Friday, November 7, 2014

Living with Coyotes

by Kevin Bixby
We live in coyote country. We built our homes in their habitat. Given how adaptable coyotes are, it’s not surprising that they now live among us. Consider them the price of admission for living in the desert.

For some of us, they are not just the ticket but a big part of the show as well. Who doesn’t enjoy the sound of their maniacal yips and howls on a moonlit night?
But coyotes do more than entertain us--they play an important role in maintaining natural ecosystems.

Coyotes are intelligent, opportunistic predators. They consume prodigious quantities of small mammals, including rodents that carry human diseases such as Hantavirus and plague. They also eat fruits (including juniper berries), vegetables, insects, birds, eggs, and carrion--which helps to keep ecosystems healthy.
Most of the time there is no reason to worry about coyotes. Although naturally curious, coyotes are normally timid and run away if confronted. The trouble starts when coyotes begin to view our neighborhoods as places where they can reliably find the things they need: food, water and shelter.

Fortunately, there are measures people can take to protect their pets and make sure coyotes keep their distance. The first step is to get rid of things that attract coyotes. It goes without saying that you should never feed coyotes. Like all wild animals, coyotes that learn to associate food with humans may become aggressive and demanding. Nor should you leave out food or water for pets.

Don’t put up large birdfeeders either—the seeds attract rodents. Make sure not to leave out garbage, compost, or anything else that coyotes might consider edible. Remove brush piles that could shelter small animals. Repair holes in fences. You might also want to check out a product called the “coyote roller” that claims to prevent coyotes from jumping over fences.
Keep your dog indoor at night, and always supervise your dog when it’s outside, especially at dawn and dusk. (The only way to keep a cat safe is to keep it indoors all the time.) If you have to leave your dog outside, make sure it’s in a fully enclosed kennel. Don’t allow your dog to play or interact with coyotes.

If coyotes approach too close you can use a variety of hazing techniques to scare them away, such as shaking a soda can full of coins, blowing a whistle, shouting, clapping or waving your hands. Some experts even recommend popping an umbrella—coyotes apparently don’t like surprises.

Although occasional attacks by coyotes on pets are to be expected, there might be something else behind the recent spate of coyote incidents in Sonoma Ranch.

Wildlife-killing contests are organized events in which participants compete for prizes to see who can kill the most animals. There have been at least two such contests in the Las Cruces area in the past month targeted at coyotes. These events have the potential to disrupt coyote populations in ways that can lead to more conflicts with humans.

Coyotes are territorial. Family groups defend their territory against other coyotes. Research shows that the indiscriminate removal of coyotes from the population, as occurs in coyote killing contests, has no long term impact on coyote numbers, but can lead to increased predation on pets and livestock in a number of ways.

First, more pups survive because there is temporarily more food to go around for the coyotes that are not killed. With more mouths to feed, but fewer members of the pack to help provision them, coyotes are more likely to venture nearer human settlements and go after larger and more vulnerable prey items, such as pets and livestock.

Secondly, removing resident territory holders allows younger, transient coyotes to move in. Not only does this eventually result in a population rebound, since younger animals have more pups, but it also leads to more conflicts since younger, naive coyotes are more likely to seek “novel” prey items.

I don’t know for sure that the recent coyote-killing contests had anything to do with the problems at Sonoma Ranch, but it is certainly possible—just one more reason to make these barbaric activities illegal.

Wildlife-killing contests serve no legitimate management purpose. They are little more than target practice with live animals conducted by people who like to kill things for fun. They are legal because nearly half of New Mexico’s wildlife species are not protected by law. It is time for New Mexico to recognize the value of all of its wildlife and make killing contests illegal.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall Updates from the Franklin Mountains State Park

Park Ranger News: 

At the end of August, one of your park rangers, Ranger Weickhardt, returned from a month-long National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course in Yukon, Canada. The course was geared towards outdoor educators and included lessons in environmental ethics and stewardship, leave no trace principles, risk management, wilderness conservation, leadership, back country cooking,
land navigation and map reading, as well as technical mountain and river skills to name a few.  She, along with 11 other students and 3 instructors, spent 30 days backpacking and whitewater canoeing along an exploratory route through remote wilderness of the Yukon Territory.  They were fully
self-supported, carrying all of their food and gear for the duration of the course.  They paddledover 200 kilometers along lakes, streams, and rivers at times encountering seemingly endless series of beaver dams; these required rope systems, muscle and teamwork to hoist the 300+ pound boats loaded with gear up and over, or underneath and through the log jams.  During the middle segment of the course, they traversed 50 kilometers of the Logan Mountains in 10 days following caribou
trails, steep ridges and talus slopes, through breath taking open valleys, and bushwhacked through dense mountain sides. 

Ranger Weickhardt will also be giving a presentation about her course experience, including photos, stories, skills and lessons learned at the 2014 Franklin Mountains SP Volunteer Orientation and Campout – October 11-12th. 

This year’s orientation is full of exciting topics and special guest speakers and experts in a variety of fields; topics include:  Botany of the Franklin Mountains, Bug Appreciation, Geology of the Franklin Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert Reptiles, Birding 101, Dutch Oven 101 – Camp Cooking, Wilderness First Aid, and a great presentation from one of our speakers’ expeditions on Mt. Everest!  Now’s a perfect time to volunteer for the Franklin Mountains State Park; we’ve got many wonderful opportunities to get you involved with throughout the year and a fun, comprehensive orientation just around the corner to prepare you.  Call (915) 566-6441 to get more information or email Ranger Weickhardt:

We look forward to seeing you on the mountains soon!

