Spotted skunk

Spotted skunk

Striped skunk

Striped skunk

American badger

American badger



Antelope jackrabbit

Antelope jackrabbit

Mountain lion

Mountain lion





Welcome to the Lost Carnivores website, a forum for learning about the status of wildlife in the greater Tucson Mountain area of southern Arizona through wildlife cameras.




Access the data

Educational programs

Identify animals in wildlife camera photos

More about island biogeography


The purpose of this website is to showcase photos of Sonoran Desert wildlife taken in the greater Tucson Mountain area and to help educate the public and involve citizens in studying and helping protect wildlife.


Biologists from Saguaro National Park, University of Arizona, and other organizations have been using these infrared-triggered cameras – which take photos of animals when people are not present – to study wildlife in Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park for many years.


We call this project the “Lost Carnivores” because we are interested in the health of carnivore populations in the Tucson Mountains, which is becoming surrounded by development. Across the world, biologists have seen species decline in natural areas as they become isolated from other areas. Could this be happening in the Tucson Mountains? We do not know, but we have seen fewer photos of skunks, kit foxes, American badgers, mountain lions, and ringtails than in the past.


The greater Tucson Mountain area, which includes Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, the Tohono O’odham Reservation, Avra Valley, and many rural and developing lands, is well-known for its spectacular wildlife. Bighorn sheep once ranged widely, and mule deer and mountain lions can still be seen.


A major goal of this website is to encourage others who use wildlife cameras to share their results. In the long run, we hope to gain a greater understanding of the status of the Lost Carnivores and an understanding of how we can best protect them in the future. The site will also provide data for teachers to use in teaching about wildlife habitat and behavior.










There have been three wildlife surveys in the Tucson Mountains since 2000.  In 2001-2005, biologists from Saguaro National Park and the University of Arizona set cameras at random and non-random points for approximately 2,000 camera days total.  They photographed 20 native species of medium and large mammals. 


During 2008-2010, biologists from the University of Arizona set cameras in Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park.  They targeted mountain lions and bobcats, but collected photos of many other species.  This study discovered a new species for the Tucson Mountains – the Mexican possum – and photographed 19 native species.


In 2011-2012, biologists and citizen scientists from Saguaro National Park repeated the 2001-2005 inventory with a new array of random sites.  This time, with cameras set out for approximately 4,800 days, they only photographed 14 species.  They did not photograph six species observed in 2001-2005, including 3 species of skunks, and obtained few photos of several other types of carnivores.  


What could account for the differences?  It could be chance alone, although the later study had a large number of photo days. In the earlier study, some cameras were baited with cat food and other lures, and none were in 2011-2012.  But it does seem possible that the number of small carnivores has declined

Local students have been helping Saguaro National Park collect scientific data for many years, especially on saguaros and wildlife. In the Lost Carnivore education program, middle and high school students go into the field to check wildlife cameras that have been set out by previous students. Then, they set their own cameras that are checked by a future group of students a few weeks later. All the data and photos are shared. Check out the photos that our student “citizen scientists” have taken on their wildlife cameras in the past few years!



In March and April, 2016, two young bighorn sheep were seen in the Tucson Mountains, and photographed on a “lost carnivore” project set by students from a middle school! These two young males were the first sheep documented in the mountains in several decades.  Biologists from Pima County tracked them back to where they used wildlife crossings over the Central Arizona Project canal west of Saguaro National Park.  They are believed to come from the herd in the Silverbell Mountains in Ironwood Forest National Monument.  The two sheep were seen by countless neighbors and hikers for several weeks, then vanished again – possibly back to the Silverbells.  Nevertheless, their brief foray was a sign of hope that a species that had once disappeared could possibly return.

Bighorn sheep –

a success story?






4432 S Old Spanish Trail

Tucson, AZ 85730, USA


Success! Message received.