Citizen scientists spot wildlife all around southern Arizona

Citizen scientists spot wildlife all around southern Arizona
Jerry Rowlette captured this coyote on film with one of his 26 trail cameras on his property.

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson resident Jerry Rowlette didn't realize how popular his property was for wildlife until he placed a trail camera in his yard.

One of his first images of a bobcat moving past his camera years ago has led to Rowlette covering his three acres near Tucson Mountain Park with 26 cameras.

"There's a tremendous amount of animal activity that you would never know was there," he said. "There's nothing special about my yard. The only difference is I have cameras."

David Dean, another wildlife enthusiast, had one of his cameras capture the most recent sighting of a mountain lion in Sabino Canyon in February. Dean found a similar result after checking his first camera roughly two years prior.

"Talk about beginner's luck!" said Dean. "Nothing I have owned has given me as much enjoyment as those cameras."

Dean maintains several cameras around Coronado National Forest and moves them between Sabino Canyon and Mount Lemmon depending on the season.

As a member of the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists, Dean shares anything his cameras capture with The U.S. Forest Service and both photographers share their videos with Arizona Game and Fish Department.

According to Rowlette, the state agency considers individuals who share wildlife sightings as "citizen scientists."

"I never thought I'd be called a scientist," said Rowlette. "But, it's just something I enjoy doing and I like to share and it contributes and it's great."

The videos can help AZGD monitor movement of larger wildlife like mountain lions and it can point out any potential health risks like rabies. Rowlette said he has yet to see any sick creatures on his cameras though.

Rowlette admits there is a large water bowl in his yard, but he's never fed any animals in hopes of a better close up shot. For both men, the enjoyment comes from appreciating what southern Arizona has to offer without affecting any natural habits.

"You can capture the same animal over and over again and get tremendous images the next day, the next month, the next year," said Rowlette.

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