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, November 14, 2009

In the early morning of November 10th, Matthew McCollister and Megan Pitman deployed our 5th Northstar GPS collar on a 6-8 yr. old female puma caught in a group of three female pumas (one was already collared LF3) feeding on a single kill.

Because multiple sets of tracks were found in Seco Canyon when LF3 was snared there we set up remote digital cameras on her elk calf kill made on November 7th to determine if she was traveling and sharing kills with other lions who we might also be able to capture and collar. The above photos from the night of November 8th indicated that LF3 was feeding with at least 2 uncollared lions. We were able to capture all three lions in one night by splitting up the kill and making three cubby snare sets. As expected the lions returned to their kill on the night of the 9th, and had all been snared by the time we showed back up at 12AM.

The above photo shows all three female lions captured from this kill. LF3 (top) was previously collared at the end of October, and the GPS points from her collar made this capture possible. LF4 (bottom) received our last collar because she is an older 90 lb. female living in the area. LF5 (middle) is probably a yearling lion, weighing only 50 lbs, and she was marked with an eartag. It is suspected that these three cats are related where LF4 may be the mother of LF3 (her 2yr+ old offspring) and LF5 (her yearling offspring). We do not yet know how these three lions are related, but hopefully blood samples collected during processing will be able to determine their relatedness. By following LF3 and LF4’s kill sites closely we will be able to document their interactions and determine if they continue to share kills between themselves and LF5, something thought to be a very rare occurrence among adult mountain lions.


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