We now have our transects numbered and their GPS coordinates recorded, so with our trained staff of volunteers we can now begin collecting official data. Those of you who have are still building up hours in the field, and who need to attend additional training(s) are of course still welcome to come with us when we go out to monitor. That said, I’ll need to ask you all for the times this month (January) that you are willing and able to go out monitoring. I know the weather may be a factor, but we’ll try to set a couple of dates for January and see if the weather is decent enough on those days to go out for a couple of hours.
The main purpose of the monitoring is to be able to tell a credible story, to our community, to the scientific community, and the public agencies, about the wildlife in our area. Track and sign identification is one way to be able to tell this story. We are also using motion triggered cameras as well to help tell this story of the animals who live here with us. As we increase our abilities to observe and record what we see, hear, feel and think, we can then tell a more complete story, one that grows in complexity but also in clarity.
Here is a great new video from the
Freedom to Roam – Rick Ridgeway on Wildlife Corridors from Patagonia’s Tin Shed, search for it on YouTube.
This past year could be called, “the year of the bobcat” in the Placitas area, we had numerous sightings all over the area, from the freeway all the way up to the National Forest and everywhere in between. We also had great anecdotal evidence of bears, mountain lions, and deer, again in a wide range of territory. These are definitely the animals we want to be monitoring, as their health is directly related to the health of our mountains. The health of the animals and plants is tied together very closely.
The anecdotal evidence (news of animal sightings by ourselves and neighbors) is very important to the Pathways citizen scientist project. This information helps direct and coordinate our scientific monitoring effort, which is limited in size and scope, to be more efficient and cost effective. So keep those stories coming in! Record (by using an anecdotal data sheet) and photograph or video these stories as well, you know what they say about a picture (a thousand words), or a camera (doesn’t lie).
Our focus at Pathways is on the wildlife “corridors” or pathways, between the mountains of New Mexico. Our focal species are the Black Bear, Mule Deer, Mountain Lion, Bobcat, Elk and Pronghorn (Antelope). These mammals need to be able to move periodically between the mountains to survive and maintain their genetic viability. In our monitoring efforts, we want to record our local Sandia mountain populations of these animals, as well as monitor their movements to and from the Jemez and Sange de Cristo mountains to the north. Radio collars require a costly NM Game and Fish study, which they can’t afford at this time. What they (we) really can’t afford is to lose these animal populations. We are using track and sign monitoring as well as camera traps (motion sensitive cameras) to record these populations and their movements.
Each bit of data that we record is valuable because: 1. There is very little to no data currently available for most of these animals 2. Data gathered now can be used again and again by various agencies, scientists, and conservation groups. 3. The older the data becomes, does not decrease its value, but in some cases, increases it. 4. Most of these animals are “invisible” to the general public, this data makes them “visible”, like CO2 was invisible, but now since its been measured so much by so many scientists, the data has prompted action on a wide scale.
As tempting as it is to just “let animals be a secret”, the fact is that we humans usually don’t change our behavior until it is measured, shown to us, and the alternate behavior is shown to be a benefit to us. Even all of this measuring and showing doesn’t guarantee a positive change in behavior (even when we know something is bad for us we sometimes do it anyway), but it does have some success, and this is one of the methods we are using to effect positive change for the animals, and ourselves.