Why is Coronado National Memorial so important to the lesser long-nosed bat? Ranger Katy shares on the mutual relationship between the lesser long-nosed bat and the agave and what park managers are doing to help ensure this relationship thrives.
Music with images Ranger 1: Southeast Arizona is home to three National Park Sites, Chiricahua National Monument, Fort Bowie National Historic Site, and Coronado National Memorial. Each site offers unique opportunities to discover human history and the natural world. Southeast Arizona lies at a crossroads of four major ecosystems; Rocky mountains, Sierra Madres, and Chihuhuan and Sonoran deserts. These sky islands provide opportunities to explore and study richly diverse plant and animal life. Music with images Ranger2: Chiricauhua National Monument has a rich history and a vibrant natural foundation. You can learn about that rich history at Faraway Ranch where homesteaders tried to eak out a living off of the land. We also have a vibrant natural foundation. This monument was originally set aside in 1924 to protect the rich and awe inspiring geologic foundations that we affectionately call hoodoos or standing rocks. Music with images Ranger2: People visit Coronado National Memorial to find adventure and to explore new territories, often leaving with a sense of wonder at the story of the Coronado Expedition. You can explore above ground on our hiking trails, or below ground in a natural limestone cave. You might find yourself on top of Coronado Peak reflecting on the 4,000 mile trek made by Coronado and his men, and contemplating the hardships and difficulties of the expedition. Music with images Ranger4: In the arid Southwest reliable sources of water provide an obvious magnetism. Plants, animals, and people all rely on water for their survival. A stop here at Apache Springs provides an ideal spot to watch for wildlife, glimpse signs of early human uses, and image the many historic thirsts that were quenched at teh cool, clear springs. Even though Apache Springs is a peaceful and refreshing spot, it was, at one time, the source of, and backdrop to, conflict between Anglos and Apache Indians more than a century ago. Music with images
Text on screen: The Monument Fire started on June 12, 2011. It moved through the memorial burning 100% of the park’s acreage.
Images on screen, ranger’s voice: I am in the park 4 days after the fire. I feel as though I want to cry. My heart is heavy, and my stomach feels as if someone has socked me good. I can’t breathe, and when I do all I smell is ash and death. This has been my home for more than 2 years, and is now that of a moonscape, a charred existence. Everything is black, nothing is here, everything is gone. There are hardly any trees, and the ones that are still here are burned, cracked, sad looking. None of the usual sounds are alive in the park. The birds are quiet, no chitter chatter is heard. There are no deer in sight when they are usually the welcoming party each day.
This continues day after day. My heart is still heavy, my stomach muscles tight.
But look, the first sign of green is peaking through the blackened earth. It’s the leaves of the Pink- throated morning glory. Is this a sign of hope? Oh MY! It’s open, it’s open! What a beautiful flower. The white and pink trumpet is pointing right at me. But wait, there are grasses waving in the wind. And LOOK, more flowers! There is Indian paintbrush, and Smooth bouvardia, and others. The summer rains have brought much needed moisture, and the plants are thriving! Even some oaks are beginning to resprout at the base.
I step from the visitor center and across the hillside is a sea of green, with the multiple grasses dancing a little jig. My eyes shine and my heart feels a sense of joy. A smile has finally returned to my face. These new plants will soon be a food source for insects, birds, and mammals. The smells of ash have almost disappeared.
Ranger Katy onscreen: It rained and rained and rained, and the rains have washed away my sorrows. The plants are growing and the birds and animals are going about their way as if it is just another day. Each morning I drive in the park and I see new growth, and I feel I am home again.
Ranger Jamie: At the time no one knew that the small trickle of smoke seen over the top of Smuggler’s Ridge would become the nation’s top priority fire, burning over 30,000 acres, and damaging or destroying 84 structures. But that’s exactly what happened. On June 12, 2011, the Monument Fire started in Coronado National Memorial. Two weeks later the burned husks of trees sat in blackened fields, stark reminders of the loss of habitat and food sources for native wildlife. While thousands of evacuated people began to return to their homes with the fear of fire at the forefront of their minds. Not long after the monsoon rains began, and that fear was soon replaced by the hope that the water would help the land begin to heal.
The Monument Fire was human- caused, but nature had been setting itself up to burn for the past two years. Abundant rainfall in the summer monsoon season in the summer of 2010 encouraged the growth of many new grasses and shrubs. The rainfall was followed by a dry, cold winter that caused much of the new vegetation to go dormant or die. A three day freeze in February 2011, weakened the remaining vegetation, including the oak trees. Into these conditions of dry, drought-stressed vegetation came a spark.
Park Ecologist David Hays: Wildland fire is a natural part of many ecosystems on the globe. Especially here at Coronado. It’s apart of what the plants and animals of this ecosystem are used to, just like the changing of the seasons or the summer monsoon rains. And they’ve evolved to adapt to the pressures and changes caused by fires as they cross across the landscape. Ranger Jamie: Despite the damage to human properties, fire was nature’s way of getting rid of this dry, damaged vegetation to encourage new growth.
Ecologist David: Another common trait of plants living in a fire adapted area is that their seeds are able to tolerate fires that pass over them when they are in the soil. So, here for example, after the fires went through there was a seedbed of hundreds of species of plants just lying dormant in the soil. And because the fire wasn’t too intense to kill all of the seeds in the soil, and their resistance to fire damage, after the fire the seeds all sprouted with the monsoon moisture.
