“bighorn responded to increased human activity by bedding. Bedding likely decreases the potential for both detection or interaction with humans and would be a more energetically conservative approach to avoidance that may be exhibited in part due the predictable nature of concentrated visitor use on established trails.” (p. 27)
“A study of the former population of bighorn sheep by Schoenecker and Krausman (2002) found 18% of visitors observed engaged in off trail use between 1994 and 1996. In contrast we documented roughly 1.5% off trail use from January 2015-May 2016 suggesting current human use of the PRWA may be largely confined to established trails” … “We speculate that the effects of urbanization around the PRWA may have also inadvertently restricted visitor use to established trails by limiting non designated access points around the base of the study area that were present during the former population.” (p. 28)
Not currently included with the paper is a detailed analysis of the visitation data, Brett indicated in an email that he is “still working with the Coronado National Forest to quantify all the visitor use data” – hopefully this data will be available at a later date!
Paul R. Krausman has worked on Bighorn Sheep research in the Santa Catalina Mountains for many years and in this book he brings together a wide variety of scientific and historic information about the sheep in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. I think it is fair to say that the book is written for a professional/academic audience – but it is certainly accessible enough to be interesting to someone like me without a wildlife related degree. Two excerpts that might inspire you to read more:
“there is no evidence that predation, limited water, disease, or the presence of other ungulates contributed to the demise of the desert bighorn sheep in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. However, the increasing human population from Tucson and surrounding areas encroaching on bighorn sheep habit, and related urbanization, have not been positive influences… there is strong evidence that urbanization and habitat alteration were major influences in their extinction” (pp. 141-142)
“when bighorn sheep are translocated back into the Santa Catalina Mountains, they will likely continue to need assistance from humans, including predator control, prescribed fires, periodic transplants to enhance genetic diversity and mitigate the loss of corridors to other mountain ranges, and restrictions on humans in their habitat” (p. 157)
Buster looks at the mountains and shifts to teaching the old geography, one that has slightly different notes from the modern hiking maps. The first gouge to the west he calls Alamo Canyon because there used to be a big cottonwood up there. Then comes Cement Tank because they put a trough in there. After that is Dead Horse for a dead horse found one day. Then Montrose on whose upper reaches Buster Spring bubbles away. And over the ridge from that is Romero for the old ranching family that came into the county in the nineteenth century. When Buster arrived in the 1920s they were still here, still ranching. And they became his neighbors.
Dead Horse Canyon is in the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Management Area – lacking an official trail travel into this area is prohibited from January until May, but the summer heat means that it will be next winter before a pleasant visit is possible.
Bighorns have been documented in Dead Horse Canyon for many years – according to And Then There were None 8% of the Bighorn Observations made from 1936 to 1978 were in Dead Horse Canyon (p.88) and the photo shown below (of bighorn in Dead Horse Canyon) is described as “the largest number of sheep ever photographed as a group in the Santa Catalinas”. In 1972 bighorn permits were issued to 5 hunters, 2 kills were made – one at the head of Dead Horse Canyon (the last permits issued were in 1992).
Oracle State Park: Hiking trails, home tour – The Arizona Republic: It has been great to have Oracle State Park open full-time again – this article gives a nice overview of the park, points out this is the only state park that the Arizona Trail runs thru and includes a short history of the Kannally family whose ranch house is a major part of the park. With the weather cooling off this is a great time of year to visit!
County puts limits on exploding target use – Green Valley News: The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance which bans the sale, possession or use of any target with a mixture of chemicals that will explode after being hit by a bullet. Note that there are a number of exceptions to in the ordinance. Exploding targets are believed to have caused the Sawmill fire.
Three mountain lions – a mother and 2 yearlings – were caught on film near the Sabino Canyon Tram road and there was a possible mountain lion attack on a dog in the Tucson Mountain area (unconfirmed but AZGF notes an increase in mountain lion reports in residential areas this monsoon season). The articles states that photos/video of mountain lions close to the Sabino Canyon tram road are rare but both incidents are good reminders that there are mountain lions in many areas around Tucson. Mountain lion sightings in the Santa Catalina Mountains are relatively rare, and there have been few negative mountain lion/human interactions, but it is important to be aware of these beautiful animals! Female mountain lion, yearlings caught on camera at Sabino Canyo – KVOA.com, Mountain lions spotted not far from Sabino Canyon tram road – Tucson News Now, Dog dies in possible mountain lion attack on west side of Tucson – Tucson News Now
New Oro Valley trail aims at hikers, cyclists, horses – Arizona Daily Star: Planning is going forward on a new trail! The current plan is for a new trailhead off Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and a 1.2 mile earthen path extending northeast along Big Wash. For me the most exciting part of this project is the indication that at some point it may connect the CDO to the Tortolita Mountain Park!!! “The second phase will go from Tangerine Road to Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, and the third phase will be from the Cañada del Oro Wash to Tangerine Road.”
