Pincushion Cactus
Pincushion Cactus

Twenty Years of Endangered Species

When the Malpai Group was getting started 20 years ago we really didn't plan on becoming endangered species experts.  Our region has one of the highest number of listed species known from any comparable area, with nearly 30 endangered species that live here full time, or migrate through during part of the year.  When we thought about endangered species at all, it was mostly to wonder what problems they would cause for us.  We certainly didn't think of them as an asset.  However, one-by-one, need arose to learn more about our listed species.  The Group's efforts have gradually taken a leading role in developing information about the ecology and management needs for several species. We discovered that in some situations their presence can actually be an aid to achieving our landscape goals.

Continued »


In early spring of 1996, Warner Glenn and his daughter Kelly were on a mountain lion hunt in the Peloncillo Mountains when they got on the trail of what appeared to be a large lion.  When Warner finally caught up to it, the “lion” turned out to be a jaguar.  As luck would have it, Warner had a full roll of film in his camera.  The photos he took of the jaguar were the first ever taken of a wild jaguar in the United States. Jaguars have occasionally been seen in Arizona over the years, one as far north as the Grand Canyon in 1932, but all seem to have been wandering individuals, with no clear evidence of a population north of the Mexican border. 

Continued »

New Mexico Ridge-Nose Rattlesnake

One of the Groups' major efforts has been to work with land managers to return fire to the landscape as a natural ecological process that is necessary to sustain and restore grassland and savanna woodland habitat. The early steps to accomplish this have been to plan a series of prescribed burns which are beginning to get vegetation structure back into a healthy equilibrium with periodic fire.

Continued »

Rio Yaqui Fishes

The San Bernardino Valley, on the West side of the Malpai region, is the northern   tip of the watershed for the Rio Yaqui, a river which flows for 300 miles south from here to its mouth on the Gulf of California. The species of fish found in the Rio Yaqui are different from any found in other rivers in the United States.

Continued »

The Lesser Long-Nosed Bat

The lesser long-nosed bat is a migratory species that spends the summer in the Malpai area. These bats spend most of the year to the south in Mexico, where they can find enough nectar and fruit from tropical trees to feed them through the winter.

Continued »

Chiricahua Leopard Frog

One of the first endangered species projects the Group got involved with was to help the Magoffin family develop reliable water for a Chiricahua leopard frog population. Beginning in 1994 a stock tank that had supported the frogs for many years began to go dry. The Magoffins started hauling water, 1,000 gallons per week, for what turned out to be over two years.

Continued »

2006 Jaguar

A new jaguar photo was taken by Warner Glenn in the Malpai Borderlands in 2006, 10 years after he photographed the first jaguar in the area.  It is not the same jaguar that Warner photographed in 1996. The spot patterns were different. This jaguar also was a large male. He was in beautiful shape. Looked to be an older cat. Seven people saw the cat as it went on its way.

Continued »



The Science Advisory Committee of the Malpai Borderlands Group is composed of scientists specializing in disciplines ranging from botany to zoology.

Did you know?

  • Malpai ranchers have cooperated with scientists to inventory the region’s rich biodiversity — including the most diverse lizard fauna in the US.
  • The Malpai region has the most extensive network of long-term vegetation monitoring plots in the Southwest. The data collected helps ranchers and public land managers to improve ongoing grassland restoration efforts.
  • The Malpai science program maintains over 200 monitoring plots to provide baseline data on the ecology of the region. Other research efforts focus on specific taxa like the tiny Cochise pincushion cactus.



The Jornada- Arid Lands Research Programs -

The Cuencos Los Ojos Foundation -

Jaguar Book -

Northern Jaguar Project -


Malpai Borderlands Group 2015 Annual Science Conference

The Malpai Borderlands Group hosted our annual Science Conference on January 8th in the Cochise College Little Theater at the Douglas Campus. Bill McDonald, our Executive Director and a member of our Board, extended a warm welcome to those in attendance, noting that this year’s conference was the 14th that we have held.

