Leaving the Huachucas

On Saturday 11/14/2020 my trail partner, and fellow Master Naturalist, Deb Huie (C1) and I pulled our UofA/USGS trail cameras from the Huachuca Mountains. We’d been monitoring these sites for spotted cat activity (Jaguar and ocelot) since late 2016. Deb called it a “bittersweet day” because although it is a very tough 4 wheel drive approach and even harder hike we had grown to love this beautiful, remote area under all sorts of weather and conditions. But we also knew it was time for a new adventure. We’ll continue our Citizen Science work in the Whetstones.

While the Huachuca’s are excellent habitat for both cats we hadn’t had a detection on either of our sites since March 2017. The attached photos are of that individual male and, unfortunately, that of his eventual poaching when he returned to Northern Mexico. The rosettes on a jaguar’s coat are like fingerprints so individuals can even be recognized with a good photograph. This loss was heart breaking for us but also made us all the more determined to do everything we can to expand and protect their habitat in the U.S.


The Project (Directed by Dr. Melanie Culver) has cameras in all the major mountain ranges along La Frontera (The Borderlands) from the Baboquivaris to the Peloncillos. Many of the sites are remote but there are also some closer to Jeep roads and the Arizona Trail. We are always looking for dedicated volunteers. Film (SD cards) needs to be retrieved and batteries replaced (3-4) times a year.

Garden Canyon on Fort Huachuca is where we accessed our sites. One site was actually within Fort boundaries and the other was out a wilderness gate into the Coronado National Forest. The site on the Fort was complicated because…. well its the U.S. Army. Garden Canyon is a little known, but beautiful, recreation area that has tremendous hiking, birding and even pictographs. The area is open to the public on the weekends and during the week if there is no “live fire” on the Fort’s shooting ranges. Unless you have military privileges you’ll have to obtain a day pass at the Fort Huachuca Main Gate. But it’s easy to do! There are also some great museums on the Fort including one dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers. Unfortunately no camping unless you hike past the Fort’s wilderness boundaries.

With one of our old sites above 8600 feet, we sometimes had to contend with some challenging conditions. Here’s Deb in February 2020 post-holing her way up above 8,000 ft.

This past Saturday was gorgeous although we probably missed ideal Fall foliage by about two weeks. Here are some of Deb’s pictures over the last couple of years.

Finally here are some examples of the abundance of wildlife on this incredible Sky Island.

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot” Aldo Leopold

If you are interested in participating in the project contact me personally or through the email of the President of the Pima County Chapter, Arizona Master Naturalists.

Franklin Lane

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