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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Above are a few additional photos taken with the same camera that photographed the cougar in the post below. There are two bobcat (Lynx rufus) photos, a javelina (Pecari (previously Tayassu) tajacu), and a domestic bull (Bos taurus). This bull frequently rearranges the camera for us. There were also approximately 10 photos of striped skunks over this period.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As I wrote in the last posting, cougar activity is increasing visibly in the study area. The photo above was taken at 10:30 p.m. on the 4th of November along the Rio Grande a few miles northwest of the Fra Cristobal Range. This appears to be a mature male.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Two sets of cougar tracks were found today. They appear to be from a female and an older kitten. They traveled up from the river, traveled several hundred meters along the road, and entered the north end of the range. While tracking these two, with the help of one of Nick Smith's hounds, I found a old cougar kill cache that contained the bones of a mule deer doe.

On the 13th and 14th of November Nick Smith (recently retired from New Mexico Game and Fish) traveled to Lava Camp to lend his professional assitance to locating and collaring a cougar. We began by taking his hounds along the river north of Paraje Well. We passed through this incredibly dense thicket of salt cedar, willow, and brush without finding any cougar sign. The hounds, however, found a couple of striped skunks. After being "skunked" here, we headed south for a hike along the old lake shore southwest of the mines. We left the dogs in their boxes. Towards evening we found a female cougar track. As we were returning to Lava Camp, I received word from ranch manager Tom Waddell that a deer hunter had seen a female cougar track near scenic spring. The next day, Nick, the hounds, and I searched the Scenic Springs area as well as an extended loop that included Walnut Springs, Flying Eagle Canyon, Red Gap, and Massacre Gap. Neither, Nick, nor the dogs, nor I could find any further sign of the cat.

Our remote cameras have photographed a number of species in the last 10 days, including a coyote (Canis latrans) and a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) at Release Canyon and a ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) in Silver Canyon. Although we have not recently "caught" a cougar in our camera traps, the presence of cougar sign is on the increase.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Michelle Schireman, of the Oregon Zoo, and her search-and-rescue dog in training, Rogue, departed today. Michelle assisted with the ongoing effort to monitor the desert bighorn sheep population and locate and collar any cougar in the management area. Unfortunately, Michelle did not get the opportunity to assist with collaring, but she was tremendously helpful in the execution of field work, and most especially in the search for additional grant monies. A number of wildlife conservation grant opportunities can be found at the AZA Funding Sources web page. Thanks Michelle!

On the morning of the first of November, the day after "losing" number 21, we heard her normal collar signal at the north end of the range. The explaination: another ewe, frequency 151.27, was previously fitted with a collar that is stuck in mortality mode. This ewe was in the same canyon as our number 21, who has a collar of frequency 151.26. The result was a clear and distinct FALSE mortality signal being received for number 21. We were unable to hear number 21's signal later in the day as she was evidently in a deep canyon far to the north of our search area. While searching for her at the top of the range we did take the time to check one of our remote cameras at the top and were rewarded with this photograph of a bobcat (Lynx rufus).