Located in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, nine miles west of McCook lies the Santa Clara Ranch. Owned and operated by Dr. Beto Gutierrez this 300 acre wildlife sanctuary is comprised entirely of virgin brush land. The Santa Clara Ranch is part of a growing group of land holdings owned by forward thinking landowners in the lower Rio Grande Valley who have realized the importance of creating and preserving natural habitat for wildlife over the past three decades. Their tireless efforts have resulted in the return of many native species to their lands, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. This has developed an increased interest in the area and its wildlife, as well as the opportunity to view an amazing amount of migratory song birds during their annual spring migration.
Many professional photographers come to the Rio Grande Valley to harvest incredible images of wildlife. This was something that was unheard of in years gone by. Through the labors of these concerned individuals the Rio Grande Valley is now one of the premier areas in North America to view and photograph wildlife.
© Hector D. Astorga
Though small by Texas standards, the Santa Clara Ranch is a real gem in its diversity of wildlife. Because of the nature of the property, virgin brush land that has never seen a plow blade, the observer of nature has an unusual opportunity, a chance to see southern Texas the way it was before human intrusion. This small island of pristine Texas landscape is a sanctuary that offers an abundance of seeds, nuts, and berries that attracts a profusion of native wildlife as well as migratory birds. The native plant life found on the Santa Clara is responsible for it being one of the most biodiverse landholdings in the region.
  
© Jeremy Woodhouse
© Randall Ennis

  

Through the tireless efforts of Dr. Gutierrez, the Santa Clara Ranch is becoming one of the foremost destinations for nature photographers who are in search of native wildlife in a unique natural habitat. While many of the surrounding landholdings use hunting as a management tool, Beto has chosen not to allow hunting on the Santa Clara. The result of this is an opportunity for photographers to capture images of wildlife interacting in nature in ways seldom seen on ranches where hunting pressure alters animal behavior. This is an important consideration for the serious photographer as many species of wildlife will often revert to nocturnal habits when confronted with the threat of human predation. At the Santa Clara you will find surroundings where human activity is restricted, encouraging animal behavior that is not modified by artificial environmental pressures.
   
By consulting wildlife biologists and professional photographers Dr. Gutierrez has strategically constructed pit blinds as well as waterholes on the Santa Clara in a way that guarantees guests to the ranch that they will see numerous species of birds and mammals in great light with unencumbered backgrounds.

© Larry Ditto
In one day at the ranch, it is not uncommon to see twenty of more species of birds as well as mammals such as Whitetail Deer, Collard Peccary, Bobcats, and Coyotes.
   
     
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