Bat biologist Debbie Buecher said there are 28 species of bats in Arizona, and while doing research for her master’s degree, she caught 17 in Sabino Canyon.
Not only do bats play an important role in reducing mosquito and other insect populations, but they also pollinate local plants such as saguaros.
Buecher said when asked what bats threatened in the ’80s, she would discuss sleep disruption, but now she’s focusing on habitat loss, groundwater pumping and wind power.
“They started to find dead bats [by wind turbines]† But there were no broken bones, it wasn’t like being hit by a turbine. What had happened is that behind those turbines as they spin, there’s a vacuum, and the bats fly in and it collapses in their lungs and they just fall out of the sky,” Buecher said.
She said this happens when the wind is low, the blades are turning and bats are feeding. Some biologists are trying to address the problem by working with the wind farms to adjust the blades so they don’t spin during periods of low energy intake.
In a similar vein, fish biologist Doug Duncan of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the Gila Topminnow, which is found in the Santa Cruz River near Tucson and Nogales, was once considered the “most common native species in the Lower Colorado River Basin.” , but now it is considered endangered.
Duncan said the loss of waterways and groundwater pumps threatens the species — “fish need quite a bit of water” — and non-native sportfish introduced into local lakes ate little Gila Topminnow.
There is some hope for the Gila Topminnow. After cleaning up the water quality, the species returns to the Santa Cruz River.
A 2019 petition to remove the fish from the endangered list or downgrade it to endangered is still under analysis by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but should be resolved in the coming year.
The wildlife crossing bridge over Oracle Road north of Oro Valley has been used by local wildlife at least 15,000 times since its construction. Carolyn Campbell of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection said about 20 years ago that voters approved the Regional Transportation Authority’s plan, which included funding for wildlife infrastructure, such as underpasses or overpasses, and that funding built the wildlife crossings on Oracle Road. .
Ganesh Marin, a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona, also focuses on how animals move through ecosystems.
He looks at which mountain corridors certain animals, such as jaguars, prefer. He said diversity needs water, so movement is also linked to the loss of cooler environments.
“Therefore we lose the opportunity to have more jaguars because of climate change, and if we lose the rivers, the streams and the riparian areas, we lose connectivity between different mountain peaks and this could be critical for the maintenance of the population on the long term,” said Marin.
Diana Hadley is the co-chair of the Northern Jaguar Project in Sonora, Mexico, about 100 miles south of Douglas, Arizona. The goal of the 58,000-acre sanctuary is not only to preserve the habitat of the jaguar, but also to reduce conflict with humans.
“We would like to see jaguars return to their former habitat in the United States along the international border,” Hadley said.
They work with local Sonoran farmers to avoid harming jaguars, mountain lions, ocelots, and bobcats, or the big cats’ prey base.
The project, Hadley said, has also shown that jaguars do not attack the livestock of ranchers in Sonora.
Hadley said she hopes the project can be expanded and more habitat for jaguars can be restored.