A Decade of Conservation

by Janae’ Reneaud Field

The Frontera Land Alliance will be celebrating a decade of conservation at Thunder Canyon, November 1, 2014. We will be celebrating with tours, talks, and wild animals on the site of our first-ever conservation easement at Thunder Canyon. We’ll also be thanking Frontera’s many sponsors, volunteers and supporters over the past 10 years and presenting the annual Rock Award.  Please come out and enjoy the beautiful day! Frontera’s Annual Meeting will be held at Thunder Canyon on Saturday, November 1st, from 9-noon. Directions: Thunder Canyon: From Mesa St. take a right onto Shadow Mountain, then a right onto Pebble Beach Drive. Follow this road around to Oak Cliff Drive where you will take a right. Oak Cliff Dr. dead ends at Thunder Canyon.

For More Info: Call the office at Phone: 915-351-8352 or Email:

Join us for the 10th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta

Make plans now to attend the 10th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta on Saturday, September 20. Live desert animals from the El Paso Zoo, guided tours, and a full slate of local entertainment promises to make the 10th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta a fun day for all. The free event at the Tom Mays section of Franklin Mountains State Park is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the help of volunteers from the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. Every year the event attracts hundreds of people to the desert mountain park in northwest El Paso.

The outdoor venue celebrates the natural wonders of the Chihuahuan desert and Franklin Mountains State Park. Local environmental education groups will be on hand to offer free demonstrations, guided tours, guest speakers and informational booths designed to introduce the curious to the wonders of our fascinating desert.

For more information visit the website,, or contact Rick LoBello at

Stop Further Development in Crazy Cat (Palisades)

by Ellen Esposito

Since its inception in 1992, the Mission Hills Association has been working diligently to monitor development of the Crazy Cat and adjacent mountain areas adjacent to Mission Hills, Piedmont Hills, Ridgecrest Estates, etc. Twice we have advocated for the preservation of the mountainside above the east side of O’Keefe Dr. and have prevailed. New plans for a development called Kern View Estates 2 were scheduled to be presented to City Council on August 19, 2014. The plans, which were approved by the City Planning Commission, call for the construction of 60 townhouse units on this site.

City Council has postponed review of the site plan for 60 days in order to get an appraisal of the property and have time to speak with the landowner, Piedmont Group LLC, regarding a possible sale of the property to the city and/or a property improvement district (PID).  Updates on the status are being posted on the Mission Hills Facebook  We continue to request that friends of the mountain send letters opposing the site development plan to Mayor Leeser and their city council representative.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Promote your Organization

The El Paso Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico is hosting the New Mexico State Meeting August 1 and 2 at Canutillo High School.

We would like to offer you an opportunity to promote your organization at our conference.
We would like to offer sister not for profit organizations a table and two chairs for sharing information about your organization. If you do not sell anything, there will be no charge for participating. If you sell anything, you will be charged $25.00 for your space.

Table attendants who register for the meeting will be able to attend conference sessions and enjoy meal and snack activities. Table attendants who do not register will not be able to attend sessions or participate in food functions.

Program information and registration materials are available at Click on Events for details.

For additional information, contact Jim Hastings at,, 915-240-7414 or Kathy Barton at, 915-592-1705.

The healing power of our mountains and what they mean to our veterans

by Rick LoBello

Soon after Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument was created by President Obama's use of the Antiquities Act, a blog post by Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain West
Coordinator of the Vet Voice Foundation reminded me of some comments I heard in Las Cruces.  Earlier this year Secretary of the Interior Salley Jewell came to meet with local folks and
stakeholders about the proposed national monument.  Many who spoke out at the public meeting were Veterans, and they reminded all of us of the healing power of mountains for soldiers
returning from the battlefield and all the stresses of adjusting back to civilian life. It was very
clear to me then and today that often times we do not think about how the mountains we want
to protect are perfect locales for fighting pain and mental stresses, not just for everyday folks,
but also for our Veterans.  Reppenhagen reminds all of us of this when he wrote “Veterans across America thank New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich for introducing legislation to help
call attention to this wondrous land, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for taking the time to
visit the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region and listening to the input of Las Cruces area

When I was growing up many of my uncles and my grandfather were Veterans of World Wars I, II and the Korean War.  When they returned home nearly all of them spent their weekends
roaming the mountains of Western New York State on camping trips and during the hunting and fishing seasons.   As I look back on that time I realize how important these mountains were to my family as they dealt with the everyday stresses of not only adjusting to civilian life, but also to
life in general.

Mountains have always been a source of healing in my own life and in to the lives of so many of
my friends.  Here in El Paso we must not forget that we have thousands of Veterans who have
recently returned from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.   They too need the healing
power of these mountains, not just in the Organs, but in the Franklin Mountains as well. 

When we talk to our friends and relatives and elected officials we should bring this point up to
them and remind them that working to protect our natural heritage is not only important to our
ecosystem, but also to the mental well-being of those who have fought for their country and
helped to protect our freedoms.  And let us not forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, they
have families here who need our mountains too.