Researchers have found a high mammal diversity along the waterways in Sonora, Mexico, which also includes some washes that lead toward the border into the United States, according to field conservationists with Cuenca Los Ojos, a partner with the Phoenix Zoo.
“It was a magical system—it’s a semi-arid grassland with a lot of hills and ridges,” TWS member Kinley Ragan, a field conservation research technician at the Phoenix Zoo, said, according to Wildlife.org.
Their team surveyed the region around Los Ojos, Mexico to determine a baseline for the mammal diversity there, according to a study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, setting up trail cameras on washes, areas temporarily flooded during monsoon season, as well as more perennial water sources.
The research collected footage of a jaguar (Panthera onca), which had it’s first sighting within the area around 25 years ago
“There’s a lot of biodiversity around the washes,” Ragan said. “Water is life there.”
American hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus) were among the most common species, with findings of three other species of skunks: striped (Mephitis mephitis), Western spotted (Spilogale gracilis) and hooded (M. macroura).
“It was exciting to see all four skunks existing there,” Ragan said.
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were the second most common species that were captured on video, and deer and cougars (Puma concolor) had opposite habitat preferences, per their findings.
“Really, they were using a variety of washes to move,” Ragan said, adding that all these waterways, permanent or temporary, are of vital importance for habitat connectivity in the area. “Diverse species need diverse habitat.”
“Many people think of the area around the U.S. border as being more of a wasteland,” she said. “There’s so much biodiversity, whether it’s mammals, birds, plants.”