Desert Beauty: Living Rock Cactus

Look closely at her secrets.  Buffers of creosote between thorny arms of mesquite and the spines of ocotillo.  Plants intertwine but like an iceberg, there is much more beneath the surface.  There is beauty here. 

In the fall, glimpses of fuscia mark my path.  Gone as quickly as they appear.  A flower appears from rock.  I kneel to look closer. 

A protected species, native only to the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend and northern Mexico, Ariocarpus fissuratus, also known as the Living Rock Cactus, is a cryptic little plant hiding in plain sight.  Stems typically flush to the ground and well camouflaged, blending with the surrounding mosaic in shape, color, and texture.  Shrinking in times of drought, kept alive by the unseen, yet substantial taproot.

Shying away from the world, in her quiet and unseen way.  I feel special to know her. 

Almost invisible, yet a few days each year she lifts her head up in all her beauty for me to see and blooms.  Growing slowly over decades to maturity.  Because of her rarity, she is coveted by collectors and transported by smugglers over thousands of miles.  Leaving the desert wanting for more.

She needs a hero.

Note:  The Chihuahuan is the largest desert in North America, extending from the southwestern United States into Central Mexico.  Threatened today by an ever-increasing human population, water misuse/management, overgrazing and a general lack of knowledge.

Considered at least partly a “rain shadow” desert, the Chihuahuan is impacted by the effects of mountain ranges on either side, blocking moisture from coastal storms.  Plants can take years to reach maturity here and replenishment is slow.  The living rock cactus takes eight to ten years to reach maturity and reproduce – and that’s if it makes it.  Many plants in the desert also serve the food chain, something scare already.

To learn more: https://texashighways.com/things-to-do/parks/big-bend-is-ground-zero-for-a-thriving-black-market-for-native-plants/

To get involved:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/places/chihuahuan-desert

https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/chihuahuan-desert/

Desert Treasure

Caballo Lake State Park, Caballo Mountains, New Mexico

The land here in southern New Mexico is harsh and gentle at the same time. You see this most clearly if you follow the Rio Grande north from Texas.

A ribbon of green snaking along the valley, flanked by desert mountains. Mountains which look soft from a distance – but in this we are fooled.

The Wild and Scenic Rio Grande

Caballo Lake State Park sits on a reservoir built in the 30’s, back when we decided to make this river our own. It is a popular park with a limited number of horse trails and nice covered pipe corrals. Most come here for the lake, but from across the river these mountains called me – Caballo (pronounced “ka-vhah-yoh”) – “horse” mountains.

Caballo Lake State Park

I scouted the route beforehand by truck, casing the joint you might say. Open range may be a thing of the past but here ranches and public land merge, and the views go on.

An old corral, loading chute and a long, lost horseshoe yield to weather and rock. I stop to say hello to the rancher.

Now, horse next to me… I stand outside the truck weaving my belt through its loops and holster. Looking across the mountains, sun warming my face. Breathing.

I travel down an old ranch road (a VERY old ranch road), thru valleys and across dry creek beds. It’s rained here recently and looking down I see fresh cat tracks on the trail. I am glad to have trusted my gut – I did not bring the dog along this time.

Riding without the distraction of others allows my mind to wander. Thoughts surface which otherwise might not. Sometimes self-doubt creeps in. I apologize to myself.

Caballo Mountain Trail, Bureau of Land Management

And in this, I learn from nature – who has no self-doubt. Nobody taught her to question. She isn’t focused on meeting expectations, on success or failure. She is only concerned with the journey… this is why I love her. This is what makes me want to be with her.

Many explore Caballo Mountains, searching for hidden Spanish treasure. But I think they are missing the point of this desert in New Mexico. For there is much more than just buried gold to chase here. These mountains give unto us, they make us better with their dignity and that is the real find.

As the Little Prince says, “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly…” And so my heart sees, my journey becomes more clear. I reflect, I grow and come out better – more authentic. Every. Single. Time.

To find this and other NM State Parks allowing horseback riding: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/horsebackriding.html

The Return: Great news for the Bolson Tortoise

The Turner Endangered Species Fund with the help from partners including the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens recently made conservation history by releasing captive-born Bolson Tortoises in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of New Mexico.