Today in Arizona History – U.S.News: For September 10, 1936: “on this date, Tucson and Pima County applied to the federal government for permission to construct a 250-foot (76-meter) high dam in Sabino Canyon.” – thankfully that dam was never built!
Tucson time lapse: What do you see? – Arizona Daily Star: This page contains an interesting time lapse view of Tucson – it is not really focused on the Santa Catalina Mountains, but you can see in the time lapse the growth of Tucson which has impacted access to the mountains is creating a situation where the Santa Catalina Mountains are isolated from other mountain ranges – an important concern for hikers, hunters and wildlife.
Find spectacular stone arches along Tucson’s Catalina Highway – Arizona Daily Star: The Santa Catalina Mountains don’t have the massive and stunning arches that you can find in southern Utah – but we do have a number of smaller arches and windows – including a number of interesting ones that you can see from the highway!
Summer flash floods and the rescue of stranded hikers were major news items – flash flood related rescues, and sometimes injuries and deaths, are in the news every year, but this year featured larger groups of people stranded than I remember in previous years. While the various discussions about potentially closing resources, how to inform the public and rescues are interesting (and complicated – Star Opinion: Time for a ‘stupid hiker’ rule for some rescues? – Arizona Daily Star) probably the most valuable action you can take is to learn more about flash floods and Tim Stellar wrote an article for the Arizona Daily Star this summer that is a good start – Steller: You can lower flood risk at canyon swimming holes – Arizona Daily Star. Other flood related articles:
8/12/2017 Butterfly Trail: An exhausted hiker (partly due to medication) was helped on the trail and able to hike out.
8/16/2017 Sabino Basin: A group became separated and was eventually able to ask for help via cell phone – the lost group was helped with directions.
8/19/2017 Anderson Dam: Ankle injury carried out.
9/4/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Hikers were unable to find the trail at dusk and called for help – helped by other hikers.
9/6/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hikers.
9/6/2017 Butterfly Trail: Ankle injury – the group tried to continue but eventually called for help – the hiker was hoisted out.
9/10/2017 Sabino Canyon Trail: A hiker with a head laceration is met just above the road in Sabino Canyon.
9/10/2017 Romero Canyon: A hiker missed the trail crossing at Romero Pools, continued downstream, injured his knee and had a history of diabetes – the hiker was hoisted out.
9/10/2017 Bear Canyon: An exhausted hiker is assisted with hydration and helped out.
9/23/2017 Aspen Draw Trail: A hiker with injured ribs is treated and walked out.
9/23/2017 Romero Pools: A hiker with an ankle injury is hoisted out.
10/9/2017 Palisades Trail: Hikers miss the trail below Mud Spring – they were located, helped back to the trail and assisted out.
10/14/2017 Ventana Canyon Trail: A hiker intending to turn around got confused and continued to the junction below The Window – met on trail and assisted out.
10/14/2017 Sycamore Canyon Trail: Hikers who came down Pine Canyon became exhausted hiking out to Prison Camp – one of the hikers went to get water for the other and they were assisted out by campers.
10/15/2017 Golder Ranch Trails: Mountain Bikers coming down from the top of the mountain via the CDO were separated, exhausted – after a 911 call they were all eventually found – two in the Golder Ranch Area and two on the Charouleau Gap Road.
10/21/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: A hiker is treated and assisted out after a fall.
10/21/2017 Brush Corral Trail: A hiker was unable follow the trail below the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail and was helped back up the mountain.
Free shuttle to Sabino Canyon for the holiday season – KVOA.com, Electric bus to Sabino Canyon part of new pilot program – Tucson News Now: An electric bus ran from Udall Park to Sabino Canyon during the holidays – it will be interesting to see if this service is provided next year. When this project was announced I mainly thought about the congestion of the Sabino Canyon Parking lot and the possible convenience of avoiding that – but one of the articles above points out that with several Sun Tran routes serving Udall this service provided a very nice link to Sabino Canyon! (And a bus that provides access to the great outdoors certainly brings to mind to the old pictures of the “Mount Lemmon Bus Line“!)
