Celebrating 2021 on Our Border Wildlife Study Cameras

It’s hard to believe the Border Wildlife Study entered its second year in 2021, with over three million photos detected since March of 2020 and over 60,000 photos containing some type of life.

2021 was a year of extremes. The first half was wracked by extreme drought. The drought-deciduous oaks dropped their leaves and the entire countryside was parched. Every photo during that time caused my heart to ache. Yet in July, the blessed rains brought relief. The moisture was enough to bring the borderlands back to life. Grasses grew tall, oaks leafed out, and the wildlife looked fat and healthy again. While we can’t predict how 2022 will go just yet, let’s look back and celebrate the amazing diversity of life we saw along the Sky Island borderlands.

As the Wildlife Specialist in charge of managing these photos (sorting blanks, spotting animals, and identifying species), I feel especially connected to this region and the animals that inhabit it. There were countless amazing photos this year, but these ten are my particular favorites.

On patrol, a bobcat passes by this camera in the San Rafael Valley on a regular basis.

A gray fox in the snow! Remember those great snow days early in the year?

A male American kestrel flying in Los Frenos, Sonora, with the Huachuca Mountains in the background.

New life! A white-tailed deer nurses her fawn amongst the monsoon greenery in the Coronado National Memorial.

An unusual visitor, a fierce-looking black bear passes through the San Rafael Valley. Bears are not typically found in the grasslands, so this one was probably dispersing from one mountain range to another!

A yellow-billed cuckoo, sometimes known as a storm crow, was detected on camera this year during the monsoon rains. The cuckoo is a threatened species and is highly reliant on rapidly shrinking riparian corridors like these (NPS.gov).

Synchronized cattle. Over 23,000 cattle photos were taken since the start of the study. While they are often a menace to our poor cameras, this photo was too good to pass up.

Bright eyed and bushy backed? This lively javelina has such character!

A great photo of an antelope jackrabbit running past one of our Sonoran cameras. You can see its trademark white sides and ear tips in this photo.

Finally, our friend the porcupine! These critters surprised us this year by popping up on multiple cameras. We look forward to tracking these elusive rodent in 2022. Read more about our porcupine sightings here.


Thank you so much to all our hard-working staff, volunteers, and donors that help keep this project up and running. I can’t wait to see what amazing photos come in next year!