Warming Winters Hurt New Mexico Wildlife

03-30-2012 // Beth Blakeman - Public News Service (NM)

This excerpt is from Public News Service - NM

New Mexico's profitable hunting and fishing traditions are at risk from increasingly warm winters, according to a new report.

The National Wildlife Federation says outdoor enthusiasts are scrambling to adapt to shifts in climate and habitat - and John Cornell says wildlife is, too. As the sportsman coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, he says one of the most iconic big-game species in the West is decreasing in numbers.

"We've seen declines in mule deer populations from the heydays back in the 1950s and 1960s. Mule deer don't adapt as well as white-tailed deer when they're competing in the same habitat."

The report says pronghorn and desert bighorn sheep are two other wildlife icons at risk. When habitat is affected, explains Cornell, it creates changes in migration patterns, birthing and fawning rates. In short, stressing habitat means stressing wildlife, which also means changes for hunters, anglers and birders.

Fish species also are experiencing challenges. Garrett Venneklasen, New Mexico public land coordinator for Trout Unlimited, says the Rio Grande and Gila cutthroat trout are native to New Mexico, and are what he calls "indicator species."

"They're a barometer for ecosystem health, and we really need to pay attention to them. It's sort of a stack of cards, when these species start to be impacted, everything sort of falls away behind them."

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