Thirty years ago, I was very fortunate to join a team of scientists and National Park managers on a trip to the land of the bolson tortoise.   Up until earlier this year there was only one wild population of this  species at the Bolson Mapimi Biosphere Reserve in northern Mexico.  According to the IUCN Red List assessment bolson tortoises are critically endangered and only about 2,500 individuals remain in the wild at the intersection of the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila.  Ever since the species was first discovered in 1959 the fate of the largest tortoise in North America has hung in the balance.  

Fossil evidence documents a distribution throughout the Chihuahuan Desert, from Arizona to western Texas, as recently as the late Pleistocene. The likely cause of the current restricted range was predation by humans after the last Ice Age.

Adult bolson tortoise at the El Paso Zoo

When we met at the Bolson Mapimi everyone agreed that saving this relict species would involve restoring the species to its former habitat in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Such an effort would also have the added benefit of helping to restore desert habitat via a native, burrowing herbivore.   The El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens has been supporting this effort for over 20 years and most recently our medical staff worked with the Turner Endangered Species Fund and the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in assisting research scientists in determining the gender of baby tortoises, as part of a larger effort to breed bolson tortoises for eventual release into portions of their former range.

This project is very noteworthy for our Zoo.  The successful restoration of the bolson tortoise represents the first extinct Pleistocene species to be rewilded in the United States. Pleistocene rewilding is the advocacy of the reintroduction of extant Pleistocene megafauna, or the close ecological equivalents of extinct megafauna. Other species that have been proposed to be rewilded include tapirs, jaguars, camels and cheetahs.

Rick LoBello, Chair, Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition

A Different Kind of Beauty

Terlingua, Texas Backroads.  The Big Bend of Texas.  Chihuahuan Desert.

Standing tall in defiance through shades of red and black, rocks surround.  Watching my every move.  Silhouettes of Ocotillo stretch across the sky, thorns hidden in their softness. Riding Terlingua backroads, a yucca stands sentinel along the way.  Wind dips down from the mesa and I tip my hat to save it. 

As birds surf above, a fly buzzes in my ear. The sounds of my horse relax me.  The steady clip clop of his feet, the saddle creaking.  Shifting clouds bring a reprieve from the heat. 

These roads are traveled but unknown.  I am reminded how much there is still to learn, even as of yesterday.

Ambitious and complex, this desert does not mold itself to fit in.  Sometimes dry and brittle, sometimes full and lush.  Sensitive, yet hardened.  A mismatch of misfits, one shape colliding into the next.  Yet undeniably attractive.

Full of resilience and persistence, the plants, animals, and people here survive.  The desert breeds appreciation coupled with authenticity.

I am beautiful here.

We are beautiful here.

Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta UPDATE

Saturday at the Zoo,
Sunday at the Park

Every year the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta celebrates the natural wonders of the mountainous desert in our big backyard while encouraging people to explore and discover parks and other protected areas. The seventeenth annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta is coming up and for the first time will be held as a two-day event. Day one of the educational and discovery celebration will be held at the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens on Saturday, September 25th from 10:30am to 3:00pm. As you walk through the new Chihuahuan Desert exhibit the Zoo’s education partners will have discovery tables featuring local organizations and conservation programs. On day two on Sunday, September 26th there will be scheduled nature hikes presented by park staff, volunteers and local experts between 9:00am and 3pm at the Tom Mays Unit of Franklin Mountains State Park.

The original event sponsored by the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (CDEC) in partnership with Franklin Mountains State Park and the City Parks Department began in 2005 and has been growing in popularity throughout the years. In 2020 it was hosted virtually because of the Covid 19 Pandemic. Everyone is looking forward to having the event live again and with an extra day of activities.

Participants can expect animal encounter presentations, educational booths and entertainment at the zoo followed the next day by guided hikes at the Tom Mays unit of the Franklin Mountain State Park. Activities at the zoo will be included as part of the regular entrance fee. Fee information can be found at: http://www.elpasozoo.org.  In order to participate in the guided hikes at the State Park an entrance permit of $5.00 per adult 13 years of age and older is required. You can purchase the permit the day of at the Tom Mays Visitor Center (2900 Tom Mays Park Access Rd) or reserve your permit in advance at texasstateparks.reserveamerica.com. Some of the planned activities are listed below.

