By: Caleb Weaver, BRN Youth Education Program Manager
Now that the bountiful monsoon rains are behind us, one of my favorite seasons has arrived. During fall in the arid borderlands, I visit rainwater harvesting and restoration projects completed over the past year. From testing the sturdiness of erosion control structures, to witnessing the growth of plants in rain gardens, to gauging how full a cistern is, this season offers an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to be inspired.
In June of this year, the outdoor patio at the Douglas Public Library was devoid of life, reminiscent of a prison with tall concrete walls and cage-like fence. The main feature was an industrial generator, serving as the backup power for the library and an eyesore to passersby. This patio was a space that felt neither inviting nor comforting, heating up beyond the point of comfort during the summer months. However, with a raised bed running along the northern edge of the patio, remnants of an ancient irrigation system, and fencing that could double as a trellis, the patio had the potential to be a verdant space alluring to humans and nonhumans alike.
In July, the potential of this space was realized. The Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Douglas team swooped in for an arid lands library extreme patio makeover. With support from the New York Community Trust and the Douglas Public Library, students from Douglas High School replaced the broken irrigation system, removed weeds (saving a native velvet ash tree), installed a 360-square-foot trellis, planted 20 plants, and applied mulch. Tombstone rose and three varieties of table grapes were trained up the fence and trellis, with the plan of training the vines along overhead wires to one day shade the entire patio. A heritage pomegranate will provide nourishment for the body as library patrons feed their minds and souls. And native plants from our own Borderlands Nursery & Seed - Gregg’s Mistflower, Apache Plume, Arizona Milkweed, Lemmon’s Sage, and Yarrow - were introduced to provide critical urban habitat for native pollinators.
With the groundwork planted and mulched for a new public garden, the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona further supported the transformation of the outdoor space with new patio seating and shade sails. Three sets of patio tables and chairs now offer a place of rest along with shade sails providing cool respite in the heat of the day. The community has come together to support future generations of Douglas residents and youth alike.
The Douglas Library is the only public gathering place for youth not involved with after-school clubs or sports. Douglas does not have a Boys and Girls Club or youth center, and there are limited activities for young residents. The inspiration for this project came directly from the Douglas Public Library, which wanted to engage youth with designing and installing a homework and hangout space designed by, and for the youth of the community.
So next time you’re in Douglas visiting the historic Gadsden Hotel - or one of the many other historic and natural attractions - stop by the library patio to engage your senses and enjoy the pollinators. If you’re lucky, you may get to taste ripe grapes or pomegranates.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
As fall settles in and the high grasses from the monsoon start to fade to brown, we see why so many animals in this region share the same muted tones. One of the animals using color to camouflage into their environment is the Coues deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) also known as the White-tailed deer. Coues whitetails are the smallest subspecies of the white-tailed deer, averaging 65 to 100 pounds, with females on the smaller end. As their name implies, they have a broad triangular-shaped tail with a white underside.
White-tailed deer reside in Arizona in elevations ranging from 4K to 10K feet. These small and shy creatures prefer oak woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, and pine forests using cover from significant vegetation to hide from predators. In drought years, vegetation is low, leading to more predation from animals such as mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. This year vegetation is exceptionally high, giving white-tailed deer and particularly fawns a better chance of survival.
The two deer seen in the pictures are a doe and her young fawn. If you look closely, you can still see the fawns' spots indicating this animal is still under two months of age. White-tailed deer in warm climates such as southern Arizona generally do not migrate due to weather but may migrate to find food and water resources. Their home ranges are also relatively small, averaging around 2 to 4 square miles or less.
The deer we see on the wildlife trail cameras could likely spend their entire lives living within or close to the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve boundaries. As the most frequently captured animal on the wildlife trail cameras, I occasionally see a familiar face. I hope these two find a haven in the high grasses and oaks this fall and look forward to documenting their existence and story of life. The best time to catch a glimpse of a white-tailed deer is at dawn or dusk. A set of binoculars is always recommended as these animals will most likely see you before you see them.
For a more detailed explanation of the white-tailed deer and its subspecies please click here.
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