M.O.V.E. ACROSS 2 RANGES – “Marana, Oro Valley, Experience”, “One Day. Two Ranges. Hike Challenge.” – This is an interesting event that has a variety of challenges to get you outside and into the Tortolita and Santa Catalina Mountains. Packet pickup and after party are being held at the Oro Valley Summit Hut and Patagonia & Summit Hut will donate $2 for every person who signs up for the event to the Friends of Catalina State Park!
This event is an awesome way to explore nature and get active. Hit the trails and experience the challenge and beauty of Southern Arizona’s Tortolita and Catalina Mountains in one day! Trail run, hike, or stroll through this fun event.
The weather felt slightly late this year – but as always snow eventually covered the mountain and brought the standard road closures and overcrowding – slight frustrations compared to the joy of being in the snow an hour or less from Tucson!
11/13/2016 La Milagrosa Canyon: Ankle injury above Molino Basin at the head of Milagrosa Canyon – hiker carried and ridden out.
11/26/2016 Sutherland Trail: Backpackers loose their way and are found from their cellphone location after calling for help.
11/27/2016 Soldier Canyon below Prison Camp: A climbing fall results in an ankle injury at Jailhouse Rock – climber carried out.
12/7/2016 Pusch Peak Northwest Side Route: A hiker with a knee injury is able to hike out slowly with assistance.
12/11/2016 Wilderness of Rocks: Hikers have trouble finding the trail, call for help and are assisted out.
12/24/2016 Historic Trail in Sabino Canyon: A hiker with low blood sugar is assisted out.
12/27/2016 Rattlesnake Junction, Sabino Canyon: A fall results in a dislocated hip and pelvis fracture – hiker was carried to the tram road and taken to the hospital.
12/30/2016 Pima Canyon Trail: A hiker, possible with cardiac issues, becomes ill and is carried back to the trailhead.
1/6/2017 Blackett’s Ridge: Ankle injury leads to a carry out.
1/7/2017 Sycamore Reservoir Trail: Hikers at a trail sign but in the dark without lights call for help and are assisted out by family members.
1/15/2017 Thimble Peak: Hikers intending to do the Bear Canyon Loop back to Sabino start up Bear Canyon but accidentally leave the Bear Canyon Trail and turn onto the route to Thimble Peak and are unable to continue – assisted out.
1/24/2017 Seven Falls Trail: Hikers have problems with darkness and high water levels, assisted out.
Sabino Canyon is a beautiful destination but it is often crowded on any weekend with (even vaguely) good weather. Holidays can be particularly busy – to help with the congestion from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 there will be a shuttle from Udall Park to Sabino Canyon. The shuttle will start at Udall Park at 9:15 and run each hour – the last shuttle will leave Sabino Canyon at 4:45. The shuttle can carry 40 people and it could be a nice way to avoid a packed and frustrating experience in the Sabino Canyon Parking Lot!! I believe this is the first year this service has been offered – it might be best to keep a little flexibility in your plans just-in-case the shuttle is full or not quite on time… Free holiday shuttle could help ease Sabino Canyon’s parking hassles | Government and politics | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star, Free Electric Shuttle To and From Sabino Canyon During Holiday Break – City of Tucson
Redington Pass Shooting Closure Extended, One Area Reopens – Coronado National Forest: The shooting closures that has been in place since 2013 has been extended and slightly modified. The area was originally closed while trash and debris related to shooting were removed and the extension is designed to help the area to recover. From the Forest Service:
According to the closure, shooting will be prohibited within 0.6 miles on either side of the road from the western boundary of the Forest to mile marker 6.3. The previous closure prohibited recreational shooting from mile marker 5 to mile marker 7.
Authorities need help after deer poached in Catalina Mountains – Tucson News Now: “A $1,000 reward is being offered for tips leading to the arrest of the person who killed a Whitetail deer in the Santa Catalina Mountains last month. The Arizona Game and Fish Department said the animal, an untagged Whitetail buck, was found Oct. 9 off Forest Service Road 4496 in the Charoleau Gap area.”