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Vol. 5 No. 4

Winter 2011

Up Against the Wall

Border Fence Impacts on Wildlife

How Zoos Aid Conservation An Eye on Energy Alaska’s Predator Control


Winter 2011 Vol. 5 No. 4

Cover Story: The U.S.-Mexico Border 22 Fenced Out: Wildlife Impacts of the U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

By Divya Abhat

28 Dangerous Game: Hunting and Management in the Sonoran Desert By Johnathan O’Dell

32 Hot on the Trail: Monitoring Jaguars South of the Border By Clayton K. Nielsen et al.

In Focus: Zoos, Aquariums, and Conservation

36 Zoos Re-Imagined  By Katherine Unger 42 Cash for Conservation

By Alan H. Shoemaker

44  Taking a Teaching Role

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Online Extras at wildlife.org/twplogin: The Evolution of Zoo Exhibitry By Sue Chin

Credit: Krista Schlyer/enviro-pic.org

What Happens When a Zoo Animal Dies By Mary Duncan

By Jackie Ogden et al.

48  The Link between Zoo Research and Wildlife Health By Sharon L. Deem

Special Section: The Energy Dilemma

50 Keeping an Eye on Energy  By Steven R. Belinda

60  States Take Action on Fracking

52 After “Peak Oil”  By W. Daniel Svedarsky et al.

62  Long Island’s New Solar Neighbor

56 A Voice for Caution over Fracking

66  Fueling the Bioenergy Debate

By Katherine Unger

By Madeleine Thomas By Timothy M. Green

rotating features

departments

70 Tools and Technology  Social Networks in Wildlife Management By Bret A. Muter and Heather A. Triezenberg

6 8 10 12 16 20

74 Commentary

Alaska’s Predator Control Programs By Victor Van Ballenberghe

80 Review Energy by Design By Paul R. Krausman Online Extras at wildlife.org/ twplogin: The State of Alaska Comments on Intensive Management By Bruce Dale The Legal Road toward IM in Alaska By Joel L. Hard

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By Aviva Glaser and Julie Sibbing

Credit: Houston Zoo

Guest Editorial Leadership Letter Letters to the Editor Science in Short State of Wildlife Today’s Wildlife Professionals: Tim Sinclair-Smith and Stacey Johnson

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82 Field Notes

Practical tips for field biologists

Credit: Victor Van Ballenberghe

84 The Society Pages

TWS news and events

88  Gotcha!

Photos from readers

More Online! This publication is available online to TWS members at www.wildlife.org. Throughout the magazine, mouse icons and text printed in blue indicate links to more information available online.

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t Ou d e Fe n c

or d e r B o ic x e M .h e U.S

acts of t p Im e if l d il W

Fe nce

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By Divya Abhat Divya Abhat is Production Editor/Science Writer for The Wildlife Society.

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mpermeable concrete walls, 20-foot-high steel fences, and earthen levees stretch intermittently across the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. They’re meant to deter the hundreds of immigrants who illegally cross the Southwest border daily and to hamper violent drug cartels that operate in the region. Some dispute the effectiveness of the barriers: A 2009 GAO report revealed that there had been 3,363 breaches in the fence by May of that year (GAO 2009). Yet few deny that the border fence prevents the free movement of borderland wildlife species including the rare and endangered jaguar (Panthera onca), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis). Such impacts have wildlife professionals worried.

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• In 2005, the Real ID Act was passed, with a provision that authorized the waiver of any laws that might delay construction of barriers and roads along the California border. Over the years, Michael Chertoff, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary under President George W. Bush, waived numerous federal conservation laws—including the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—allowing construction of the last few miles of California’s border wall to resume. • In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, which amended the IIRIRA to expand the original miles of U.S.-Mexico border fencing from 14 to more than 700 miles. Since then, more than 30 federal laws, including the Clean Water Act and the Wilderness Act, have been waived (Sierra Club).

Political Wrangling

For roughly two decades, lawmakers and environmentalists have tussled over what are often mutually exclusive priorities—cracking down on illegal immigrants versus protecting natural resources. The battle began in 1990, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) erected the first line of barriers along the border south of San Diego. Among the key events since then: • In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) mandated the construction of 14 miles of triple-layered “reinforced fencing” consisting of parallel concrete and steel walls with a graded road between them (CRS Report for Congress 2007). The Act also required 50 feet on either side of the fence to be cleared of all vegetation. • In 2004, the California Coastal Commission ruled that if a plan to construct five miles of border wall in southern California were completed, it would violate the federal Coastal Zone Management Act by damaging the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and other sensitive lands as well as the threatened and endangered species found there. As a result, construction was halted.

