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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 2017 Annual Science Conference

The 2017 Malpai Borderlands Group Science Conference will be held Tuesday, January 3, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. at the new Geronimo Event Center just north of Rodeo, New Mexico.  We have an excellent group of speakers this year and a full agenda with something for everyone (an agenda is attached).  Lunch will be available at the Event Center, as well as at several local venues (the Rodeo Tavern, Rodeo Grocery and the Portal Store).   The Event Center is located on NM Hwy 80 about two miles north of the town of Rodeo.  It is a 50-minute drive from Douglas, Arizona, and about the same from Lordsburg, New Mexico.  A list of lodging available in the Portal/Rodeo area will follow in a week or two for those that would prefer to stay closer.  

Please mark your calendars and plan to join us on January 3rd!


Preliminary Agenda

2017 Malpai Borderlands Group Science Conference

January 3, 2017

9:00 AM         Welcome and Introductions:  Bill McDonald, Executive Director, Malpai Borderlands Group

9:15 AM         Keynote: Tim Koopman, Koopman Ranch, Sunol, California

10:00 AM       Making Sense of Mid-Century Climate Change Projections in the Malpai Borderlands and Practical Tools for Adaptation.  Emile Alias, Ph.D, Hydrologist and Deputy Director for Research, USDA Southwest Climate Hub.

10:45 AM       Understanding the Metrics of Bare Ground.  Mollie Walton, Ph.D, Land and Water Program Director, The Quivira Coalition.

11:30 AM       Ecology of Sonoran Mud Turtles in Ranch Ponds.  Justin Congdon, Ph.D.  Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia, Savanna River Ecology Lab (West).

12:15 PM       Lunch Break

1:30 PM         Chiricahua Leopard Frog Recovery Update - Building Metapopulations in Cave Creek.  Geoff Bender, Director, Southwestern Research Station, American Museum of Natural History.

2:15 PM         New Technology for Measuring Water Volumes in Ranch Ponds.  Mary Nichols, Ph.D. Research Hydraulic Engineer, USDA-ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center.

3:00 PM         Afternoon Break

3:15 PM         Raramuri Criollo cattle research in southern NM and central Chihuahua.  Andres F. Ciblis. PhD, Rick E. Estell (1); Sheri Spiegal(1); Shelemia Nyamurekung’e(2); Matthew McIntosh(2); Alfredo L. Gonzalez(1); Octavio Roacho Estrada(3); and Felipe Rodriguez Almeida(3).   (1)USDA-ARS-Jornada Exp. Range; (2) NMSU, Department of Animal and Range Sci.; (3)UACH, Facultad de Zootecnia

4:00 PM         Evaluating Vegetation Change in the Borderlands from 1984 to 2014 using Landsat Satellite Imagery: Shrub Cover Increase Affects Wildlife Corridors.  Myles Traphagen, Solar Biology LLC

4:45 PM         Adjourn



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