Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

Evaluating impacts of the U.S.A.-Mexico border wall on mammal communities of the Sonoran Desert

September 2023 - May 2026


Participating Agencies

  • National Park Service

The border wall between the U.S.A. and Mexico represents a novel human-made feature in the Sonoran Desert whose impacts of wildlife remain poorly understood. These impacts could include disrupted movement patterns across multiple spatiotemporal scales through the physical presence of the wall and/or behavioral avoidance due to human activity, roads, or lighting. Disruption of movement patterns can not only affect large-scale migratory movements but also movements within an individual’s home range which may prevent individuals from accessing important resources. Many mammal species, including mammalian carnivores, have relatively large home ranges making them increasingly susceptible to negative border wall impacts. Finally, the border wall runs between two large networks of protected lands known for their rich desert biodiversity and diverse mammal communities. These networks are the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe National Monument in the U.S.A. and the El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. The goals of this study are to understand the impacts of the border wall on mammalian communities within these protected networks and provide suggestions for actions to mitigate negative border wall impacts on these wildlife communities. We will accomplish this using camera traps placed at varying distances from the border and in different landscape contexts. We will use detection/non-detection data of different mammals to estimate species-specific and community-level relationships between occupancy and border wall proximity. This study will be led by a graduate student from the University of Arizona in collaboration with the Pinacate Reserve and National Park Service.