1. Act like you're birding. That shouldn't be too hard.
2. Don't chase anyone with a backpack or a gun.
3. Don't carry a gun or wear a mask.
4. Don't act like a vigilante and go after any groups or try to make a cell phone call just because you see something suspicious.
5. Stay within voice contact of another teammate or at least make for a rendezvous point within a reasonable amount of time. A twisted ankle or an unfortunate encounter with an agave is enough reason to not be all alone out there, though I have hiked alone there several times and not had any trouble.
Here's snippet from a recent article in the Tucson Weekly, quoting a birder, CBC participant, and former district ranger for the USFS:
But Keith Graves says he's worked the area, often alone, for 12 years with no problem, and that the Coronado has had no complaints from people who've been accosted. "As long as you're not stupid, it's safe to go in there," says Graves. "But take precautions. It's like camping out in Montana without managing for grizzly bears."
He says if you see backpacks or packages wrapped in burlap, leave them alone. If you see a group that doesn't fit the surroundings and doesn't look like a hiking club, go the other way.
Graves' biggest fear is vigilantes announcing they're going into an area to stop drug-smugglers, putting hunters in danger. "A bandit won't know if I'm a deer hunter or if I'm out to find him," says Graves.Otherwise the article glossed over his testimony and opinion, being rather sensationalistic and sounding more like a propaganda tool of the current state governor's office. It did list nine recent reports of violence from the region and all have involved border patrol agents, undocumented immigrants, and drug smugglers. There don't seem to be any reports involving hunters, hikers, and birders, despite their being all over this area year-round.
Don't forget to read through the old archives of this blog, using the links on the right. All the info is still current and useful.
Rich, thank you for this post. I, too, thought the article was pretty sensationalized.
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