Spring comes to the grassland! #weekendinspiration
The last frost is long gone and the cottonwoods have put on their best green, all of which signals a change in seasons on the high grasslands of southern Arizona. At Las Cienegas National Conservation Area southeast of Tucson, the rush of life – from new pronghorn fawns and prairie dog pups to calves at the Empire Ranch – is reason to celebrate.
Pronghorn antelope are among North America’s fastest animals, but just minutes after birth even walking in a straight line looks like a challenge. This year’s fawns will join a growing herd in the area that once dipped below 20, but now stands near 300 thanks to cooperative conservation work and improved habitat.
This is also ranching country. A drive of cows and calves through the sacaton grass and mesquite into the Empire Ranch headquarters corral calls to mind over 140 years of continuous tradition.
Smaller critters thrive amidst all the action. The Black-tailed Prairie Dog – a skittish but curious mammal that builds elaborate tunnel networks - was extirpated from Arizona by 1960, but now at Las Cienegas several colonies welcome new pups to the mix each spring.
Summer is on the way, but for now some appreciation of spring is in order.
Post by Adam Milnor, BLM Arizona; new photos by Bob Wick, BLM