Chris Evers, Animal Embassy Director & Founder, is currently traveling in the “sky Islands” of Arizona & New Mexico. “Sky islands” are mountains that are isolated by surrounding lowlands of a dramatically different environment and are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The 70,000 square mile Sky Island region covers southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northwestern Mexico.
As the meeting point between desert and forest, they offer a blend of tropical and temperate climates that can sustain diverse creatures. The Sky Island Alliance notes that the region harbors a diversity exceeding anywhere else in the U.S., supporting over half the bird species of North America, 29 bat species, over 3,000 species of plants, and 104 species of mammals.
Chris is exploring the mountain ranges between the borders of Arizona and New Mexico. In addition to the many rare bird and plant species he might see, he also hopes to encounter a jaguar, an animal which also lives in this habitat. In particular, he is interested in spotting many of the 17 species of rattlesnakes during this trip.
His first stop was an area, often referred to as the Green Desert, which is the convergence of four ecosystems: Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, Rocky and Sierra Madre Mountain ranges.
In New Mexico, Chris spotted Banded Rock rattlesnakes (Crotalus lepidus klauberi)on talus slopes (a collection of talus or broken rock which rests near the surface it detached from): three beautiful males and one female. These rattlers are endangered over the border in Arizona, but not in this region
The view in the morning from the Cave Creek Ranch in Arizona was spectacular.
Chris has spotted Canyon Tree frogs (Hyla arenicolor) on every talus slope he has explored from New Mexico to Arizona. Their coloring helps to disguise them, but their toxic secretions give them even greater protection from predation. Although a tree frog, Canyon Tree frogs are more often found on the lichen covered rocks of talus slopes.
One encounters unexpected views when in sky islands – you would not ordinarily expect to see the following when hiking in these parts of Arizona & New Mexico!
This exciting ecosystem and its flora & fauna will all soon be part of Animal Embassy’s educational programming!