Monday, December 28, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2020 at 11:30 AM

PHOENIX – A team of researchers at Petrified Forest National Park east of Holbrook have discovered fossilized remains of a new species of prehistoric reptile. The 220-million-year old burrowing reptile is a drepanosaur, an ancient reptile that had a claw on its tail and a birdlike beak.

Researchers, who named the species Skybalonyx skapter, announced the discovery Oct. 8.

Originally, drepanosaurs were thought to have lived in the trees that grew lush in prehistoric Arizona, but Bill Parker, a paleontologist with Petrified Forest National Park, said Skybalonyx skapter suggests something else.

“The new one, we think, is actually what they call fossorial, so it actually dug in the ground and burrowed,” Parker said. Researchers suspect the claw on the tail, as well as elongated claws on the reptile’s second fingers, helped it dig for bugs to eat.

Skybalonyx was discovered by a group of summer interns from Arizona State University, Virginia Tech, the University of Washington and other colleges who teamed with park researchers to scour an area of the park known as Thunderstorm Ridge.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 1:24 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo

In an effort to get more pets homes for the holidays, the first 48 pet adoption fees will be covered at Pima Animal Care Center on Saturday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 22.

The adoption fees are covered by Central Pet animal care and Boss Dog pet food. All adopted dogs will go home with Boss Dog yogurt samples.

Pima Animal Care Center is still operating by appointment only and anyone interested in adopting a pet will need to make an appointment by visiting

Pima Animal Care Center is located at 4000 N. Silverbell Road.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge The bison herd that has moved into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon now numbers between 400 and 600 animals, a stress on the environment. Wildlife management officials want to reduce that to about 200 animals, in part through bringing in sharpshooters. - FILE PHOTO BY KIANNA GARDNER/CRONKITE NEWS
File photo by Kianna Gardner/Cronkite News
The bison herd that has moved into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon now numbers between 400 and 600 animals, a stress on the environment. Wildlife management officials want to reduce that to about 200 animals, in part through bringing in sharpshooters.

WASHINGTON – State and federal officials have agreed on a plan that includes bringing in volunteer sharpshooters to cut the number of bison on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Lethal removal has long been discussed as a way to reduce the herd, along with hazing and relocation, but the Sept. 25 agreement between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service clears a path for it to begin as soon as next year.

Scott Poppenberger, Flagstaff regional supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said “the lethal removal component is a big part of this recent agreement,” and believes that the measures to reduce the population will help provide balance to the damaged ecosystem.

It comes amid growing concerns from the public and the park service about the impact the nonnative bison have on natural resources, and worries that they could pose a danger to park visitors.

The animals, descended from early 20th-century attempts to cross-breed cattle and bison, have proliferated in the Grand Canyon National Park, where they currently cannot be hunted. The goal of the agreement is to reduce the current herd of 400 to 600 bison to as few as 200, which would do less damage to the environment.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2020 at 1:06 PM

Humane Society of Southern Arizona
The Humane Society of Southern Arizona is in desperate need of wet cat food and is issuing a clarion call to the public for donations as pandemic pets continue to trickle into the shelter.

Canned, wet cat food donations can be dropped off at the HSSA's main campus, located at 635 W. Roger Rd from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday through Saturday or noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

You can also help out the HSSA from the comfort of your home by donating through the shelter's Amazon Wishlist. Just purchase an item from the list and Jeff Bezos' minions will deliver them straight to the HSSA.

HSSA's furbabies thank you for your support. For more information, check out

Monday, June 29, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 11:00 AM

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PHOENIX – Nearly three years after it won endangered species status, the Sonoyta mud turtle was granted 12.3 acres of protected habitat this week – but supporters worry that that habitat may no longer provide all the protection the turtles need.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday designated an area in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in the turtle’s historic territory in the Rio Sonoyta watershed, as protected.

But that habitat bumps right against the U.S.-Mexico border, where one expert said construction crews “are pulling huge amounts of water out of the aquifer” to work on the border wall.

Critics worry that the pumping will eventually affect the Quitobaquito springs and pond, which the turtles have depended on for what experts think could be thousands of years. The pond sits around 100 yards from the site of the planned border wall.

“They are pulling huge amounts of water out of the aquifer to mix concrete and to spray on the roads to keep dust down, and it’s only a matter of time before the flow that reaches the surface of the spring there fails,” said Randy Serraglio, southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“When that happens, then that’s it. The aquatic habitat dries up and the turtle will die,” Serraglio said.

The border wall is just one issue the turtle faces in the middle of the desert, where Serraglio said over-pumping, water diversion and 20 years of drought conditions also pose threats.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge The Verde River is home to the rare loach minnow and another small fish, the spikedace, and birds protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and the southwestern willow flycatcher. (Photo courtesy of Joe Trudeau, Center for Biological Diversity)
The Verde River is home to the rare loach minnow and another small fish, the spikedace, and birds protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and the southwestern willow flycatcher. (Photo courtesy of Joe Trudeau, Center for Biological Diversity)
PHOENIX – It’s a tale of two rivers: The Verde, which flows south from near Flagstaff to metro Phoenix, and the San Pedro, which begins in Mexico and flows north to Winkelman.

