Water for Wildlife

Young mule deer and Chihuahuan raven meet at refuge remote camera-photo by refuge remote camera/USFWS

Prior to the establishment of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the Campbell family owned and ranched the land for more than 30 years.

Several wells were drilled and drinkers installed to provide water for the cattle.  When the refuge was established in 1973, cattle were removed and some of the wells were kept and maintained for the benefit of wildlife.  The refuge is currently researching the importance of these water sources to wildlife. 

Trail cameras were set up at 24 drinkers in spring 2009 to record what species utilize them. These cameras are activated by motion detectors and capture color images during the daylight and black and white images at night using infrared flash.  Volunteers check the drinkers and collect the photos from the cameras once a month.  The collected photos are sorted by species, location and date them.  The data can then be analyzed and compared over time. 

In 2010, ten additional cameras were installed at natural springs and seeps throughout the refuge in order to compare wildlife use of all water sources.  Currently, volunteers and staff have sorted close to two million photos!  Results have already helped the refuge determine the occupancy of species at the various locations on the refuge, track daily activity patterns of species, and assess the health of wildlife visiting the drinkers. 

Along with all the useful data, having these cameras set up has produced some great and interesting photos of wildlife.  Some of the best photos of pronghorn, mule deer, elk, golden eagles, great horned owls, red-tailed-hawks, badgers, coyotes, gray foxes, bobcats, black bears, and javelina are currently on display in the visitor center.