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This year, Arizona Senator John McCain introduced an amendment to the fiscal 2012 Homeland Security spending bill that would allow Border Patrol officers unlimited access to all public lands within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. In one critical sense, this bill expanded the Real ID Act that authorized the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive any laws that impeded construction of walls and roads in the vicinity of the border. But “other activities that the Border Patrol might want to carry out were not covered by the waiver,” says Scott Nicol, a co-chair of the Sierra Club Borderlands Team. “The McCain amendment covers a much larger area … and any activity that CBP wants to carry out.”

Impacts and Answers

Though it’s too early to assess all definitive impacts of the border fence on wildlife, scientists are identifying some signs of disruption. In South Texas, for example, some 70 miles of the border barrier—built as a pedestrian fence and flood protection concrete wall, inaccessible to vehicles— cuts through ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), gulf coast jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi cacomitli) and bobcat (Lynx rufus) habitat. Mitch Sternberg, lead biologist for the South Texas

A desert cottontail faces a daunting stretch of border wall in Arizona’s San Pedro River Corridor along the U.S.Mexico border. The wall has impacted wildlife species by fragmenting habitat and blocking movement. Credit: Krista Schlyer/enviro-pic.org

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Credit: Defenders of Wildlife

Line in the Sand. A red line denotes “proposed” border fencing, much of which has already been built. Running intermittently across the U.S.-Mexico border, the fence slices through critical wildlife corridors (arrows) between Sonora and U.S. federal and tribal lands.

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge Straddling 56 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border between southwestern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is part of the largest remaining undeveloped swath of the Sonoran Desert. It is also the largest refuge in the lower 48 states, more than 90 percent of which is federally designated as wilderness. Yet satellite and survey data show that this wilderness is sliced by nearly 8,000 miles of off-road tracks attributed to illegal migrant activity, and up to 12,000 additional miles of tracks caused by law enforcement activity to curb illegal immigration and border violence. Environmentalists fear that the lacework of tracks, as well as permanent Border Patrol camps scattered throughout Cabeza Prieta, are detrimental to the refuge’s fragile populations of endangered Sonoran pronghorn, which have dwindled to as few as 68 animals.

Credit: David McNew/iStockphoto

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Refuge Complex, has been studying the area’s wild cats, using pre- and post-construction data to assess the fence’s impact. Using cameras and radio collars, his team tracked the movements of several bobcats and discovered that when fence construction began, the cats began to move in search of new habitat. One pair of bobcats trapped in stringers of habitat on the north side of the fence died after being hit on a highway as they attempted to cross to the remainder. They no longer had access to the Rio Grande River and its habitat corridors. Another pair appeared to abandon their territory once construction began, while another bobcat was killed by a car when the animal ventured into an urban area—a rare occurrence and possibly the result of having been forced out of shared territory by another displaced bobcat. In situations like this, the cats’ stress levels are quite high, Sternberg says, and “these disturbances led to intraspecific aggression and mortalities.” Connectivity is critical for wildlife species to maintain movement that helps facilitate gene

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flow and fosters immigration and dispersal into vacant habitat patches or in those areas where abundance is low. Yet miles of barriers that bisect wildlife habitat across diverse border landscapes—ranging from the deserts of the Colorado River Valley to the forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental—may threaten that movement (Flesch 2010). Researchers found that stopping transboundary movements among subpopulations in mountain ranges near the border could impact the persistence of these populations on either side of the fence (Flesch 2010). Limited connectivity is especially serious for species that are already at risk or threatened. The CBP has estimated that 39 species in Arizona that are or will soon be protected are starting to feel the impact of border operations (Defenders of Wildlife). Jaguars and ocelots, for example, listed as endangered under the ESA, are likely to be seriously impacted. “There are very few jaguars in the U.S., and with the border fence they’re cut off from the rest of the population that’s found in northern Mexico,” says Juan Carlos Cantu, director of the Defenders of Wildlife Mexico Program. The same goes for the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, with approximately 70 individuals found in the U.S. and fewer still in Mexico. “If they have no communication with the rest of the population in the U.S., they’re going to suffer,” Cantu says. Research has also established a close genetic link of ocelots found in Texas to ocelots found in Tamaulipas. In fact, one female ocelot captured at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was more closely related to populations in Mexico than either of the two populations in Texas (Walker 1997). “Maintaining and restoring wildlife corridors between the U.S. and Mexico is critical to the long-term survival of ocelots in the U.S.,” says Mitch Sternberg. Likewise, fewer than 50 ocelots remain in Texas, where sightings are extremely rare. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and its partners have been studying the endangered ocelot for more than three decades and are relying on a number of factors to assist in its recovery, including protection of suitable habitat. “Our criterion that’s most feasible is a connection between U.S.-Mexican populations,” FWS’ Sternberg says. “If the wall was expanded, that would probably lead to the extirpation of ocelots in the U.S.”

