Understanding the Land of Enchantment

Hi all! So this is the second week of my time in New Mexico, aka the “Land of Enchantment,” a description written on every license plate in the state. Let me start at the beginning of the week. On my day off I went to Las Cruces, the larger city 40 minutes west of White Sands National Monument (WHSA). There I got to visit the historic town of Mesilla, which is in the metropolitan area of Las Cruces. The smallness of the square resembled and reminded me of the small town my mom is from in Mexico; it made me feel comfortable and nostalgic for my second home. I plan on spending a lot of my time off in that area to see what the Southwest towns are like, in addition to hopefully seeing nearby parks or monuments. Then on Monday I got more shadowing done, which is pictured below. One of the short informal presentations I will be giving this summer is the Skins and Skulls program, where rangers show the pelts of predators in the area and their correlated skulls to educate the visitors about what is out there and how the ecosystem works. In the pictures below we have, from front to back, the coyote, Kit fox, American Badger and a bobcat. The Kit fox is the only carnivore that actually calls the dunes of WHSA its home, and therefore is the top predator even though it is only the size of a chihuahua dog. The other animals are mostly found in the mountains or dark desert areas around the dunes, and only come in to catch prey if they cannot find it in their normal habitat. I loved seeing the young and older visitors be both amazed and slightly wary of the pelts, as they imagined seeing one of these animals in real life. I can surely say that I was thinking the same thing as I held and touched the pelts, seeing the differences in the softness and extremities of the animals was awe inducing.

Ranger showing the skull of a coyote.

Skins and skulls from front to back: bobcat, American Badger, Kit fox and coyote.

The rest of my week has been training on all sorts of things like what the different staff in the park do, protocol for if we see snakes or injured animals out in the park, and about the deep and beautiful history of the land. It has been a lot of interesting facts and I have been taking notes to make sure that I can remember and refer to them later on when doing my own talks on the park. I also got to do a ride-along with the Law Enforcement people, to have a day in their shoes and understand what duties they have. It is no easy task to deal with rowdy visitors and I tip my hat off to them. So much to learn, but I am having a blast so far! ~Angelica    

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