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Passages of Life

Some events in life are more powerful than others, marriages, births, deaths, and rites of passage like graduation or milestone birthdays. Likewise, some wildlife experiences are more significant, particularly harsh or mild weather, finding safe passage to food and water sources, or choosing a mate. Humans and wildlife are not so different, with many events such as death and weather mostly out of our control.

Recently my mother-in-law passed away after a long battle with an undiagnosed illness, something the medical community couldn't grasp or treat effectively. Despite the two of us coming from entirely different worlds politically, socially, and religiously we found common ground in our love for her son. She read this blog monthly, always texting support even when I wrote about topics that would make her squirm, like snakes or saving coyotes. Growing up on a cattle ranch, she loved animals and the outdoors, but we had to agree to disagree on protecting certain critters like snakes and predators. We taught each other a lot about patience and love, and it wasn't always easy, but it was worth it, and I miss her dearly.

Cholla's mother-in-law ranching in 1979.
Cholla's mother-in-law ranching in 1979.

Just north of Arizona, wildlife is also dealing with a heavy loss of life. Due to an unprecedentedly harsh winter in the Rocky Mountains, many ungulates have starved to death, unable to find food under massive snow drifts. Some states, like Wyoming, anticipate losing up to 80% of their antelope and 50% of their mule deer populations. This fall, hunting season in some areas could be completely shut down. It could take a decade for the herds and the animals that rely on them as food sources to recover. For more details, please read this article, but be warned that it is not easy for those who love wildlife.

Events like this are challenging, but they bring us together. They remind us that we must remember that we are often at the mercy of something much larger than ourselves and that we need to help each other despite our differences. Those differences are the very thing that makes us stronger. Our warmer climate here in the southwest has protected our ungulate populations, but we all know the next drought could reverse the circumstances. Similarly, land conservation through wildlife preserves and ranching differ, but are essential large tracks of wildlife habitat that are becoming increasingly important as weather patterns become more erratic.

Pronghorn Antelope in Arizona. Photo by Melissa Fratello.
Pronghorn Antelope in Arizona. Photo by Melissa Fratello.

Conservationists and ranchers might not always see eye to eye, but we can love a few of the same things, like summer rains, open spaces, and even the occasional in-law. Together we can make a powerful team for preserving the natural world and sharing it with others. I hope this summer allows you to enjoy unique places and experience all of life’s decisive moments.

The Borderlands Wildlife Preserve is open 24/7, and the cooler evenings and early mornings are perfect for hiking. On your way to the preserve, please take a moment to take in the beauty of the local ranches and all that open space we frequently take for granted. Click here to download our trail map and for complete info about our trail system.

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