Ranger Jamie: While fire plays an important and beneficial role in natural communities, its affect on human communities is quite different. Take a moment to look the nearest window, appreciate the view, and ponder: What role does fire play in your area? Would everything recover quickly as part of the natural cycle of nature, or would it take time for humans to rebuild?
Here in Coronado National Memorial the fire mostly burned at low to moderate intensities, making it good for the renewal of vegetation, which provides important food and habitat sources for native wildlife. Looking back to the days immediately following the fire, the blackened desolate landscapes served as a reminder of the fragile nature of beauty.
Ranger Katy: Hi, I’m Ranger Katy here at Coronado National Memorial. This past summer we had a high school student from Mesa, Arizona, volunteer with us, and her passion about a creature that lives here in the park led to this next video. So, enjoy!
Volunteer Ashley: Coronado National Memorial is home to 43 species of reptiles and amphibians. Of those, snakes are the closest to my heart, because I am fascinated with their adaptations and the role they play in our world. Within 10 minutes on my first day of volunteering here at Coronado, I had my first encounter with a rattlesnake. The one and only Western diamondback, otherwise known as, Crotalus atrox. Most people when they have an encounter with a rattlesnake are terrified. Marie Curie once said, “ Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” The more you know about what rattlesnakes look like, where they live, and how they are beneficial to the environment, the more likely you are to have a positive experience like mine. So how will you know it’s a rattlesnake?
Rattlesnakes have a triangular shaped head, an identifying factor since non-venomous snakes have a more rounded head. They have no outer ears, and use their jaw bones to sense vibrations through the ground. Rattlesnakes sense their prey by a loreal pit located between the nose and eyes, which detect heat given off by animals, allowing the rattlesnake to have heat vision that enables them to hunt effectively at night.
Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes, meaning they produce toxins in use of defense against predators, to help immobilize and kill prey, and to aid in the digestion of their food. Another feature that distinguishes a rattlesnake from other snakes is the presence of a rattle. It is composed of a series of nested, hollow beads, which are actually modified scales from the tail tip, and is made of keratin, just like our fingernails. Although many types of snakes lay eggs, rattlesnakes give birth to live young.
Rattlesnakes are important to our ecosystem because they help control rodent population, a large portion of their diet, which helps control disease. The retractable fangs are hollow, like hypodermic needles, and administer venom from a gland located near the back of their head. The amount of venom used is controlled and varies depending on the need. Recent snake venom research has shown promising breakthroughs in treatments for hypertension, heart attack, and cancer.
There are 13 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona, 9 in Cochise County, and 4 call Coronado National Memorial home. Now that we know what they look like, let’s see where they live in the park. The Mojave rattlesnake can reach up to 4 feet in length and can be found in the grasslands, common to the areas with Creosote bush and Mesquite trees. Its colors green, gray, or tan, with a series of dark brown, diamond-shaped, or rough rectangular blotch pattern. The tail bands are smaller than the Western diamondbacked, and the black bands narrower than the white. The Western diamondback, Arizona’s largest rattlesnake, can be found in the grasslands and mixed-oak woodlands of the park, up to elevations of 7,000 feet. They are predominantly nocturnal, only coming out at night, but also active on mild days like when I saw the one my first day of volunteering. Their pattern is gray to tan, flecking throughout the brown diamond shaped blotches, with black and white alternating bands on the tail, and can reach up to 7 feet in adulthood. The Black-tailed is also found in the grasslands and mixed-oak woodlands, up to 9,500 feet in elevation. This snake can be about 4 feet in length, and is all of brown, to yellow-brown, with dark splotches on its back, with a black tail. It is the least aggressive of the park’s rattlesnakes. The smallest, the Rock rattlesnake, reaches about 2.5 feet in length, and is found in the higher elevations of the park, especially in rock slides, and open rocky slopes. It is gray, to greenish-gray, with black bands over the back. It is restricted to the Madrean evergreen woodlands, from Mexico to our south, which is why it is present in the Sky Island range of the Huachuca Mountains.
If you are lucky enough to encounter a rattlesnake while visiting the park, what should you do? Don’t panic, respect the snake’s personal space, don’t hassle or try to pick it up, and go a safe distance around. This will provide you and the snake a positive experience, one you can tell your friends about. And remember, don’t place your hands and feet where your eyes have not been. And stay on the trail where the snakes are easier to see.
As a defense mechanism, rattlesnakes will strike when threatened. And statistics show that 65% of bites are provoked by the person bitten. What should you do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake? Stay calm and minimize activity, call for help immediately, and try to identify the snake so to inform the paramedic. Do not use ice, heat, or any folklore remedies. About 20% of bites are known as dry bites, meaning there is no venom, it is a mere warning.
When visiting Coronado National Memorial, remember, it is home to 4 venomous snakes. But if you are lucky you will have the privilege to see one of these amazing creatures. I fondly recall my first meeting with Crotalus atrox, the Western diamondback rattlesnake, and hope for more sighting throughout my life.
Music with pictures.
Did You Know?
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was born in 1510 in Salamanca Spain. He was only 30 years old when he began his expedition into what is now the American Southwest. His expedition was considered a failure and he died in obscurity in 1554.