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Jesse Lasky, Ph.D. candidate in the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior Graduate Program at the University of Texas at Austin and author of a study that identifies species and regions most impacted by the border fence, finds that species with smaller populations and specialized habitats face the greatest risk (Lasky et al. 2011). For example, the Arroyo toad (Bufo californicus), the San Diego pocket mouse (Chaetodipus fallax), and the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii)—all of which have significant portions of their range along the border—run the risk of having 50 percent of that range blocked by border fences. Birds are less obvious, but no less vulnerable, victims of border barriers. Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum), for example, tend to fly at about four feet above the ground— well below the height of most fences—and species like quail prefer to walk rather than fly (Flesch 2010). In addition, Cantu notes that “it’s not only the fence” that’s causing problems, but also the destruction of vegetation flanking the fence. “Quail don’t like that,” he says. “They like to have some cover for them to be able to move.” Concerned about such impacts—and hesitant to wait for political solutions—wildlife managers have begun to explore adaptive measures to help prevent or mitigate the wall’s impact on wildlife. Connecting the Gap. One potential solution is to make up for loss of connectivity between habitats by linking fragmented areas with neighboring refuges and conservation areas. In Texas, for example, approximately 60 to 70 percent of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge has been directly or indirectly impacted by the area’s border wall. As a result, FWS has planned to

Credit: Scott Nicol

Seemingly endless miles of border fence run through the federally designated Otay Mountain Wilderness Area in California. A law protecting the area—and 36 other federal conservation laws—were waived to allow for construction of this section of the wall.

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rescinded the $22 million allotted for 2011—and the budget ax is only getting sharper.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers at the Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge inspect a raft abandoned by immigrants who most likely entered the U.S. illegally through the wildlife refuge.

Moving the Players. Wildlife managers have considered reintroducing and relocating dwindling wildlife populations affected by the fence. “The reality of reintroduction is that most of the projects aren’t successful because it’s very difficult … and incredibly expensive,” says Defenders’ Cantu. “But, in the end, it’s probably the only way to go.” Such efforts first began in 1998, when the U.S. government Credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS released about 11 Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) into a four-million-acre swath connect this National Wildlife Refuge with nearby Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Accord- near the Arizona-New Mexico border with Mexico. Although biologists had hoped to see at least ing to Sternberg, connecting the two refuges was 100 wolves in the region by now, a recent survey always part of a long-term FWS plan. “Now that reveals that only about half that number populate we’re losing practically half the value of the Lower Rio Grande NWR, it’s even more important that we the area. Nevertheless, in a recent effort this past October, the government of Mexico released five have functional corridors between these refuges,” captive-bred Mexican wolves in the Sierra San Luis he says. Unfortunately, funding for this effort has mountain range in northeastern Sonora, in hopes been tough to acquire. In 2009, CBP allocated $50 that they will reproduce and spread across their million for border-fence mitigation projects like former Mexican range. this one, but after doling out only $6.8 million, it

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge’s 118,000 acres provide critical habitat to several endangered species including the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl, Pima pineapple cactus, Kearney bluestar, peregrine falcon, southwest willow flycatcher, and razorback sucker. The refuge also runs a captive-breeding program for endangered masked bobwhite quail, supporting the only known wild population of the species in the country. In 2006, 3 percent (3,500 acres) of the refuge was closed to public access due to border violence involving human and drug trafficking and assaults on law enforcement officers. Such border shutdowns are funneling more immigrant traffic into the refuge’s remote desert regions. Law enforcement officers have counted as many as 1,000 migrants on just one foot trail in the refuge in a 24-hour period, and some experts estimate that 1.2 million people cross through the southwestern border each year. Apart from ecological damage caused by foot traffic, Border Patrol officials have free rein to drive off-road vehicles throughout the refuge and its fragile habitat, and some environmentalists worry that the border walls near the refuge (right) disrupt the movements of sensitive species like jaguars and pygmy-owls.

Credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

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Identifying Critical Habitat. Researchers have been identifying areas that are critical movement corridors for borderland populations as well as regions rich in biodiversity that they hope will become off limits to border-fence construction. For example, in their recent study, Lasky and his colleagues identified three key areas that host a high number of vulnerable species: the Sky Island Madrean archipelago habitat in southeastern Arizona, and coastal areas of Texas and California. As a result, researchers noted that these regions are especially critical for maintaining connectivity of fragmented areas, and pinpointed these areas as high priorities for mitigation of the impacts of current border fencing. “Whenever the CBP wants to build more barriers,” says Lasky, “we can point to © The Wildlife Society


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Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge

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Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the country. At the confluence of the Mississippi and Central flyways, the refuge’s 90,000 acres house 513 bird species that help to maintain a nearly $150-million local ecotourism industry. The refuge also fosters 11 different biotic communities—including one of the last remaining sabal palm forests in the country—and these habitats support more than 300 species of butterflies, 1,100 species of plants, and 700 vertebrate species, including the endangered ocelot and jaguarondi. Border wall construction throughout the South Texas Wildlife Refuge Complex—comprising the Laguna Atascosa, Lower Rio Grande Valley, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges—affects 60 to 70 percent of the area’s habitat, some of which is cut by migrants’ foot trails (right). Although the refuge’s border fencing includes approximately 100 openings for wildlife, some argue that the openings are impassable for larger animals like bobcats and coyotes, and that the barrier also separates wildlife from crucial access to the waters of the nearby Rio Grande.

Credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

that area and say this is one of the worst possible places to do this.” Unfortunately, anything that’s built to be permeable for animals is almost always permeable for humans too, which may doom such mitigation efforts. Without a solution, “both countries could lose some of their biodiversity,” says Cantu. “The U.S. could forever lose the jaguar and Mexico could lose the pronghorn or bighorn sheep.” Furthermore, wildlife managers have put in decades of work to

restore dwindling populations, says Cantu: “If you cut off the free movement of wildlife, then all your work goes for nothing”—one more potentially tragic consequence of the troubled border region. This article has been reviewed by subject-matter experts.

For a full bibliography and additional resources, go to www.wildlife.org.

ANNOUNCEMENT AND CALL FOR PAPERS 7th International Conference on Fertility Control in Wildlife August 29-September 1, 2012 Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA The 7th International Conference on Fertility Control in Wildlife will be held in Jackson Hole, WY, August 29September 1, 2012. This conference is a continuation of the international forum for research into the management of wildlife populations through contraception. The conference will be preceded, on the 28th of August, by a separate and one day conference on wild horse fertility control. The intended audience includes scientists, wildlife agency managers, animal welfare organizations and the interested general public. For registration and abstract submission details visit the conference website www.wildlifeconference7.org.

© The Wildlife Society

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Dangerous Game Hunting and Management in the Sonoran Desert By Johnathan O’Dell

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Credit: George Andrejko/AZGFD

Johnathan O’Dell is a Small-Game Biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department

n May 2010, the hunting community got a deadly wake-up call about the dangers of hunting in the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the border of Mexico and the southwestern United States. Driving through Sonora, Mexico, in a new Dodge truck, Arizona native Ronald C. Ryan—an avid hunter and hunting guide—lost his life at the hands of men thought to be members of the Sinaloa drug cartel (AZCentral. com 2010). Authorities believe Ryan was slain for his truck, his body left in a shallow grave near a river some 60 miles south of the border.

of fencing being built in other areas, most of these illegal activities have shifted to what’s known as the Tucson Sector, an area that spans 262 of the 389 miles of Arizona’s border with Mexico, beginning at the Yuma-Pima county line and ending at the New Mexico state line. According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, approximately half of all drugs seized and illegal immigrants apprehended entering the U.S. are seized or apprehended in Arizona (CBP 2011). Though remote, harsh, and dangerous, this area also contains some of the most spectacular terrain and game animals found in the Sonoran Desert. Famed Outdoor Life author, hunter, and conservationist Jack O’Connor introduced the world to hunting in the Sonoran Desert through articles and books he began writing in the 1930s. Ever since, the Sonoran has lured hunters seeking the desert’s unique and highly sought-after game species including desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana), Coues white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi), and Gould’s wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo mexicana). Unfortunately, increases in illegal activity in the region are having far-reaching implications for hunters and wildlife management. Borderland hunters and managCredit: Johnathan O’Dell