In some ways, the rivers differ drastically. The San Pedro is one of the last undammed rivers in the Southwest, while the Verde has many dams, including Horseshoe and Bartlett northeast of Phoenix. Parts of the Verde are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – protections the San Pedro doesn’t share.

But for all the differences, there are many similarities. Both have diverse ecosystems that are home to many endangered wildlife species, including the southwestern willow flycatcher and loach minnow. Both have felt the effects of increased groundwater pumping and cattle grazing. And, just recently, both have been at the center of lawsuits filed to protect each river.

“The story of Arizona rivers is that we have demonstrated many times that we can dry them up, but we haven’t demonstrated that we can save them,” said Sandy Bahr, the director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

In this two-part series, Cronkite News takes a deep dive into these two Arizona rivers and the threats they face.

Part 1: The Verde
At almost 60, Jon Fuller would rather be canoeing the Verde than sitting in a reclining chair. The author of “Verde River Elegy: A Paddling Journey to the River’s End,” Fuller has studied rivers for almost four decades. During his journey down the Verde in 2017, Fuller witnessed cattle grazing along the banks.

“The cows drop their droppings on the campsite, on the river,” he said. He points out the irony of having to carry his own waste, in accordance with the law, while seeing far more waste from what he calls unregulated cattle. Cattle also erode river banks and sandbars, and eat large amounts of streamside vegetation.

“It turns out most wilderness areas have exemptions for cattle grazing, although they should not be in the river corridor themselves, according to the rules the federal government agreed to,” Fuller said. “Yet there they were.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 2:10 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY REID PARK ZOO
Courtesy Reid Park Zoo
Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo said “goodbye” to one of its animals Wednesday when the organization announced the passing of Shombay the African lion. Shombay lived to 12 and was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2016.

“Losing Shombay is particularly difficult for our team,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, Director of Zoo Operations, in the zoo’s announcement. “Our animal care and veterinary teams worked so hard to encourage him to participate in training sessions to help save his life. When he received these additional fluids, he would act more energetic. The team could see clear evidence of how their skills and dedication helped Shombay. They are all proud to have worked with him and our zoo is so lucky to have such dedicated staff.”

According to the zoo, the lion’s recent blood tests showed a decline in kidney function, and “he was not participating in fluid sessions.”

“These factors combined contributed to the zoo’s decision to humanely euthanize him on Wednesday morning,” the zoo stated.

Shombay landed at Reid Park Zoo in 2010, when he was 2 years old. Known as a cautious lion, Shomby was well known for investigating new habitats before making himself comfortable—and longtime patrons may remember the mohawk he once sported in his youth.

Shombay and Kaya, a female lion at the zoo, were responsible for the birth of several litters of cubs. Their 6-year-old, Nayo, lives at Reid Park.

“We expect their behaviors to be different in the near future as they adapt to life without Shombay,” Animal Care Supervisor Rebecca Edwards said. “Our team will do all we can to make the transition as easy as possible.”

Friday, June 19, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge National Foster Hero Liz Johnson - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
National Foster Hero Liz Johnson
People are passionate about their fur-babies. Big or small, furry or slimy, silent or loud, people love animals and see them as part of their families.

Unfortunately, not all creatures get to share in the love and get left behind, forgotten about, or worse. If they're lucky, they make it to centers like Pima Animal Care Center where they sit and wait for their forever homes.

This can be super stressful for the animal, who only wants to feel safe and comfortable. Instead, they're crowded around other animals they don't know in conditions they're not familiar with, hoping that someone will notice them and take them in.

Enter people like Liz Johnson. Liz volunteers with PACC by fostering some of these animals until someone is willing to give them their home and heart. And now, she's being recognized for her efforts.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 12:30 PM

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum received a strong vote of confidence this week when it was granted accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums independent accreditation commission.

The association is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science and recreation” and acts as the accrediting body for zoos and aquariums in the United States and 11 other countries.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was founded in 1952, and today contains more than 4,800 living animals spanning more than 240 species. The museum is also home to more than 56,000 plants of 1,200 taxa and an impressive mineral and fossil collection.

“I, the Board of Trustees, and all the staff and volunteers of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are extremely pleased to hear that the Museum has, once again, earned accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” said museum executive director Craig Ivanyi, in a statement. “The AZA is the gold standard for the zoological industry and maintaining accreditation is critical to the credibility of the Museum and all its sister organizations, as we remain steadfastly focused on our critical conservation mission.”

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2020 at 3:00 PM

The Pima Animal Care Center and Friends of PACC have $15,000 in the bank to help cover veterinary expenses for those who qualify for aid after a donation from the Banfield and South Fork foundations.

Pets living in a home facing financial hardship will benefit from the funding through the shelters assistance program.

“PACC now has an opportunity to help people and pets impacted by COVID,” said director Kristen Hassen. “We are here to help pets owned by people who have gotten sick or faced financial distress in this unprecedented event.”

Funding will provide aid for those facing hardship due to illness, job loss, financial insecurity or any other challenge related to COVID-19. Referrals for aid are made through the shelter’s partner groups, and PACC hopes to expand its pilot program as more funding becomes available.

During the pandemic, PACC is only allowing residents to enter the shelter by appointment. For more information, visit