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Tracks Through Time in the Land of Enchantment

Many people aim to lighten their burden upon the earth, and however sincere their intentions, actual efforts range from slight to significant. But some take the ethic fully to heart. One such person is a landowner of one of Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust’s sanctuaries, who wishes to remain anonymous. We’ll call her Anna, after one of the hummingbird species seen on her 1,280-acre property in southern New Mexico.

“I think you should try to leave the smallest tracks that you possibly can,” says Anna, who has lived off-grid for over a quarter century. The few structures on her land were built single-handedly by a previous owner during the Great Depression, using only salvaged materials. She chooses to work with what’s there, making repairs, propping and jacking things up—whatever is needed to refrain from taking more resources from the earth.

“When I first got on the land,” says Anna, “it sort of wrapped its arms around me and said, ‘You’re home.’” From that point on, she has related to the land with gratitude and respect. In turn, the land is a constant source of beauty and inspiration in her life. “I have three big dogs I walk the land with, both in early morning and early evening,” she says, “and we see all kinds of things—lots of rabbits, deer, coyotes, birds.” Motion detector cameras placed on the property have also captured images of badgers, foxes, javelina, mountain lions, bobcats, and jaguars may be present, as well.

For the past seven years, rainfall for the area has been below average, and Anna has seen a noticeable decline in the number of birds and other animals. Much of the vegetation is suffering, but the slow-growing junipers are faring well. A guzzler placed on the property captures what little rain does fall, providing a reliable source of water for wildlife.

Changes in weather patterns have altered the species of birds present and the timing of some migratory visits. In the past, only one or two yellow-headed blackbirds would pass through, but this year she had over a hundred during a three-day period. Conversely, she used to keep two or three hummingbird feeders filled for visiting hummers, yet this year, even with only one feeder out, the nectar went largely untouched, perhaps because the drought has diminished the number of wildflowers.

“I still see doves and quails,” says Anna, “and there are house finches and sparrows,” which would most likely be black-throated and white-crowned. A pair of ravens has been nesting here for several years, too. “They always fledge three or four young,” she says, “and the flycatchers dive-bomb the adult ravens because they try to steal young from their nests.”

Describing herself as a “selective Luddite,” Anna says she occasionally goes into town, but most of her days are spent listening to satellite radio, reading, making repairs, and enjoying the land and wildlife with her dogs. “You have to live every day of your life as best you can,” she says, and living lightly on the land is precisely what enables her to live a life she loves.

American Badger

Built low-to-the-ground, American badgers are stocky, muscular animals that measure 20" to 35” in length and weigh 9 to 26 pounds. Skillful hunters, these animals can thrive in a variety of habitats.

 

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