We wanted to recap this past weekend and talk about the Jack Rabbit Survey
We travelled to Tucson and met up with a team of worldwide-renowned conservation scientists including Aletris Neils, Dave Brown, and Randy Babb and began our Jackrabbit Survey in the early morning. We trekked through around 1.5 miles of vegetation that ranged from low scrub to tall Johnson grass.
Each individual counted wildlife that fell into their transect, some of the spotted wildlife included spotted ground squirrels, sparrows, hawks, and even a small family of mule deer sprinting through our study area! No jackrabbit sightings yet.
After the survey we spotted multiple species of hummingbirds and an unidentified lizard before taking a scenic “Pronghorn drive” where we finally saw our first pair of white tailed jackrabbits. Weighing in an average of 13 pounds, these are nearly the largest lagomorphs!
After the drive we ate lunch in town and returned back to the wildlife refuge to set up camp and begin setting up Sherman traps to capture small mammals. We each set up 6 traps at night and returned to the campfire to grill burgers and engage in conservation discussions with the program coordinators. This was a great opportunity to ask questions about their work (that ranged from bear trappings to alligator behavior and bat immune systems!) and see what makes a great undergrad conservationist.
The next day we retrieved our mammal traps in the early morning to find a woodrat, grasshopper mice, kangaroo rats and more! We learned how to measure, sex, and ID these small rodents and learned about their life history from the experts.
We went to our next jackrabbit survey site and trekked through another 1.5 miles of Tucson wilderness. This time around we saw multiple jackrabbits, a Mojave rattlesnake, a caracara, a peregrine falcon, and many more flora and fauna species that were identified with the help of Dave, Aletris, and Randy.
This trip gave us an opportunity to take a peak into wildlife conservation fieldwork and to see how rewarding and potentially challenging a career in this area is! We cannot recommend enough how important it is to get hands on experience with experts in these fields to acquire the skills and connections needed for a career in conservation research. We will be attending events like this in the future including a prairie dog trapping event and a black-footed ferret spotlighting event this month.