Endangered Species in the Sacramentos by New Mexico State Forestry

There are several endangered or threatened species of plants and animals that are common in the Sacramento Mountain. Some are only found here. Below is some information on three such species.

The Mexican Spotted Owl was listed as threatened in March of 1993. Critical habitat for the species was designated in June 1995.

The spotted owl is mottled in appearance with irregular white and brown spots on its abdomen, back and head. The spots of the Mexican Spotted Owl are larger and more numerous than in the other two subspecies, giving it a lighter appearance. Unlike most owls, spotted owls have dark eyes. Several thin white bands mark an otherwise brown tail. Plumage characteristics in both sexes of spotted owls are similar, but the sexes can be readily distinguished by the voice. Although the spotted owl is characterized as a medium-sized owl, it is the fifth largest owl in North America. Like many other raptors, the female is larger than the male.

The Mexican Spotted Owl currently occupies a broad geographic area, but does not occur uniformly throughout it's range. Instead, the owl occurs in disjunct localities that correspond to isolated mountain systems and canyons. The current owl distribution mimics its historical extent, with a few exceptions. The owl has not been reported recently along major riparian corridors in Arizona and New Mexico, nor in historically documented areas of southern Mexico.

The Mexican Spotted Owl has been recorded in all of the New Mexico National Forests at elevations of 3,700 to 10,000 feet. Habitat consists of caves, cliff ledges, witches' broom, and stick nests of other species in mature and old growth forest associated with steep canyons. The preferred vegetation type is mixed conifer; however, they can be found in pinyon-juniper, pine-oak, and ponderosa pine. The largest concentration of Mexican Spotted Owls in New Mexico occur in the Mogollon and Sacramento Mountain ranges.

Sacramento Mountains Thistle

The Sacramento Mountains thistle was listed as threatened without critical habitat on June 16, 1987. It is listed by the state as a New Mexico Endangered Plant Species. This thistle is known to occur at approximately 62 springs and streams in the Sacramento Mountains of south-central New Mexico. The majority of the populations are located on the Lincoln National Forest in mixed conifer-mountain meadow associations.

Sacramento Mountains thistles are sturdy biennials 1-1.8 meters tall with many ascending, brownish-purple branches. Basal leaves are green, 30-50 cm long, and up to 20 cm wide, with spiny ragged edges and divisions nearly to the midrib. Flower heads are 5 cm in diameter and almost as long, numerous at the ends of branches, and bell-shaped. The flowers are pinkish-purple.

The Sacramento Mountains thistle reproduces both sexually by seeds and asexually by rhizomes. It is pollinated by hummingbirds, bees, beetles, flies, and moths. Fruits develop from July through September. The seeds have a feather-like plume that aids wind dispersal. Seedlings grow rapidly and form a dense rosette of leaves the first year; plants bolt and flower during the second growing season.

The Sacramento Mountains thistle occurs in wet areas such as springs, seeps, and along streams. It prefers soils high in calcium carbonate at elevations ranging between 7,500 and 9,500 feet. Populations are most dense on travertine mounds at springs sometimes to the point of excluding most other vegetation.

As the name implies, the Sacramento Mountains thistle occurs in the Sacramento Mountains of south-central New Mexico within a range of approximately 150 square miles. The majority of the plants are on Lincoln National Forest lands with some on private or Mescalero Apache lands. The total area occupied by the 58 sites on Forest lands is only about 66 acres, but due the dense growth of some populations the total number of plants has been estimated to be almost 50,000.

Sacramento Prickly Poppy

The Sacramento Prickly Poppy was listed as endangered without critical habitat on August 24, 1989.  It is part of the Papaveraceae family. Perennial; commonly to 1.25 m tall; stems numerous, branching from the base; stems and leaves prickly, with cream-colored sap; leaves pinnately dissected with divisions at right angles to the main axis of the leaf; petals white, with a thin papery texture; anthers of the numerous stamens yellow; seed capsules with many fine spines, none branched. Flowers May to August.

Little is known about the life history and ecology of Sacramento prickly poppy. Flowering begins in May and continues throughout the fall depending on elevation and moisture conditions. Seedlings are susceptible to desication, being washed out by floods and other factors. Once established, the plants develop deep tap roots that appear resistant to drought, mechanical injury and small floods. Unless a major disturbance occurs, established individuals can persist on a site for several years.

The Sacramento Prickly Poppy is found in a variety of soils in moist semi-riparian to dry, rocky canyon bottoms, and north-facing slopes; sometimes along roadsides; in Chihuahuan semi-desert grassland and pinyon-juniper woodland (4,200-7,100 ft).

The Sacramento Prickly Poppy likes west draining canyons of the Sacramento Mountains. Known specific occurrences are Fresnal Canyon, La Luz Canyon, along Hwy. 82, Marble Canyon, Alamo Canyon, Dog Canyon-Oliver Lee State Park, Salado Canyon, Dry Canyon, San Andreas Canyon.


Black Footed Ferret is in Otero
County, maybe not mountains.

To find out more about endangered plants and animals contact your local office of the NM Department of Game and Fish. This information came from the Fish and Wildlife Service.