Illegal activities are common in the borderlands, an area rife with human trafficking, drug smuggling, kidnapping, and cartel violence. Because of increased border enforcement and new sections

A sign posted by the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona (top) warns of potential dangers that hunters and others might encounter near the U.S.-Mexico border. Hunters like Lance Altherr (right, at center, with son Cole) and Michael Boido (at left) help clean “lay-up” sites, where would-be immigrants discard their belongings before trying to cross the border. At this particular site, trash covered an area larger than a football field. Credit: Gabriel Paz

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The U.S. ers have reported incidents ranging from raids on their camps to burglarized vehicles to intimidating encounters in the field. On June 11, 2009, for example, three people—a Pima County biologist and a biologist and wildlife enforcement officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD)—were scouting an area near the Mexico border when they came upon four armed camoclad Hispanic men. The agency personnel fled the scene, but the officer returned to investigate. As he turned to rejoin his colleagues, a bullet struck the ground behind him. A law-enforcement team that searched the area found no suspects, but fresh shell casings at the site suggested that additional shots were fired as the officer and biologists retreated (AZGFD 2009).

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Unit (GMU) map by drawing a new line roughly following the Interstate 8 and Interstate 10 corridors, which traverse the lower one-fifth of the state from west to east. The map legend states that “Homeland Security issues along the international border may affect the quality of a person’s hunt.” According to AZGFD Regional Game Specialist Jim Heffelfinger, whose area of responsibility covers the Tucson

Responding to Crisis

Concerns about such illegal activities in the borderlands have led to a series of safety measures. In late 2005, for example, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved a petition asking that archery hunters be allowed to carry a sidearm for personal protection. This led to an eventual rule change allowing individuals to possess non-hunting handguns for personal safety during the “archery-only” season (which runs from mid-August to early September and early December to the end of January). The ruling has helped ease the minds of some hunters, but has done very little to change the ever-increasing border problems. In October 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) took action to protect hunters and visitors in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR), closing 3,500 acres along the southernmost area of the refuge bordering Mexico. “The situation in this zone has reached a point where continued public use of the area is not prudent,” wrote Refuge Manager Mitch Ellis in a letter explaining the closure. “Violence on the Refuge associated with smugglers and border bandits has been well-documented” (FWS 2006). Another significant step occurred in 2008, when Arizona made changes to its Game Management

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Credit: George Andrejko/AZGFD

Sector, the new line surrounding areas near the border “represents an effort to inform hunters about issues and possible dangers they may encounter there.” To further educate the public about these dangers, several different management agencies have posted signs warning hunters and other recreational users about the possibility of encountering illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, and armed criminals. A Bureau of Land Management sign posted in Arizona’s Vekol Valley, for example, warns that “visitors may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed,” and advises people to “use public lands north of Interstate 8.” These are not scare tactics: Most of the signs have been erected in direct response to actual events in posted areas.

A Coues whitetailed deer makes a tempting target for photographers and hunters alike. A subspecies found in Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico, Coues deer are known to be cleverly elusive, making them challenging quarry to hunt.

Mixed Impacts on Hunting

All the signs, rule changes, news, and publicity are having a definite impact on hunters and hunting. “I’ve booked only half as many hunts this past year compared to five or six years ago,” says Dan Bishop,

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of the state. After the draw was completed, a record 4,613 deer permits—or 9.6 percent of the total—remained unclaimed, representing a potential direct revenue loss of $194,900 (a conservative estimate). Of Arizona’s 67 GMUs with deer hunts, the six that border Mexico in the Tucson Sector represent 23 percent of the total deer hunting permits, yet they accounted for an astonishing 71.5 percent (or 3,301) of the leftover deer permits—a sign that hunters are leery of venturing into the borderlands.

