It may be hard to believe, but until just two years ago, the Grand Canyon National Park did not have adequate funding to conduct its own baseline survey of wildlife living in the Colorado River corridor. In 2001, park service biologists appealed to the superintendent to ask if the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation would consider supporting a multi-year study and inventory of wildlife living along the river. Without adequate information about the type and number of species in the river corridor, the park would be unable to effectively protect wildlife that may be at risk. The Foundation, in fulfilling its mission to preserve Grand Canyon's natural resources, decided to act.
The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation (GCNPF) successfully sought and secured funding from private sources to launch a multi-year research and monitoring study of wildlife in the river corridor. A multi-year project allows for an adequate sample size in collecting the pertinent data necessary for input into effective park management plans. Funding from the Arizona Community Foundation and the Grand Canyon Colorado River Fund in 2001 and 2002 enabled implementation of the following project components:
- establishment of wildlife monitoring transects for deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions in the river corridor to complement the established rim transects
- the final habitat mapping requirements for the future reintroduction of river otters and beaver population preservation
- the monitoring of the threatened Townsend's big-eared bat population in Stanton's Cave and the discovery of spotted and mastiff bat roost sites
- continued DNA collection in two Grand Canyon rattlesnake species
- the continued inventory and distribution of leopard frogs and tadpoles
Next Steps in 2003
Grand Canyon has seen a dramatic rise in recreational visitors in the form of river trips, hiking, and camping. Much of this increase is concentrated in the side canyons and riparian strips in Grand Canyon, and the effects of this increased use are largely unknown. Obtaining a better understanding of the effects of river management on plant and animal populations is a high priority for natural resource managers at Grand Canyon National Park and for the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation. River inventories and monitoring efforts supported by the Foundation are addressing these natural resource concerns by contributing significant new data on the park's wildlife populations and potential human impacts on those populations.
The 2003 study plan involves launching a sixteen day river trip in April through Grand Canyon National Park to continue previous years' monitoring and survey work of deer, mountain lions, otters, leopard frogs, bats, and pink rattlesnakes in the river corridor. The study will also re-establish monitoring plots from the late 1970s to assess impacts from burros on bighorn sheep, small mammals, and vegetation.
Funding provided by the Foundation supports boatmen, equipment and supplies, and logistics to mount a comprehensive research study along the river corridor. This annual expedition will continue to build baseline data enabling park biologists to make informed management decisions that will ensure the preservation and protection of Grand Canyon wildlife well into the future.
Check out the new NPS Virtual River Research Expedition to learn more about the wildlife living in the Grand Canyon river corridor. You will need QuickTime to view and navigate the site.