Region III Quarterly

Volume 1 - No. 2

October, 1939


By Dr. W. B. McDougall,
Regional Wildlife Technician.

The chief ultimate goal of the Wildlife Division of the National Park Service in Region III is the restoration, preservation, and presentation to the public of complete biotic communities in all park areas in the Region. In order that this may be accomplished intelligently and successfully, it is necessary that there be an intimate knowledge of all species of plants and animals now existing in the park areas, their abundance and distribution, and their gross ocological relations.

It also is necessary that it be known, sa far as possible, what species formerly existing in the areas are now absent, the reasons for their disappearance, and what factors are favorable or unfavorable to their reintroduction.

It is the belief of this Office that there should be eventually, a complete check-list of all species of plants and animals occuring in the park and monument areas in this Region and that there also should be prepared illustrated keys and descriptions so that the visitors to any area could purchase, for a nominal sum, booklets enabling them to identify the plants and animals that they may chance to see.

With the above generalizations in mind and, for the purpose of conciseness, the remainder of this statement will be presented in numbered paragraphs under the headings: General Conditions in Region III Needing Attention; Some Specific Problems That Are Immediately Urgent; Some Long-time Research Problems; and Conclusions.

General Conditions in Region III Needing Attention

1. In much of Region III the plants and animals are highly specialized to meet desert conditions. Since living things in the desert exist on a very narrow margin of safety, even slight changes in the environment may mean the disappearance of certain species. For that reason, careful supervision by wildlife technicians of all work that may, in any manner, change the environment is essential.

2. In the desert and semi-desert portions of the Region surface water is so scarce that the existence of much of the animal life in comparatively large areas is dependent upon each source. Any proposed appropriation of any natural water supply for human use, or any proposed alteration of any natural water supply in any manner, must be studied by representatives of the Wildlife Division. Failure to do this has in some instances in the past resulted in very adverse effects on animal life.

3. The final preparation of a master plan should, in all cases, be preceded by a wildlife survey in order to prevent serious interference with wildlife. The wildlife survey that has been made in the Big Bend area of Texas well illustrates this need. Here it was found that all of the javelines are confined to a relatively small area and that the only breeding colony of Tacubaya free-tailed bats known in the United States is in one canyon of the Chisos Mountains. Without this previous knowledge, further developments might easily endanger the existence of these two species.

4. In cooperating with the States in the development of State parks, many artificial lakes are being constructed for recreation purposes. In order that fish and other aquatic life may develop in those lakes in such a manner as to form natural aquatic communities and provide adequate fishing and other recreational uses desired, it is essential that the site be studied by a wildlife technician before construction is started and that later construction and all planting be carefully supervised by a representative of the Wildlife Division.

5. Many of the parks and monuments of this Region were set aside to preserve prehistoric Indian ruins. Continual attention by a wildlife technician is necessary to protect the ruin foundations from damage by rodents and, at the same time, preserve the animal life.

6. All clean-up jobs everywhere call for previous study by a wildlife technician to determine what the effect is likely to be and his careful supervision during the progress of the work. Removal of dead trees, down logs, brush, needles, etc., not only has an adverse effect on animal life, but is definitely detrimental to living trees and other plants as well.

Antelope fawns

Some Specific Problems That Are Immediately Urgent

1. Very little biological work has been done in the Southwestern National Monuments. It is essential that wildlife surveys be made on these areas as rapidly as possible to facilitate both administrative and informational activities. The custodians, in many cases, now have no way of knowing, or of finding out, what plants and animals occur in the monuments under their supervision.

2. It is especially urgent that the wildlife survey now being made of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument be carried through to a conclusion to facilitate preliminary reports for a master plan for that area.

3. Further study should be given, as soon as possible, to the problem of reintroducing antelope into the Grand Canyon National Monument area. When domestic cattle have been finally removed and the range sufficiently recovered, steps should be taken to reintroduce these animals.

4. Further study should be given, as soon as possible, to the problem of introducing antelope into the Pasture Wash area in Grand Canyon National Park; also, further study should be given to the question of the former presence of wild turkeys on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. If their former presence can be definitely established, wild turkeys should be reintroduced.

5. Reports of damage by porcupines and requests for control in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument demand early study by a wildlife technician.

6. A study of the feasibility of introducing beaver into some of the canyons of Navajo National Monument has been requested and must be undertaken at the earliest possible time becuase of erosion problems that exist there.

Some Long-Time Research Problems

1. The interrelations between living things are extremely complex. This general fact is well known, but our ignorance concerning such interrelations, in the majority of specific cases, is appalling. Wildlife management will never be conducted on an intelligent and sound basis un-til a great deal more about these interrelations is known.

In most cases in the past control measures, such as poisoning of rodents, has been carried on without any attempt to determine in advance the ultimate effect. An interrelation between rodents and trees is brought out by Mr. Samuel S. Graham of the Bureau of Entomology, in an article published in 1929 in the Journal of Mammalogy. Mr. Graham found, in certain portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin, that mice destroyed fully 50 per cent of the larch sawfly cocoons. Consequently, the poisoning of rodents would, undoubtedly, cause an increase in the damage done by larch sawflies -- an interrelation that could never have been suspected without previous study. It is essential that the Wildlife Division, at the earliest opportunity, initiate long-time researches in these ecological interrelations between living things in our park areas.

2. In order that there may be eventually a clear understanding of the best methods of management of artificial lakes for recreational purposes, there should be undertaken, as soon as possible, researches, of the ecological successions of plants and animals in the lakes that have been constructed or are to be constructed, in this Region. Such work could profitably occupy the entire time of one research worker for several years.

3. The Wildlife Division has an opportunity to carry on year-round studies of the feeding and breeding habits of animals in the parks and monuments of this Region. Such studies would not only yield results that would be invaluable in the administration and management of the wildlife therein, but also would make far-reaching contributions to scientific knowledge. The national parks and monuments are practically the only areas in the United States where complete biotic communities can be made available for such studies.


1. Continued supervision by a wildlife technician is essential wherever work is going on that may, in any manner, alter the environment in any park or monument in Region III.

2. Wildlife surveys should be carried on in every park and monument in Region III as early as it can be done.

3. Illustrated keys and descriptions for identifications of both plants and animals should be prepared for every park and monument in Region III.

4. A long-time research program should be definitely planned and undertaken at the earliest possible time.

5. Since there are only two wildlife technicians in Region III, it is obvious that the above-proposed program can be carried out only with the help and cooperation of all park naturalists and wildlife rangers as well as of superintendents, administrative inspectors, and all other employees who may be in position to cooperate with them.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in southwestern Arizona, preserves a plant and an animal species found nowhere else in the United States.

The organ pipe cactus is related to the giant saguaro, but has multiple stems, sometimes as many as twenty stems springing from the same root.

The Sonoran bighorn sheep, which differs from the bighorn of the Rocky Mountains, is nearly extinct. It is found only in the mountains of northern Sonora, Mexico, and in southwestern Arizona.

map of Region III park units
National Park Service Areas in Region III.
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

<<< Previous
> Contents <
Date: 17-Nov-2005