Saturday, September 25 – Presentations at the Zoo Wildlife Amphitheater

Leptonycteris yerbabuenae by J Scott Altenbach

10:30 – 10:45 am – Welcome
11:00 – 11:30 am – El Paso Parks and Recreation- Desert Zumba
12:00 – 12:30 pm – Bat Conservation International Presentation
1:30 – 2:00 pm – Wild Encounters by the El Paso Zoo
2:30 – 3:00 pm – Frontera Land Alliance Presentation

Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit Discovery booths at the Zoo

Bat Conservation International
Bureau of Land Management-Las Cruces District Office
Chamizal National Memorial
Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition
Mexican wolf education by Nancy Bain
Dirt y Girls Compost
Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition
Friends of the Rio Bosque Wetlands
Frontera Land Alliance
Texas Lobo Coalition
Texas Parks and Wildlife
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement
UTEP Center for Environmental Resource Management
And more….

Sunday, September 26, Chihuahuan Desert Discovery Hikes at Tom Mays Park

Franklin Mountains State Park Superintendent, Dr. Cesar Mendez, leading a nature hike.

In order to participate in events at Franklin Mountains State Park, an entrance permit of $5.00 per adult 13 years of age and older is required. You can purchase this the day of at the Tom Mays Visitor Center (2900 Tom Mays Park Access Rd) or reserve your permit in advance at texasstateparks.reserveamerica.com

9:00 AM – Nature Walk Trail (Easy, 45 min) – Birds
9:00 AM – West Cottonwood Spring (scenic) Trail (Moderate, 2.5 hrs) – Geology
10:00 AM – Upper Sunset Trail (Easy-Moderate, 2 hrs) Hiking Tips/Safety, Trail Etiquette
11:00 AM – Aztec Caves Trail (Easy to Moderate, 1.5 hrs) Recreation, hiking safety, trail etiquette
12:00 PM – Agave Loop Trail (Easy to Moderate, 1.5 hrs) Water and Aquatic Organisms in the Franklins
1:00 PM – Nature Walk Trail (Easy, 45 min) – Bats
1:15 PM – Nature Walk Trail (Easy, 45 min) – Birds
2:00 PM – Prospect Mine Trail (Limited Capacity) (Easy to Moderate, 1 hr) (Limited Capacity) History of the Mine

Discovery Hike Topics may include: Birds, Geology, Outdoor Recreation Opportunities and Safety, Trail Etiquette, Bats, Natural History and more.

For more information – chihuahuandesert.org or 915-212-2823

Photos
Top – Franklin Mountains State Park






Biosphere Region and Reinhabitation

In the 1970s, a counterculture group called Planet Drum Foundation was formed in California to discuss ideas about people in connection to the planet.

They pursued research and produced educative information on the relationships between human culture and the natural processes of the planetary biosphere. Today when confronting environmental crisis and conservation, we use terms like climate pollution and biodiversity lossreconciliation, and social and community innovations that follow the general thread of their work. In the 1970s, these ecologists conceptualized the term bioregion.

The Biosphere Reserve term and concept came from UNESCO in the late 1960s and similarly expressed notions of humans in relation to their environment. These concepts were attached to UNESCO’s preservation and protection efforts and formalized (also in the mid-1970s) through the establishment of the Man and Biosphere (MAB) program.

Suppose you’re only sort of familiar with the term Biosphere Reserve. In that case, you might wonder if it implies a fortress model of conservation: walled off, enclosed, gated, or perhaps even an enclosed domed structure.

Maybe because of those perceptions, combined with evolving conservation approaches, we now refer to these learning spaces as Biosphere Regions. This term reflects the core zone of protection, transitional zones, and gateway communities. We can trace the institutional programming history of the UNESCO program through documents, research, and archives. For those familiar with Big Bend, it’s interesting to reflect on the changing terminology in parallel with the historical outlaw culture and counterculture that incubated here in the high desert, alongside scientists and park employees.

Recently, exploring hard-to-reach abandoned mines in the area, my group noticed artifacts and discarded material from the mining operations. And from the 1970s: newspapers, semi-completed small-scale building projects, and personal items. In the 1970s, many people came to the desert to get away from something or get back to the land, where they might have encountered abandoned mines. These encounters are an opportunity to examine another term, reinhabitation. A word also put forth by members of the same group that familiarized the word bioregion. In 1987 they explained,

Reinhabitation means learning to live-in-place in an area that has been disrupted and injured through past exploitation. It involves becoming … aware of the particular ecological relationships that operate within and around it. It means understanding activities and evolving social behavior that will enrich the life of that place, restore its life-supporting systems, and establish an ecologically and socially sustainable pattern of existence within it.

