Arizona - McDowell Sonoran Preserve Survey

In 1990, citizens of Scottsdale, Arizona, through the non-profit McDowell Sonoran Land Trust, today called the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, initiated the preservation of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains and Sonoran Desert. The vision was to preserve approximately 36,400 acres of natural land, the equivalent of 1/3 of Scottsdale’s total land area. Protected land in this geographic area is called the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. When completed, the City of Scottsdale will have created the largest urban preserve in the nation, consisting of mountains, Sonoran Desert, and natural corridors linking to natural open space in adjacent communities and to the Tonto National Forest and the Maricopa County Regional Park. The objective is to create a large sustainable natural desert habitat for wildlife and desert flora, available for appropriate passive recreational public use. Arizona Game and Fish considers it to be the most significant wildlife habitat in the Phoenix area outside the Tonto National Forest.
The MSC Conservancy has started the Sonoran Field Institute. The Field Institute is a program designed to facilitate research that leads to an enhanced understanding of the Preserve by scientists with local institutions like Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona State University, and the Arizona Geologic Survey. An expected outcome will be to help MSC inform management decisions and ensure that recreation practices meet the goal of causing little or no impact to the Preserve. The Arizona Chapter of the North American Field Herping Association (NAFHA) is participating in this research. Chapter members, with the assistance of Preserve volunteers and staff, are conducting a survey of the reptiles and amphibians of the Preserve. Over the next three years, Chapter members will be surveying, cataloging and photographing the reptiles and amphibians which occur in the Preserve.
Data collected from Chapter outings in the Preserve will be used to help determine how to best protect the herp assets of the Preserve. This will include the possible construction of a land bridge or tunnel in the Dynamite Road corridor which will serve as a wildlife corridor between the newly gained northern section and the older south section of the preserve. This project will help reduce road casualties of animals killed while trying to cross Dynamite Road.
Presently, NAFHA volunteers are visiting the preserve on a monthly basis to document the reptiles and amphibians of the preserve. Some of the species located have been Black-tailed Rattlesnake, Western Diamond backed Rattlesnake, Tiger Rattlesnake, Patch-nosed Snake, Gopher Snake, Banded Gecko, Regal Horned Lizard, Tiger Whiptail Lizards, a Gila Monster and many others. Check the continually growing list of herp species recorded by our members in the HERP Database at under the listing Survey, McDowell Sonoran Preserve in the Recorded By menu. 
                    Northern Black-tailed Rattlesnake                                                   Regal Horned Lizard                                                                     Gila Monster
                      Crotalus m. molossus                                                                Phrynosoma solare                                                            Heloderma suspectum
Photos courtesy of Dave Weber and Bryan Hughes