Animal safe passage project expands to Edgewood
A $1.2 million animal crossing and protection area is planned
along I-40 and NM 333 between Edgewood and Mountain Valley
The federally funded project, similar to the Tijeras Canyon
safe crossing area, will include fencing, electro mats, tree
thinning, and animal crossing warning signs. The Tijeras Canyon
Safe Passage Coalition is pushing for creation of open space
alongside the stretch of highway.
“The scheduled production date, which includes the
plans and a finalized publication so contractors can bid on
the project, should be complete by the end of July,”
Jeff Fredine, state Department of Transportation environmental
specialist, said. “Construction should begin by late
A feasibility study last year showed the Edgewood area to
be a hot spot for animal collisions. The goal is to cut collisions
to a minimum. Fredine discussed the project at Wildlife West
in Edgewood in June.
Mark Fahey, a Department of Transportation official who worked
on the Tijeras project, stressed the importance of monitoring
the corridor. ”Monitoring is the best way we can evaluate
the effectiveness of these measures,” he said. Fahey
said drivers should watch for animals along the highway and
notify the state Department of Game and Fish of sightings.
He said of the Tijeras installation, “The principal
goal, so far, is being achieved, and that is to keep large
animals off the interstate.” Fencing and signs have
only been up six months. “It is too early to have any
definitive data,” Fahey said.
Mark Watson, of state Game and Fish, said, “We’re
asking citizens that see mule deer or black bears that are
hit to report to me.” He can be reached at (505) 222-4700.
“To my knowledge, since the project went up, there have
been no mule deer collisions within the freeway where the
fencing occurs,” he said.
Watson said motion detectors are still being calibrated by
Econolite. “If an animal moves into the range of the
camera, it triggers the blinking lights to provide drivers
with real-time warning. Initially they were staying on more
than they should have.”
Watson said the lights located near A. Montoya Elementary
School will always blink when a car drives by, but the other
lights farther east should only be triggered by wildlife.
He said mule deer and other large animals will cross I-40
beneath the overpasses, but smaller game will use the many
culverts and tunnels to cross. He said animals need to travel
between the Sandia and Manzano mountains to ensure a constant
Watson recommended people and pets stay clear of crossing
areas because otherwise wildlife may be driven to using unsafe
areas. He said electro mats laid into the pavement prevent
animals from straying into unsafe areas. “They will
shock you if you’re barefoot,” he said. Switches
may be installed to allow people to turn off the electric
current while crossing the mats.
This article originally appeared in the June
4-10, 2008 issue of The Independent.
New Mexico man killed by mountain lion
—NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND FISH
Game and Fish officers and U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services agents
used dogs and snares on June 23 in a continuing effort to
find or catch a mountain lion that killed and apparently ate
parts of a Pinos Altos man last week. Medical investigators
confirmed Monday that Robert Nawojski, 55, died from injuries
sustained in a mountain lion attack near his home in a wooded
area of Pinos Altos north of Silver City.
It was determined that Nawojski, who according to relatives
like to bathe and shave on a rock ledge about 60 yards from
his house, was attacked just below that ledge. The lion then
apparently dragged the body a short distance, and then ate
and buried parts of it. A Department of Game and Fish officer
initially was called to the scene Thursday night when a search
team looking for Nawojski found a mountain lion near the trailer
home. The officer shot and wounded the lion after it would
not leave the yard. After the lion ran off, the officer discovered
the door to the house open, the water running, and Nawojski's
false teeth on the table.
Nawojski became only the second human fatality involving
a mountain lion attack in recent New Mexico history. In January
1974, an 8-year-old boy from Arroyo Seco was killed by an
emaciated 47-pound female lion. There are 2,000 to 3,000 mountain
lions in New Mexico.
Love takes to the less-traveled road
—RANDY UDALL, WRITERS ON THE RANGE
The cops shot a cougar in Chicago a month ago.
