Wild+Life is a new monthly e-newsletter with news about wildlife-watching activities, wildlife natural history, habitat and research projects benefitting wildlife, fun facts and upcoming events.
In This Issue
- Walk on the Wild Side: Muleshoe Ranch
- Give Back to Wildlife: Join the Great Backyard Bird Count
- Fast Facts: 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count
- This Wild Life: Counting Ferrets
- Did You Know?
- Give Back to Wildlife: Volunteer to Spotlight Ferrets
- Mark Your Calendar: Guided Bird Walks
- Video of the Month
There’s a special place about 30 miles northwest of Willcox that draws wildlife watchers, ecotourists, day-hikers and backcountry enthusiasts from all over. At 49,120 acres, Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area has plenty of room for people who want to experience remoteness, diverse wildlife and a fascinating interplay of habitats.
Muleshoe encompasses most of the watershed area for seven permanently flowing streams, representing some of the best remaining aquatic habitat in southeast Arizona. Nine species of endangered native fish that live in these streams. Coati, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, ringtail, deer, bear, bighorn sheep and myriad insects, reptiles and amphibians are drawn to the area. Over 200 different species of birds visit annually. The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management and Coronado National Forest work together to manage Muleshoe, conserving and enhancing its ecosystems and protecting endangered species.
The cooperative management area has 22 miles of hiking trails to explore. Public parking, maps and information are at the day-use parking lot south of the main gate. No camping or overnight parking is permitted at headquarters, but some backcountry camping is allowed, and Willcox is not far away. Contact Muleshoe Ranch for details at 520-212-4295 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.nature.org/muleshoe for more information.
Do you have 15 minutes for birds? On Feb. 17–20, take part in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s a citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds, creating an annual “snapshot” of bird abundance and distribution. How many birds are we seeing? Which species? Where?
Participation is simple. For at least 15 minutes on one or more bird-count days, tally the numbers and species of birds you see. You don’t have to have a great backyard to participate. You can count from anywhere in the world. But to submit a checklist, you must have a free online account at www.eBird.org.
The Bird Count is not just for people who enjoy counting birds. On the website, you can also explore what others are seeing during the count, in your area or around the world.
How does this project help birds? Scientists use information from this and other citizen-science efforts to get the “big picture” about what is happening to dynamic, ever-changing bird populations. Learn more at gbbc.birdcount.org.
Participants in 2016: 163,763 (estimated)
Bird checklists submitted: 162,052
Total species reported: 5,689, more than half of the world’s known bird species
Top 10 most frequently reported species: dark-eyed junco, Northern cardinal, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, blue jay, American goldfinch, house finch, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, American crow. Note: These are all North American species, reflecting high participation by this region.
“I started volunteering with the Arizona Game and Fish Department on the Black-Footed Ferret Reintroduction Program about two years ago. It took a year before I caught a ferret, but that was a night I will always remember.
To find these wily little critters, you drive down a predetermined route at less than 5 mph, shining a spotlight out your windows, sometimes in below-freezing weather, hoping to catch a glimpse of green eyeshine. Once the eyeshine has been determined to be a ferret, you follow that ferret to the hole it scurries down. When you’re sure it’s the right hole, you set a trap and plug nearby holes with large plastic drink cups so the ferret doesn’t have an escape route. Then you check the trap every hour or so. Did I mention badgers have the same color eyeshine as ferrets?
One night, while driving down a stretch of road shining the spotlight out the windows, project technician Heather Heimann advised me she saw eyeshine. We stopped the vehicle and got out. The black-footed ferret stared right at us as it attempted to determine what to do, then ran for the nearest hole and dove down.
We were getting traps and markers out of the truck when the ferret popped up to see if we were still there. It darted from one hole to another, and the game was on. We followed it to the next hole, which it tried to dive into. It hit its head on something, bounced back out and ran to another hole.
As we followed with the spotlight, we noticed what the ferret had bumped its head on: another black-footed ferret. We now had two confirmed sightings in one area. I followed the original ferret to the next hole, while Heather stayed at the second ferret’s location. What did we see then? Another ferret, popping its head out of yet another hole. So while I had not caught a black-footed ferret in the year leading up to this trip, I must admit my first capture was epic.
While volunteering on this program, I have spotted elk, pronghorn, bobcats, javelinas, rabbits, badgers, porcupines, hawks, owls and coyotes … oh, and black-footed ferrets.
Originally, I planned on this being something my daughter and I could do together. So far, my daughter has not made the trip; but I keep coming back.” –Robert Coonrod, Chandler
This Wild Life features stories of people, wildlife and the outdoors. Send your story to email@example.com. Please keep it short (under 400 words). Stories may be edited for length.
North America’s only native ferret, the black-footed ferret, lives in large prairie dog towns, preying on prairie dogs and living in their burrows. At one time thought to be extinct, it is now federally listed as an endangered species. The black-footed ferret was reintroduced to Arizona in 1996.
Interested in volunteering with the Black-footed Ferret Project? Volunteering requires three things: the ability to stay awake and attentive all night long, the ability to use GPS or learn how, and appropriate clothing and gear (including a flashlight or headlamp).
That’s it! You can volunteer for one night, several nights or an entire four-night event. The spring events are March 9–12 and April 6–9 in Aubrey Valley and on the Double O Ranch near Seligman, in northwestern Arizona. There are also events in autumn.
To learn more or sign up, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “spring spotlighting” in the subject line. In your email, let us know the month(s) and night(s) you’re interested in; indicate who else will volunteer with you (by providing their first and last name); tell us whether you can use your own vehicle and how many people it holds (4×4 vehicles are preferred but not required; mileage is tax deductible); and let us know whether you can bring GPS, a clipboard, a flashlight, a backpack, binoculars or a cordless rechargeable spotlight. –Jennifer Cordova, supervisor of the Black-footed Ferret Program.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum, near Superior (about one hour’s drive east from Phoenix)
Feb. 3, 4, 12, 17, 18 and 26, starting at 8:30 a.m.
Cost: Included in admission price ($12.50 for adults, $5 for ages 5–12)
Reservations: Not needed
Dozens of bird species are seen and heard at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum every week. Learn more about the area’s winter birds on guided walks led by experts, including Troy Corman and Cathy Wise (editors of the “Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas”).
Which critters made the cut to become Arizona’s official state bird, reptile, amphibian, mammal, fish and butterfly? To find out, watch this video, which shows all the “state critters.” It will fascinate your kids (and maybe you!). Watch it together on Statehood Day, Feb. 14, and help Arizona celebrate its 105th birthday!