Electric fencing, highway
mats give wildlife safer passage in Tijeras Canyon
Deer and other wildlife can now commute more
safely between habitats in the Sandia and Manzano mountains east
of Albuquerque with the activation of electric fencing and highway
mats designed to provide the animals safe passage over and below
I-40 and NM 333, formerly Route 66.
Turning on the power was among the final steps
in the development of a $750,000 system to reduce wildlife-vehicle
collisions along five miles through Tijeras Canyon.
Representatives of the New Mexico Department
of Game and Fish, the Department of Transportation, the Tijeras
Canyon Safe Passage Coalition, and the Wild Friends group gathered
Tuesday for the ceremonial “flip of the switch.” The
electrical system is a vital component of the project, which also
includes about seven-foot wildlife-proof fencing, passages under
existing overpasses, warning signs and solar-powered motion-detecting
cameras that turn on highway caution lights.
“This is the only system of its kind
in New Mexico and among only a few in the United States,”
said Mark Watson, a habitat specialist with the Department of Game
and Fish. “We’re expecting it to significantly reduce
vehicle-wildlife collisions in Tijeras Canyon and reconnect Sandia
and Manzano mountain wildlife habitats.”
The project has roots in the 2003 Legislature
and House Joint Memorial 3, sponsored by Representative Mimi Stewart
and supported by the conservation group Wild Friends. The memorial
directed the Department of Game and Fish and the Department of Transportation
to work together to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in New Mexico.
“Safety was a key issue when tackling
this project,” said Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught.
“This particular wildlife crossing was identified among the
four highest risk areas in the state where large game animals and
vehicles collide. With the additions to the new corridor, we are
creating a safe passage for wildlife and safe travel for people.”
The Electrobraid fencing is designed to deliver
a mild shock to animals that touch it, discouraging them from passing
through. The fences consist of several horizontal strands of black
rope-like material that is about a half-inch in diameter. The fence
can deliver a six- to seven-thousand-volt, four milliamp shock for
3/10,000th of a second—enough to sting, but not seriously
harm a human. The fence will be monitored by satellite twenty-four
hours a day by the Electrobraid Fence Company in New Brunswick,
The project also includes seven Electro-mats,
which are built into roadways and act like electrical cattle guards,
preventing wildlife or other animals from crossing. The approximately
four-foot-wide mats span the roadways in five locations along NM
333 and across the I-40 on- and off-ramps at Tijeras. The mats along
NM 333 are designed to encourage wildlife to cross the road in designated
areas where motion-detecting cameras and caution lights will alert
motorists to slow down when wildlife are present. The on- and off-ramp
mats are designed to keep wildlife off the freeway. Twelve specially-designed
escape ramps were constructed in case animals somehow become trapped
inside the fencing along I-40.
Pedestrians wearing shoes will be able to safely
walk across the Electro-mats. Bicyclists also can safely cross the
mats. However, the mats will deliver shocks to dogs, horses, or
people without shoes.
The additions to the wildlife corridor were
included in the $27 million GRIP I-40 Carnuel-to-Tijeras project.
Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership, or GRIP, is
a $1.6 billion transportation initiative aimed at improving the
state’s highways while creating thousands of local jobs.
The Department of Game and Fish will monitor
Phase I of the system to evaluate its effectiveness in reducing
vehicle-wildlife collisions and directing wildlife to safe passages
across and under the highways. Should it prove to be ineffective,
the Department of Transportation’s Phase II and Phase III
strategies call for more passages, possibly including a land bridge
Antelope-killing spree earns poachers jail time,
Calling the offenses “a serial act of terrorism against
the people of Colfax and Union counties,” a judge sentenced
two Texas men who went on a 2006 antelope-killing spree to ninety
days in jail and ordered each to pay $10,750 in criminal and civil
Colfax County District Judge John P. Paternoster sentenced Fort
Worth residents Kolby Knight, 21, and Jonathon Seamen, 22, on August
29 after plea agreements. Both men’s rifles were surrendered
to the Department of Game and Fish and the judge ordered the men
to write apology letters to the citizens of Colfax and Union counties
to be published in local newspapers.
