The San Andres National Wildlife Refuge is situated in the southern San Andres Mountains of southcentral New Mexico, USA, and is elevated between 4,200 feet (1,300 m) and 8,239 feet (2,511 m) feet. The refuge is located inside the northernmost extent of the Chihuahuan Desert. Creosote and Chihuahuan desert grasslands in the bajadas are one type of refuge habitat, while higher elevation pinyon-juniper forests are another. Water for wildlife and riparian habitats is available in the refuge from a few springs, seeps, and seasonally flowing streams.
The White Sands Missile Range completely encircles San Andres NWR, which is off-limits to the general public for safety concerns. You may wish to visit other parks closer to Las Cruces.
The greatest complete mountain range of the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States is protected by the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. At the southernmost point of the San Andres Mountains, the refuge stretches 21 miles north to south. At 8,239 feet, San Andres Peak is the highest peak (2,511 m). The Bennett and Big Brushy Mountains are above 7,000 feet high (2,100 m). The range is a block of faults with a western inclination. From the Tularosa Basin, which is now mostly a part of the White Sands military facility, the eastern slopes of the San Andres rise abruptly. The Jornada del Muerto merges into the western slopes, which are more gradual.
San Andres NWR is the largest area of protected land for desert bighorns in New Mexico. The desert bighorn sheep, which was becoming endangered throughout much of its habitat, was protected by the establishment of the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. There were 33 desert bighorn sheep living in the area in 1941, the year the refuge was established. This number rose to 140 in 1950 under protection before falling to 70 following a severe drought. After the refuge’s grazing ban was lifted in 1952, the herd’s size rose to roughly 200 animals by the 1970s. The herd was thereafter afflicted by disease, and by 1997, only one single female was still alive. Desert bighorns were reintroduced into San Andres from other places starting in 1999, and their numbers gradually climbed until they reached about 100 in 2012.
In an effort to draw big game hunters and boost state revenue from the sale of hunting licenses, the South African oryx, also known as the Gemsbok, a sizable desert antelope native to Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, was introduced into the White Sands Missile Range in the nearby Tularosa Basin in 1969. Oryx populations swiftly increased to around 3,000, and they began to occupy regions nearby as well as the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. Because oryx require little to no water to exist and obtain their moisture from the plants they eat, they are able to successfully compete for limited resources with bighorn sheep and mule deer. By 1997, at least 50 oryx had settled in the refuge. The oryx is too big for mountain lions and other nearby carnivores to prey on, with the exception of calves.