Hunter Bob Heffelfinger (above) glasses for javelina in the Silver Bell Mountains near Tucson. Not far from this spot, Heffelfinger’s grandson snapped a picture of a pickup truck crammed with more than 30 people (right) scooting through the region’s back roads, most likely a load of undocumented aliens from south of the border.

who runs Cola Blanca Outfitters, an Arizonabased guide service that provides hunts in Sonora, Mexico. “All of the guide services that hunt Mexico are struggling,” says Bishop, a problem he attributes to the economy and, more important, to the region’s violence. “People are afraid of what they’ve heard about the border and Mexico.” Fears about spillover violence are also affecting sales of permits for deer, the bread and butter species of any state wildlife agency. Heffelfinger, who has spent more than 20 years of his career in the borderlands of Arizona, has been carefully watching the deer hunter trends as border issues have changed. “In those units that border Mexico, we’ve seen a decreasing hunter demand and a corresponding increase of leftover deer permits.” In the fall of 2011, for example, Arizona offered nearly 48,000 deer permits to hunters in all areas

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The AZGFD is not yet overly concerned about a loss in deerhunting revenue as it expects to sell most of the leftover deer permits on a first-come-first served basis through the end of the seaCredit: Jim Heffelfinger son. In addition, even with fewer people applying to hunt deer in southern Arizona, Heffelfinger sees no impacts on deer management. “Because we employ a bucks-only harvest strategy,” he says, “there is no concern about under-harvesting. It’s simply like managing deer more conservatively.” However, some fear that Courtesy of Jim Heffelfinger if the trend of declining permit sales continues, the agency will begin to feel the pinch of lower overall revenue. Conversely, fear of hunting in Mexico may push more hunters to seek Sonoran game species on U.S. turf. The Gould’s wild turkey, for example, is found only in Mexico and in a small bit of Arizona and New Mexico. Hunting this subspecies has been big business in Mexico due to the very limited U.S. opportunities: This year, there are only about 40 of these coveted U.S. permits available by lottery (at a cost of about $26 per tag for Arizona residents and $78 for nonresidents). Scott Lerich, regional wildlife biologist with the National Wild Turkey

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The U.S. Federation, believes the demand for these stateside opportunities will only increase. “I’ve received several phone calls from hunters who have the means with which to hunt in Mexico, but don’t think they should due to the current situation. They ask me about their best chances to get one of the few tags in Arizona or New Mexico.”

Venturing South

Some people continue to hunt both sides of the border—but why risk entering areas others have abandoned? For wildlife biologist Amanda Moors, the answer is simple: “A population of deer that is very abundant and of a high quality.” Moors herself hunts both sides of the border and runs an online forum about hunting for Coues white-tailed deer, a subspecies found in Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico. “Many people consider Coues deer to be the most challenging big game animal to hunt,” writes Moors, mainly because of its harsh desert habitat and its ability to “vanish from view” with minimal cover—a skill earning it the nickname “Grey Ghost” (Moors 2011). Moors admits that “there are hunters who don’t go down there because of all the bad media,” but that others, like herself, “have hunted there for years and had no problems.” Guide Dan Bishop agrees, saying that threats of violence are exaggerated: “Once you’re away from the border, Sonora is one of the safest states in Mexico.” For documented hunters, traversing the border can be challenging, however, because of stricter firearms laws in Mexico and the hassles of crossing an international boundary. Using an experienced guide who is familiar with the rules, restrictions, and required paperwork helps to make crossings easier. In the Tucson Sector there are five points of entry in the cities of Douglas, Naco, Nogales, Sasabe, and Lukeville. These areas are also where the fences are the most fortified, with 18-foot-tall pedestrian barriers. But even as close as seven miles from a city center, the fencing changes to vehicular barricades (easily traversed on foot), and a few miles later to simple barbed wire. Though the border fence may prove permeable for humans, its impacts on wildlife can be significant (see article on page 22). According to a Position Statement issued by The Wildlife Society, an impermeable fence could “limit demographic and genetic interchange among wildlife populations, and the

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ability of species to shift ranges in response to local weather conditions, normal seasonal movement and, ultimately, climate change.” State and federal wildlife management agencies are attempting to address the issue of demographic and genetic interchange through aggressive translocation policies. For example, desert bighorn sheep rams were recently transplanted from Mexico to the Red Rock captive breeding facility in New Mexico to enhance the genetic integrity of the herd (AmmoLand.com 2011). Additionally, Arizona recently reintroduced black-tailed prairie dogs into the Southeastern portion of the state and is actively seeking additional transplant sources in Mexico. Ironically, for all its potential negative impacts on wildlife and hunting, the border fence seems to be having a few unanticipated benefits as well. For example, every year since 2009, Jim Heffelfinger has been hosting a jackrabbit hunting camp (or “Junior Jack Kamp”) for youth to introduce new hunters to the sport. He holds the camp in an area north of Sasabe, Arizona, a port-of-entry town in the BANWR. In the program’s first year, the border “fence” in that region was simply a sevenmile stretch of temporary vehicle barriers, easily crossed on foot. Youth camp participants therefore saw lots of trash, heavily worn foot trails, and even occasional would-be immigrants (who were shocked to run into pre-teens with guns). Recently, however, the temporary barriers were replaced with sturdier pedestrian fencing constructed as a tall steel wall. During the most recent camp, there was far less trash, no fresh trails of footprints in the dirt, and no wary migrants emerging from the brush. We as wildlife professionals not only have a responsibility and obligation to wildlife and their resources, but to those who use them as well. Some of the tough challenges the border region currently faces require decisions where public safety trumps biological concerns. The wall is only a band-aid fix until core societal issues regarding immigration can be resolved. Until then, it is imperative that we do all we can to make the dangerous game of wildlife management in the borderlands a little safer. This article has been reviewed by a subject-matter expert.