Department of Game and Fish officers received an anonymous call
on November 6, 2006, that Knight and Seamen were returning to Fort
Worth from a hunting trip in Idaho and that they planned to kill
pronghorn antelope as they traveled from Raton to Clayton.
An undercover officer quickly found the silver Cadillac Escalade
described by the informant. The officer watched and heard rifle
shots as the vehicle stopped near groups of antelope along the highway.
Department officers stopped the vehicle in Clayton and found Knight
and Seamen in possession of a deer head that was illegally killed
in Idaho. Officers later found five antelope that had been killed
by the pair and also found where Knight and Seamen had tried to
hide two antelope heads they were planning to take to Texas. Officers
also matched ballistic evidence found along the ninety-mile crime
scene with the rifles carried by Knight and Seamen.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Paternoster said he was amazed
that no one was killed by the bullets shot along the highway that
day and that he will always remember the two poachers as he drives
the highway from Raton to Clayton and sees all the beautiful antelope.
If you have any information about wildlife crimes, please call
your local conservation officer or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-GAME
(4263). Callers can remain anonymous and can receive rewards for
information leading to the arrest or charges filed upon wildlife
Hard times for trout and anglers at McAllister
McAllister Lake, the beautiful New Mexico playa
lake and a popular fishing spot near Las Vegas, has come on hard
times this year. With hot summer temperatures and an accidental
diversion of water, the trout in the lake reached their boiling
point and died.
“McAllister Lake is really on the threshold for trout in
New Mexico,” says Eric Frey, Northeast Area Fisheries Manager.
“Because the lake is so shallow, summer heat causes marginal
water quality for trout survival.”
The fish kill was reported to the Department of Game and Fish
on June 22. An investigation determined that high water temperatures
and low oxygen levels likely killed all the trout in the lake.
So what led to this disaster? There were actually several factors,
including natural and man-made problems.
Each year, a water allotment is diverted into McAllister Lake from
the Storrie Lake Project, but this year personnel changes in the
Department caused a miscommunication and no water was requested
from the Storrie Lakes Water Users to be released into the lake.
Lower than usual water levels meant that warmer summer days quickly
made warmer water. However, biologists said that even with the additional
water, a fish kill may have occurred this year.
AERATION SYSTEM NEEDS REPAIR
One reason trout have thrived in McAllister Lake is an elaborate
aeration system installed in 1989, designed to provide enough dissolved
oxygen to avoid frequent fish die-offs during hot summer months.
The system of air pumps and hundreds of feet of tubing continually
stirs the lake and keeps the oxygen levels high enough for trout
To protect the aeration system’s tubing, the Department
of Game and Fish does not allow boat anchors in the lake. However,
year after year biologists find the tubing pulled and tangled by
anchors. On shore, all-terrain vehicles damaged the system lines,
and rodents infested the aeration pump house. Replacing the system
is an expensive effort that could be damaged again by a few illegally-placed
TOO MANY CARP
This year, the Department also began receiving complaints about
too many carp in McAllister Lake. Anglers reported that they were
catching nothing but carp. Biologists found that the carp not only
were an irritation to some anglers but also apparently were contributing
to a decline in the aquatic vegetation. The vegetation acts as habitat
for smaller fish, filters the water, and helps improve the water’s
clarity. The Department removed four hundred carp from the lake
this year, but huge numbers remain.
Any effort to remove carp from the lake will be addressed in a step-wise
approach that could include netting, fish toxicants, and allowing
the lake to dry.
McAllister Lake has been a very popular fishing spot for many years.
It was stocked with bass and other warm water fish until the late
1940s, when the Department began to stock trout. From 1997 to 2004,
the Game and Fish Department estimated angler use from 18,413 to
49,926 visits per year. McAllister has ranked in the top fifty waters
statewide for angling use. With proper management and a working
aeration system, the lake can provide good growth rates for trout.
Department of Game and Fish biologists and administrators will
be working on a plan of action this winter with hopes of making
improvements to the lake as soon as possible. Funding and water
will be key issues in determining how soon McAllister Lake will
be back in the fishing report and producing trout for anglers’
For more information about McAllister Lake, please
contact the Department of Game and Fish Northeast Area Office in
Raton at (505) 445-2311.