Simply stated it involves becoming fully alive in and with a place. It involves applying membership in a biotic community and ceasing to be it’s exploiter.

So what exactly do these terms mean in a practical sense if they have to be so generalized in order to invite consensus? Who owns the definition of these words? One loose way of thinking about this question is, you do. Because you are the biosphere. The definition is activated by your relationships with collaborators, connection to nature, and reconciliation practices.

bioregion has no administrative authority – it’s a framework for understanding natural systems. And biosphere regions are administered collaboratively. In the Big Bend region, that collaboration corresponds with people on both sides of the border and those operating with the agency of their national park, protected area, or indigenous community. UNESCO gives recognition; it does not govern. Our actions are our own and matter.–

References and Links
This post credits and responds to the ideas of contrast, histories, and definitions written about by Don Alexander, Vancouver Island University, in International Journal of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. I generously credit Alexander’s article, referenced below.

Biospherejournal. (2017, January 6). Bioregions vs. Biosphere Reserves – Alexander. International Journal of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from http://biospherejournal.org/vol1-1/bioregions-vs-biosphere-reserves-dr-alexander/.

CDEC – Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. Connecting people to nature and advancing the vision of transboundary conservation in Big Bend.

Word for the Day: Sky Island

Sometimes I lock the gate. Sometimes I leave it locked. Protecting the space in which I see and hear myself most clearly. Validation coming only from within.  My thoughts an island. 

Madera Canyon Overlook

Not the only “island” in west Texas, however, there are others.  Three others in fact: the Guadalupe, Chisos, and Davis Mountains.  Each an isolated range with peaks between 7,500 and 9,000 feet.  Each an anomaly, creating a cooler, wetter, landscape surrounded by arid lowland Chihuahuan desert.   A remembrance of what things might have looked like in this region over 10,000 years ago.

With just over 33,000 acres, plus another 102,000 in protected easements, the Davis Mountain Preserve is home to many watersheds feeding the surrounding creeks.  It provides shelter for plants and animals that could not survive in the desert below.  A place of dark skies for bear and elk to traverse without human interference.  To live uninterrupted.  Safeguarded by those who care.

Conceived the early 1900’s and realized in the 50’s, The Nature Conservancy is active today in over 70 countries and territories.  In Texas alone, TNC has protected over 1 million acres of land and more than 200 miles of rivers and streams.  This includes the restoration of native grasslands, preservation of habitats and water supplies, even the addition of 67,000 acres into Big Bend National Park – not an easy task.

At the Davis Mountains Preserve, horseback riding the 1.5 miles of Madera Overlook trail is a bit like being in a Disney film.  Birds chirping, wind blowing, rustling leaves, sunlight dappling the ground.  We work our way through the trees and suddenly the forest opens to the most wonderful surprise. We come upon a view. 

Sitting on a perfect rock bench, the sounds of a creek bubbling, a single truck works its way down the old dirt road below. Mount Livermore in the distance.  Butterflies dance around us, I breathe it all in.

This is the good stuff.

From the overlook we make our way down, past the visitor center to the Tor Peak Equestrian trail, another 3.2 miles roundtrip.  Grasses sway in the breeze, an orchestra working in tandem.  Views of rolling hills, mountains playing peek-a-boo through the gaps.  My horse, Dex, climbs… jerking me forward with every step.

Midway, I break for lunch among pinecones and needles.  Moss covered rocks scattered about like speckled eggs of every shape and size.  Trees of alligator bark.  We are not the only wildlife here.  Two bucks watched from afar, I enjoy the unveiling of it all.

They don’t allow many people in this preserve.  Reservations are limited and required.  Gates typically locked. The animals feel safe here. 

I feel safe here.

Driving home, I think about how important it is that we protect these special places.  Those untarnished in the world around us, those needing polish, and those in us.  So easy to do for others, yet so difficult to do for ourselves.  Difficult even to accept sometimes. 

