We are conducting surveys, monitoring, and research on cougars (puma, mountain lion) on the Ladder Ranch in south-central New Mexico. Here, cougars are of particular interest given their effects on state-endangered desert bighorn sheep and other valuable big game. These projects are also resources for training and education, most notably through the Cougar Field Workshop.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

To catch up on events from the summer, here is a brief summary of the participation of two Furman students, Megan Pitman and Sarah Galloway. Megan spent the summer in New Mexico assisting with the radio tracking of bighorn sheep as well as searching for cougar sign. Her primary work however was a research project in which she examined the effects of bighorn habitat selection on vegetation. This work will help us determine the number of bighorn sheep that this mountain range can support. The picture at left is a map produced from the data Megan collected. Essentially, what it shows is that the plant communities on the mountain differ strikingly across bedrock type. There are two basic types here, limestone and granite. The limestone supports more desert adapted species, creosote (LATR) and ocotillo (FOSP), while the granite supports more grasses (annual grasses - AG, perennial grasses - PG). This pattern in plant distribution could have significant implications for where sheep spend their time, particularly during the lambing season, which may in turn affect their vulnerability to predation. Sarah Galloway is examing those sorts of questions...


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