the border, giving hope that this species persists at its southern range limit despite increasing rarity in Arizona.

4. Pronghorn is present in the San Rafael Valley where the large, open grassland provide habitat at the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River.

5. Sub-tropical species including white-nosed coati, javelina, hog-hosed skunk, hooded skunk, and the Mexican subspecies of Virginia opossum are present in this wildlife corridor connecting Mexican and American habitat.

6. Migrating species include the elf owl, gray hawk, turkey vulture, and bats seasonally occupy the border on their annual journey northwards in search of summer food.

Thank you to all the volunteers, supporters, and partners who have sustained the study over the last year. In 2021, we have plans to add more cameras to learn more about the wildlife community on the east side of the Huachuca Mountains, install acoustic sensors to identify nocturnal species that are tricky to document on camera, and survey the habitat quality and footprint of border construction along the border.

Please consider supporting the Border Wildlife Study by sponsoring a camera today.