And I am reminded not to turn from this world.  To hold on with arms wide open and lean in.  Investing in myself, my peace of mind, and my surroundings.  My world.

Open by reservation only, the Davis Mountains Preserve boasts close to 30 miles of horse trails with peaks up to 8,300 feet and incredible views.  To support or get involved with The Nature Conservancy or Davis Mountains Preserve:  https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/davis-mountains-preserve/

To get involved with The Nature Conservancy of Texas: https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/texas/

Footprints in the Sand: Horseback Riding White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Blinding white in all directions.  Footprints erased by wind.  Every route the same.

Driving south from Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico the land greets us with open arms.  Ranges and ranches go on for miles.  I can breathe.  I can see. 

The chaos of Alamogordo gives way to White Sands National Park, sitting pristine at the northern end of the Chihuahuan desert in the Tularosa Basin.  Shining clean and bright, like the full moon against dark skies.

Once a lake, the Tularosa Basin is now home to 275 square miles (176,000 acres) of beautiful, white gypsum dunes in the form of a national park.  Gypsum draining from the surrounding mountains, nowhere else to go but into the basin.  Turning this ancient lake into fields of white over thousands of years. 

But gypsum is really a clear substance, only appearing white as the grains collide and reflect the sun.  The air and sun bake, and unlike sand on a beach – the ground here remains cool.  Conflict and abrasion come out clean and beautifully blinding.

There are no horse trails at White Sands, so keeping direction in mind and park road to the right, I ride this sweeping face.  Each dune looking like the last. Weaving my way out and back again.  Cell phone overheating in my pocket.  Polarized sunglasses glued to my face, threatening blindness with each slip and readjustment.

A seemingly endless stream of waves.  However, blank slate this is not. 

Once a lake the size of Rhode Island, the Tularosa Basin looked very different 12,000 years ago.  Lush, green landscapes flushed with life, including mammoths, giant sloths, ancient camels, dire wolves, and saber-toothed cats.  White Sands contains the largest collection of ice age fossilized footprints in the world, including the longest fossilized human trackway.

Spectral signs of the past.  Almost a mile of an out and return journey.  Disappearing then reappearing, as the landscape alters.  Hidden under layers of sand.  Unrevealed to the casual observer. 

Crossing this bleached ocean, I am reminded of my vulnerability… of what matters.  Drama has no place here.  The air can be dangerous, the sun merciless.  Death quick when water runs low and heat is high. 

But a different type of beauty lives among these dunes, a private affair between white sheets of gypsum and ancient lives.  A secret between the two. Unknown, but always present, just beneath the surface.

For information on day rides at White Sands National Park:  https://www.nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/horses-and-other-pack-animals.htm

https://www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/news/nr100920.htm

To follow Shannon’s horseback stories and more, visit http://www.confessionsofasaddletramp.com or find her on facebook @ConfessionsofaSaddleTramp

Defensa De La Sierra volunteer update

Defensa De La Sierra de Cuidad Juarez is a group in Juarez that wants to make a difference to stop the uncontrolled destruction of wildlife habitat in Mexico.   Earlier this year we told you about group leader Ray Aguilar who has provided this update.

by Ray Aguilar

Ciudad Juárez is a place that needs a lot of environmental attention and the current situation is very alarming.  Our group called the Defensa de la Sierra de Juárez (DSJZ) is committed to rescuing the Sierra de Juárez mountain range west of Ciudad Juárez where there are serious problems of contamination, irregular settlements, over exploitation of resources, illegal extraction of flora and fauna and displacement of wildlife.

DSJZ seeks to recover habitat for wildlife by helping to restore the habitat into a pleasant place.  We are currently working on a recovery project at the Mirador Hidalgo, located in the Periférico Camino Real in the Sierra de Juárez.  We believe that this area is a high priority place for people to get closer to the Sierra de Juárez and learn more about it.  Encouraging people to connect to nature can also help lower crime rates.  The areas we are working in can become places for recreation and leisure in support of sustainable tourism for Juárez and El Paso.

Recently two projects have been started in conjunction with organizations from the city such as Juárez Limpio AC, Colectivo Ciclista Fixiebeat, Aprendamos Ciencia, Rotaract Integra Juárez, Senderistas de Ciudad Juárez and the Ecology Directorate of the municipality of Juárez.  We have planted more than 30 native trees such as mesquite and Palo Verde.  We have also collected a large amount of litter.

