Black Bears in Big Bend National Park especially relish the succulent base of Torrey yuccas and sotol plants. Photo by Rick LoBello
The El Paso Sierra Club will kick off its 2019-2020 Kevin von Finger Speakers Series at the El Paso Zoo Wildlife Amphitheater on September 24 at 7:00 pm. The illustrated lecture will be free and open to the public and will feature the story of how Mexican black bears successfully returned to the mountains of Big Bend National Park during the 1980s. It will be presented by Raymond Skiles, a wildlife biologist from Alpine, Texas.
“The natural recolonization of the black bear to Big Bend National Park from the cross border population in northern Mexico is one of the most important conservation stories in Texas,” said zoo Education Curator Rick LoBello. Earlier this year the El Paso Zoo piloted a Zoo-Park partnership with Big Bend National Park to coordinate efforts to help conserve black bears in the park after being awarded a $10,000 Winter America’s Keystone Wildlife Grant (AKW). The grant partners zoos with National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges to help America recover the wildlife legacy lost during the fur trade and westward expansion era of the United States.
The lecture series is named in honor of Kevin von Finger, a well-known El Paso naturalist and environmentalist. The El Paso Zoo will host the first lecture in this year’s new series at the Zoo’s state of the art Wildlife Amphitheater.
Raymond Skiles grew up in Langtry, Texas and recently retired from the National Park Service after over thirty years of service. While working as the park’s wildlife biologist, Skiles was at the forefront of proactive management, instituting programs to make Big Bend an exemplary “bear park.”