Oryx (Oryx gazella gazella) presence patterns in a long term grazing study in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico

TitleOryx (Oryx gazella gazella) presence patterns in a long term grazing study in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsFunk M., McIntosh MM, Bender L., Cibils AF, Cox A, Fuentes-Soriano S., Spiegal S., Estell RE
Conference Name2022 Society for Range Management Annual Meeting
Date Published2/8/2022
ARIS Log Number392973
KeywordsChihuahuan Desert, grazing study, long term, New Mexico, Oryx, Oryx gazella gazella, patterns, presence

A long term grazing study comparing the impact of grazing heritage (Raramuri Criollo) vs. commercial (Brangus) beef cattle on desert rangelands was initiated in 2020 at the NMSU Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center (CDRRC). South African oryx (Oryx gazella gazella) were introduced in the 1970s onto White Sands Missile Range, located ca. 20 miles east of the CDRRC, and oryx are frequently observed in our 5,000 ha study pastures. However, patterns of oryx presence in the grazing experiment pastures have not been determined. Hence, we sought to quantify oryx presence in our study pastures to help clarify: a) their potential impact on our experiment treatments; and b) cattle-, vegetation-, season- and ranch infrastructure- related factors associated with patterns of oryx presence in our experimental pastures. We obtained ca. 2,250 images from 40 trail cameras located in our four study pastures (10 cameras/pasture). Images were collected over a nine month phase repeated in two consecutive years, 2020 and 2021. Annually, images were collected during 3 periods: a) pre-grazing (Dec–Feb), three months prior to placing cattle in the experiment area; b) grazing, when cattle grazed the experiment pastures (Mar–May); and c) post-grazing, the three months after cattle were removed from pastures (Jun–Aug). Grazing occurred in pastures only in 2020; no grazing occurred in 2021 because of severe drought conditions. These data will be compared with fecal pellet counts observed on permanent 100m transects at the camera locations to corroborate relative oryx presence. Additionally, vegetation cover data were collected at the permanent transects to determine potential relationships between oryx presence and plant cover. Our poster will report on oryx presence patterns across our study pastures with respect to cattle presence, vegetation, ranch infrastructure (distance to roads and drinkers), and season of the year.