We plan to continue these efforts in order to meet our goals and make people aware of how important the Sierra de Juárez is for the community of Juárez and El Paso.

A new website is in development and anyone who wants to help can contact the group by email at Sierradeciudadjuarez@gmail.com or text at 011 52 656 214 4109.

Post navigation

Bringing the prairie dog back to El Paso

Hello, I am Jacob Croft, a scientist trained in biology working with the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. Over the past year I have been working on a project to bring back the black-tailed prairie dog to the El Paso region. Over the past 4 months I have been in contact with many different local, state, and federal organizations trying to find ways to bring back prairie dogs. This has always led to the conversation of why, why the prairie dog, why El Paso and why should we do it now. This is a question that has multiple answers, and therefore it should be important to all of us living in the region. Let us begin with the reason why they are gone and the reason why we should bring them back. First off, we, the human species are the reason why they are gone. In the early 1800s and early 1900s there were three major colonies living in our area. Unfortunately a nation-wide propaganda campaign about needing to poison the prairie dogs or hunt them to give cattle more range to room resulted in mass poisonings throughout the US. During this campaign prairie dogs were extirpated from our region and across 98% of the country.

Jacob Croft holding a dove while volunteering with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

This leads to the next question. If we removed them there could not have been too much of an impact. Not so, we are clearly seeing today that the prairie dog throughout the US is a keystone species. A keystone species is one where other organisms depend on it for key resources in their ecosystem. In fact, prairie dogs have over 100 other species in the ecosystem that depend on them. Prairie dogs affect plant behaviors and modifications of terrain and old burrows provides homes for other species. They also are an important food source for many apex predators like raptors and endangered black-footed ferrets.

Another reason to bring the prairie dog back is how they impact soil and ground water enrichment. Our desert soils are not forgiving to many plants and are often dry. So how does a prairie dog burrowing into the ground help nutrients? It’s pretty simple, they bring food into their homes to store, they defecate in these burrows and when they eventually die in the burrows, the nutrient enrichment cycle continues. The introduction of all these materials helps to provide nutrients for plants helping to increase the richness of plant communities for generations to come.

Prairie dogs also provide deep burrows which helps ground water penetrate deeper into the ground rather than having rainwater get lost through evaporation in the topsoil.

Now I know that that was a lot to take in, so let us look at what we have done thus far to bring back prairie dogs!

The first thing was to get the project idea on the radar screen of El Paso. I had moved here in December of 2020 and knew I wanted to work in the field of conservation. This quest eventually led me to the zoo and to meet my mentor and fellow Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition member Rick LoBello. Through his guidance and advice I found the passion to take on this big project and that led me to learning about prairie dogs and become an expert on them. While my education in college had given me a good understanding of how ecosystems work, I had to learn specifically what the prairie dogs like, what vegetation needs they have, what soil requirements they have as well as how they interact with each other. This led to reading many papers about prairie dogs and getting in contact with other organizations like the Prairie Dog Coalition and the Humane Society, both of which are based out of Boulder, Colorado. We have a Humane Society in El Paso, but this one in Colorado, has a special individual, Dr. Lindsey Krank, who has been working with prairie dogs for years and has run successful translocation programs.  Through her mentorship I was able to get a good idea of how to complete a translocation, what budget would roughly be needed and how to get in contact with people who have completed successful programs in desert environments. This was all positive information I have gained and helped me get the ball rolling. I have also been meeting with other people in the El Paso region who have provided great insight and led me to begin seeking a prairie dog reintroduction site. After combing through many papers about prairie dog towns in Texas and historical towns in El Paso, I have found that there has been records of them on the north side and west side of the Franklin Mountains. These locations where historic prairie dog towns had been are now altered by man made structures making the areas less probable for returning prairie dogs. Visiting these locations did on the other hand give me ideas on where to look for similar habitats.

The most successful conversations I have had come from meetings with the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico and new talks with Ft. Bliss representatives about the use of Castner Range. One thing is for certain, this is a process that will not happen overnight, but is one that could only bring benefits to the community of El Paso and all the native species that call this place home.

Prairie dog at the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

For more information Contact Us

Photos
Top: Brian Garrett, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Others: Courtesy Jacob Croft