Dr. Keith Geluso, a biology professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, had a hypothesis: the Gila River and its floodplain—with its natural flow regime—likely support a vast number of mammals. But there wasn’t much research. That’s why he set up a camera at our Gila Riparian Preserve near Silver City. Here is a sampling of what he discovered.
You can protect the Gila River and the many benefits it provides to nature and people. >>
New Mexico’s state animal, American black bear, made an early appearance.
No doubt this is a cougar passing by. The tail makes up a third of this large cat’s body length!
Speaking of tails, check out this white-nosed coati, a member of the raccoon family.
Desert cottontails are abundant in the Southwest. This arid-adapted rabbit's large ears help dissipate heat and keep individuals from overheating.
Collared peccary, also known as javelina, often cool off in wooded areas during the hottest part of the day. It’s also a good place to forage for plants.
The Gila River is famous for birding opportunities, but it’s not just neotropical migrators you can see. Raptors like this Cooper's hawk also thrive here.
This one was spotted in daytime, but common gray foxes are mostly nocturnal. They head out shortly after sunset to prey on small mammals like cottontail rabbits and ground-dwelling birds.
As you can imagine, nighttime brings more animals to the Gila Riparian Preserve trail. Here’s a white-backed hog-nosed skunk looking for a bite to eat. Both striped and western spotted skunk were also observed at the preserve.
And this bobcat showed up in a few photos, peering straight into the camera's lens. Unlike cougars, bobcat tails are extremely short. In fact, that’s how these black-tufted creatures got their name.
The above photos helped support Dr. Geluso’s hypothesis. Rivers with natural flows support a great diversity of mammals. Based on the Gila River Flow Needs Assessment’s sobering results, The Nature Conservancy believes there are better solutions—for the wildlife and people living in Southwest New Mexico—than costly diversion projects.