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Hot on the Trail Monitoring Jaguars South of the Border By Clayton K. Nielsen, Charles Steven Borrego, and Carlos A. López González

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oncerns about the potential impacts of the U.S.-Mexico border fence on wildlife have catapulted highly mobile carnivores such as the jaguar (Panthera onca) into the conservation spotlight—and made jaguar research critically important. Credit: K. Delahunt

Clayton K. Nielsen, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Forest Wildlife with the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory and Department of Forestry, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois.

Commonly known as el tigre in Mexico, the jaguar has a long history of mystique, respect, and cultural interaction in Mesoamerica that traces back to the Olmec civilization around 1500 BCE (Brown and López-González 2001). In modern Mexico, these rare animals still command respect, but also evoke suspicion. That’s especially true among many ranchers and vaqueros who often work and live in close proximity to jaguars, which sometimes prey on livestock, threatening livelihoods. Jaguar conservation therefore depends on solid understanding of the animals’ movements,

distribution, and prey, as well as a firm grasp on the dimensions of human conflict with these charismatic predators.

Studying Jaguars at the Edge

In northwestern Mexico, the state of Sonora contains the northernmost population of jaguars across their entire range. Sonora also shares its border with California, Arizona, and a small corner of New Mexico, making this borderland region a vital area for international jaguar conservation. The need for such work has become critical: The current range of the jaguar is estimated to be only 61 percent of its historic range, which once spanned from the southwestern U.S. to Argentina (Rabinowitz and Zeller 2010). The factors that have pushed jaguars toward the edge in Mexico are typical throughout Latin

Coauthor Affiliations Charles Steven Borrego is a Master’s Student with the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois. Carlos A. López González, Ph.D., is a Research Professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Cerro de las Campanas, Mexico. Credit: Charles Steven Borrego

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Jaguar researchers in Sonora, Mexico, search for a route through dense thornscrub in an area where jaguars had been previously detected. The rugged terrain along the western flank of the Sierra Madre is home to the northernmost breeding population of the species.

© The Wildlife Society


The U.S. America and include habitat fragmentation, reduced native prey species, greater protection of livestock, and sport hunting—all of which have taken a toll (Swank and Teer 1989, Brown and Lopez-Gonzalez 2001, Sanderson et al. 2002). Though no precise population numbers exist, jaguars are now listed as endangered in Mexico and as near-threatened on the IUCN Red List.

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attempt to place cameras in a sampling protocol that both complements the research design and is logistically realistic. Setting cameras in a similar sampling design in the U.S. would take a few days or weeks, but in the Sierra—with limited resources, blown-out roads, and harsh climate—it can take two to three times as long. (This inaccessibility

To better understand jaguar ecology and threats at the northern edge of the cats’ range, our two teams of researchers—from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Mexico and the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois—are working on separate but analogous studies to monitor jaguar populations in Sonora. We have focused our research on the Huasabas-Sahuaripa population in northwestern Mexico, the northernmost breeding population of the species. The Huasabas-Sahuaripa group resides along the western flank of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in Sonora, about 200 kilometers south of the Arizona-Mexico border. This population is important not only due to its position at the edge of the range but also as a potential source population for natural northern expansion into the southwestern U.S., where there are currently no breeding populations. Since 1996, four adult male jaguars have been confirmed in Arizona and New Mexico as far as 65 kilometers north of the international border. Though some researchers posit that these were likely residents of the U.S. (McCain and Childs 2008), others believe they were dispersers from Sonora (USFWS 2010).