We dedicated our conference this year to Charles W. Painter, who recently retired as herpetologist for the Endangered Species Program at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.  Charlie’s longtime colleague and collaborator Cecil Schwalbe read a short tribute, citing Charlie’s efforts to advance research and management of herpetofauna in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, as well as his history of working effectively with the broad spectrum of stakeholders in our Malpai Borderlands.

Approximately half of our program this year was devoted to catching up with the results of some of our collaborators who have been working in the Mexico portion of our borderlands region.  However, logistics dictated that the first presentation this year was provided digitally by Jessica Parker, of New Mexico Highlands University. Jessica revisited our long-term research project on McKinney Flats on the Diamond A Ranches.  Her work described the complex interactions between rainfall, primary production and small herbivores during the first years of the 21st century--years in which annual precipitation varied dramatically from year to year.  

Transitioning to Mexico, Jed Meunier reported the results of his dissertation research at Colorado State University examining the interaction of climate and periodic fire on regeneration in the forests of the Sierra San Luis and Sierra Madre south of us in Chihuahua and Sonora.  Citlali Cortés Montaño from the University of Durango followed with a broader look at the forests of northwestern Mexico, examining the relationships between history and fire disturbance on the overstory structure of old-growth forests in the mountains to the south of our border.  In the last presentation of the morning, Matt Levi, one of our cooperators from the Jornada Experimental Range, described his work documenting the effects of variability in soils and climate on recent fire history in Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems.

After a lunch break, the program resumed with Chris Stetson, Fire Planner and Fuels Specialist with the Coronado National Forest.  Chris presented a history of recent fire management, mitigation and restoration work.  The Coronado has been an important collaborator in our efforts to restore periodic fire as a key element of our ecosystems in the Malpai Borderlands.  However, like much of the West, we have experienced an increase in the size and intensity of wild land fires.  As a result, the Forest Service has been forced to spend more of their limited resources on suppression and control, as well as on ramping up their forest restoration activities. 

Returning to Mexico, Myles Traphagen, one of our key ecosystem science collaborators, described his work to examine the current status of the white-sided jackrabbit in its historic range in Mexico.  This species is found in the United States only at the south end of the Animas and Playas valleys on the Diamond A Ranches and its status throughout its historic range in Mexico is uncertain.  Myles’ initial investigations indicate the population in the United States is almost certainly genetically isolated from the nearest populations to the south of us in Chihuahua.

With the focus still on Chihuahua, Antonio Esquer brought us up to date on the collaborative conservation efforts of our longtime cooperators in the area of Janos, Chihuahua.  Antonio described research and management activities on the 46,000-acre Rancho el Uno, as well as their outreach and education activities in the local community.  Rancho el Uno is a key parcel in the 1.3 million-acre Janos Bioreserve.  It is part of the largest remaining black-tailed prairie dog complex in North America.  As part of the efforts to restore native grasslands and their biota, 26 bison imported from the U.S. were recently released.  These animals will augment a small remnant native population that has been isolated from a larger group in the Playas Valley north of the border by the construction of the border fence along the international boundary with Mexico.

The final presentation of the day featured Rebekah Karsh who described her pioneering research on lamb mortality in desert bighorn sheep in the Peloncillo Mountains just north of our planning area.  Rebekah was able to use emerging technology to detect parturition in bighorn ewes that had been radio collared and implanted with a vaginal transmitter.  This allowed her to characterize preferred lambing habitat and to capture and radio collar newborn lambs.  She was also able to characterize nursery habitat and identify sources of mortality among lambs in the first six months of their lives.

On January 7th, MBG staff and three of our board members met at the Malpai Ranch with members of our science advisory panel who were in attendance.  We conducted a post-mortem on the conference the preceding day and discussed research needs identified by the MBG staff.  We also had a very rewarding dialogue concerning ideas and themes for our 2016 Science Conference.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions about our science conference this year or ideas for future conferences, we would appreciate your feedback at






, HotDoodle™ Custom Web Design and Quality Affordable Website Designers for Small Businesses and Professionals
Powered by, HotDoodle™ Custom Web Design and Quality Affordable Website Designers for Small Businesses and Professionals
I18n websites with multiple languages you Can Edit// Now the site map Site Map