DNA tests suggested the young male may have begun his journey
in the Black Hills of South Dakota, 1,000 miles away. If so,
he roamed across three big states, looking for love.
Earlier this winter, an automatic camera set up by a biologist
photographed a wolverine in a forest north of Lake Tahoe.
This was jaw dropping—the first documented wolverine
sighting in California in 85 years. Hair samples suggested
this vagabond may have come from as far away as Idaho’s
Scientists suspect these pioneers are following stream courses,
figuring it out as they go much the way Lewis and Clark did,
though without the help of Sacagawea. I imagine it’s
harder for a cougar to reach Chicago than it is for a climber
to summit Everest. Wisconsin is awash in whitetails, but even
at today’s lofty gasoline prices Eisenhower’s
interstates are a shooting gallery. Try crossing I-10 in Phoenix
on foot and you get the idea.
Rare animal sightings make my day. I root for lynx and ivory
bills and underdogs. If a wolf walks from Yellowstone to Colorado,
I’m going to cheer him on, because it’s a concrete
jungle out there. Most of these lone wayfarers are doomed
never to find mates. From a genetic perspective, a wolverine
in California is a zombie, one of the walking dead. But these
unusual peregrinations may become more common as oil becomes
more expensive and driving decreases. Diesel is four bucks
headed to five, gasoline is close to four. Pretty soon we
may have to sell it by the liter as they do in Europe. All
this may play havoc with our driving, but it will sure make
life easier for wandering animals.
The West is a vast landscape that cheap oil simultaneously
shrunk and inflated. You can drive from Denver to Reno in
a long day, but much of the landscape you pass through has
never been emptier. Conservation biologists call it the “semi-wild,”
and it has a bright future. The semi-wild is not the forest
primeval. It’s the land out back where no one goes anymore.
Our subdivision in western Colorado borders 1,600 acres of
BLM. Scrub oak, sagebrush encroaching on abandoned jeep roads,
turkey, bear, elk and coyote. There is a small creek where
you might find a rusty can, a broken green bottle, a deflated
party balloon that drifted in from the town park, an old fire
ring, a spent cartridge. This is where kids used to build
their forts and shoot 22s. Aging ranchers used to talk about
Three Toes, the last griz. Now, sociologists search for the
last kid in the woods, a mythological beast about as rare
as the yeti.
Today’s kids grow up in cars. A typical American soccer
mom drives the distance to the moon every 20 years. But after
a century of steady increases, vehicular miles traveled in
the United States have leveled off at 3 trillion a year. MasterCard
says gasoline sales have recently been down by an astounding
Cheap oil is not endangered; it is extinct. From now on,
we’re bidding against the Chinese, and by 2010, the
strike price may be $180 a barrel, which means gasoline will
be $5 the gallon. Diesel might well be $6. That’s a
different world for long-distance commuters, airlines, tractor-reliant
ranchers and farmers, semi-truck drivers, grocery shoppers,
house-boat operators on Lake Powell, owners of gargantuan
RVs. Traffic jams in Glacier National Park might ease, and
Las Vegas’ growth may slow. U.S. 50, the “loneliest
road in America,” may get lonelier.
Since 1985, we Americans have been consuming 40 percent of
Mexico’s oil. Most of it is produced at Cantarell, a
giant field created by the same asteroid strike that may have
killed the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, Cantarell and Alaska’s
Prudhoe Bay are well on their way to being spent cartridges.
Within a decade, Mexico won’t be exporting any oil.
This might mean boom times for a different type of coyote.
More expensive oil could lead to a surge in animal travel,
and in fact, it’s already begun. Wolves are moving down
from Minnesota into a northern Wisconsin made wild again by
a stern combination of ticks, black flies and Lyme disease.
So, prowl on young cougar. Your wandering gives me pleasure.
To the east lies Illinois, a promised land. As for the last
kid in the woods, you go, girl. Peak oil should be good for
Randy Udall is a contributor to Writers on
the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org).