Courtesy of Charles Steven Borrego

Charles Steven Borrego (above), a graduate student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, places a remote camera in Sonora, Mexico, as part of a study to monitor jaguars at the northern edge of their range. Working together, teams of researchers from the U.S. and Mexico have captured scores of images of jaguars, often at night (below). Analysis of the images will help determine jaguar range, occupancy, and distribution.

Proof in the Lens

Because jaguars are rarely seen, particularly in northern Mexico, trying to locate them across the vast mountain range of the Sierra Madre is difficult at best. Remote cameras therefore provide the most practical method for sampling these cats and other wildlife in the Sierra, as cameras can be strategically placed across an expansive area, providing detection and occupancy data for multiple species. Setting up cameras in the Sierra is indeed arduous. Our teams often traverse very steep, rocky terrain by horse and mule, and utilize barely passable fourwheel-drive “roads” when available. Researchers

© The Wildlife Society

Credit: Carlos A. López González

www.wildlife.org

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to humans may be the best defense for long-term survivability of jaguars in the region.)

a greater number of jaguar detections than ranches with normal-to-high livestock stocking rates.

Despite the logistical challenges, the Mexican team has been investigating the abundance and distribution of both jaguar and puma (Puma concolor) and their prey throughout Sonora. Since 2000, the researchers have placed remote cameras in 16 geographically distinct areas ranging from the U.S.Mexico border through southern Sonora, leaving cameras at sites for 30 to 90 days. In 2009 and 2010, we placed 162 independent camera stations in an area of 180 square kilometers. Those cameras produced 59,809 photos and a total of 24,196 detections of 63 wildlife species including 76 jaguar detections of nine different individuals. Among the cats’ non-livestock prey species, Coues white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) and white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica) appeared to be more numerous than the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu)—the three most-common large native prey species.

Next Steps

The U.S. team has also been using remote cameras to study jaguars, focusing on ranches in the region around Nácori Chico, Sonora, where ranchers are concerned about livestock predation. Over the course of two-to-six-month sampling periods in 2008 and 2009, we placed 290 camera stations on a consortium of several cattle ranches spanning an area of about 300 square kilometers. One rancher in particular, who is the president of a local cattleman’s association, has been very active in attempting to promote jaguar conservation among his fellow ranchers. But he has a difficult road ahead as many ranchers are disgruntled about livestock depredations.

Uncertainties about the jaguar’s status in the U.S. recently prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin developing a recovery plan for jaguars along the border region. Yet for any plan to be effective, further data on interactions between jaguars, pumas, and prey (wild species and domestic livestock) will be important for formulating management strategies to minimize human-jaguar conflict.

Over two years, the U.S. team recorded 31,500 detections of wildlife, people, and livestock. Of the big cats, pumas and bobcat (Lynx rufus) were far more ubiquitous than jaguars on the ranches, with 205 and 449 detections, respectively. There were 33 detections of seven jaguars (three males and four females). The four females all appeared to be subadults or adults, and one appeared pregnant. In general, jaguar detections primarily occurred in or near Sinaloan thornscrub in close proximity to water. Livestock grazing appeared to have an effect on the abundance and diversity of prey species for jaguars in Sonora. Notably, four ranches in particular—with either low cattle stocking rates or with cattle completely removed for the entire sampling period—had

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Due to limited information about the jaguar in northern Mexico, continued monitoring and detection of the species is necessary. We will analyze our research data to determine solid estimates of the jaguar’s range, occupancy, and distribution in proximity to the U.S.-Mexican border. We’ll also develop probability estimates of occupancy for prey species, and evaluate habitat factors that affect occupancy. Such estimates will yield invaluable information regarding the status of the jaguar at the northern edge of its range. Comparison of jaguar photos from past research efforts to those collected at new locations will also provide estimates of long-term movement abilities for individuals (McCain and Childs 2008). Such information is not only important for estimating the gene flow of jaguars in Mexico, but also for judging their dispersal potential into the U.S.

Reducing conflict will be the key for successful jaguar conservation in Sonora, as illustrated by the comments of a local vaquero who has been working as a deer hunting guide and depredation technician on some of the ranches in our study area. “Using cameras on every ranch may not be such a good thing,” he says, “because some people may not be so jaguar or puma friendly. Once they find out they do have jaguars or pumas on their land, and where they are, well ….” Given such local sentiments, conservation organizations will need to balance science with human concerns as part of fully collaborative projects such as ours if jaguars are to survive in northern Mexico.

For a full bibliography and additional information about jaguar research, go to www.wildlife.org.

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U.S.-Mexico Border Fence Package, The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2011