Warning: graphic content below
SONORA, MEXICO (September 25, 2018) — Sometime on Saturday, September 22, a vehicle struck and killed a female black bear (Ursus americanus) as she tried to cross Federal Highway 2 in the Sky Islands region of Sonora, México, where black bears are considered endangered. The body was later claimed by PROFEPA, Mexico’s Environmental Federal Attorney’s Office, and disposed of to prevent scavenging by traffickers.
The bear was moving along the Sierra Azul – El Pinito wildlife corridor, the same one used by most of the jaguars sighted in recent years in Southern Arizona, highlighting the need to establish wildlife crossings for large carnivores and other species in the region. Keeping this corridor open is indispensable for jaguar recovery in the U.S., while the much smaller populations of black bears in Mexico depend on immigrant bears from Arizona to sustain genetic diversity. The corridor is already threatened by increasing militarization of the international border and multiple mining projects in both countries.
Wildlands Network, a conservation organization dedicated to promoting the protection of corridors throughout North America, has been working in the area since 2014, advocating for the establishment of wildlife crossings through negotiations with Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transports, the federal agency that manages Highway 2.
Juan Carlos Bravo, Director of Wildlands Network’s Mexico Program, said, “This regrettable incident is the second one we’ve been able to document where a bear has been killed along this stretch of highway, though we know there are more that have not been properly recorded. It is especially concerning because it involves a female, the death of which will have deeper repercussions in the local bear population. The ongoing expansion of this highway will result in more wildlife roadkill, which makes it even more urgent to establish wildlife crossings: bridges and tunnels along otherwise fenced stretches of highway where animals can cross safely. This will also make the highway safer for motorists, as under different circumstances, a collision with a black bear or other large animal can certainly cause a fatal accident.”
Wildlands Network coordinates research in the area, which points to more than 2,000 vertebrates being killed in the Sky Islands stretch of Highway 2, and has also made an inventory of every drainage and bridge built to allow water under the highway.
“Many of these bridges and culverts could serve as wildlife crossings if adequate fencing is erected around them, a solution that is much more cost-effective than building whole new infrastructure,” Bravo added..
The bear was killed less than a mile away form the private conservation area Rancho El Aribabi, a property certified by Mexican authorities as engaged in wildlife and habitat conservation. Wildlands Network is working with the ranch’s owners to reduce highway impacts in the area while also fostering the creation of a group of Friends of Rancho El Aribabi in Arizona, which will channel U.S. interest towards preserving habitat connectivity along the Sierra Azul – El Pinito corridor.
Wildlands Network envisions a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants. Our mission is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so life in all its diversity can thrive.