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Tarahumara Copper Canyon Expedition

Fauna & Flora

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Fauna and Flora

According to data from SEMARNAP, the National Secretariat for the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries of Mexico, at least 517 species of fauna: 290 of birds, 70 of mammals, 87 of reptiles, 20 of amphibians and 50 of fish live in the Sierra Madre Occidental. Due to deforestation many species are now endangered.

The mile deep canyons of the "Barranca del Cobre" have starkly different environments on the sierras (mountains) and inside the barrancas (canyons). On the high plateaus and canyon rims with altitudes over 8000 ft. (2400 m), beautiful, fragrant, coniferous forests of pine and Douglas fir cover these highlands where the black bear, puma, Mexican wolf and mountain lion live in the more remote regions. These animals are rarely seen and are threatened with extinction in the Sierra Tarahumara. Summer rains herald verdant mesa tops that are gaily colored with wildflowers from the end of September to October.

At lower levels, 6000 to 8000 ft. (1800-2400m), other species of pines, junipers, and numerous oaks occupy the expansive forests while shade- tolerant Madrona trees present a striking contrast with their smooth, red-colored bark. Around Basaseachic and Madera, alders and poplars add blazing color to the forests in the fall.

These woodlands give way to brushwood, cactus, agave, ocotillo and scrubby trees on canyon slopes below the rim between 4000 to 6000 ft. (1200-1800m). Many have adapted to arid conditions by dropping their leaves during long, dry spells. At the bottom of the canyons, tropical conditions prevail and where water is available, huge fig and ceiba trees can be found as well as a variety of grasses, reeds and palms.

Jaguar, jaguarundi and ocelots favor this warm environment but they, too, are infrequently sighted. Badgers, otters, skunks and squirrels are plentiful and birds are well represented with 290 species of which 24 are endemic (they exist only here). Among the more unusual are the impressive green, red and blue parrot (Ara militaris), the mountain cockatoo (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha) and the coa (Euptilotis noxenus), all of which are threatened. There are also 23 varieties of reptiles.

Reprinted from Adventures Great and Small


Medicinal Plants of the Tarahumara  Journal of the American Botanical Council on the many medicinal plants used by the Tarahumara.

Tarahumara Mountain Kingsnake  Photo and description of this species of kingsnake.

Centres of Plant Diversity (CPD) project Middle America   National Museum of Nat'l History project involving over 400 botanists, conservationists and resource managers worldwide, together with over 100 collaborating institutions and organizations.

Sierra Madre Occidental pine-oak forests  World Wildlife Fund report on the flora and fauna of region.

Chihuahua Economy  Mexico for Kids Site by the Presidency of the Republic of Mexico.

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