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, April 28, 2007

Walnut Springs is one of the few natural water sources on the mountain and a site where cougar activity has been frequent historically. As such, we were expecting that this would be one of our most productive cameras. After almost 10 months of camera monitoring these are our first cougar photos. Based on body size and the pattern of black on the muzzle this is probably not the same cougar we photographed at Summer Spring. If this is the case, we now have two cougars on the mountain.

At the north end of the range we obtained yet another photo of a cougar in Summer Spring Canyon. This is our fourth photo of a cougar at this camera site since 9 March, 2007.

Yesterday many of our remote cameras were checked and the results were impressive. Our collared cougar returned to the site of capture at about 22:30 the same day it was collared. He appears to be in good health and we're breathing a sigh of relief. We are not out of the woods yet, however. After taking every precaution for the animals health and welfare, we must still allow a two week window to determine if there have been any adverse health effects of the collaring effort. But, today we are delighted to report: so far so good.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In this photo Kate is fitting the collar - a tricky operation. The collar must not be too tight or it will interfere with the cougar's movement and feeding, or it could irritate the skin. Of couse, if it is too loose, the cougar may simply pull it off. Above the photo of Kate fitting the collar are two unsung heroes who assisted Kate that fateful day: Daniel Oros and Beau Van Rankin are shown with the cougar just after the collar was attached. They carried the cougar to a safe area for it to be revived from the immobilization drugs.


After some effort and difficulty, Kate Thibault successfully collared this cougar yesterday. It is a male, weighing 48kg (105 lbs). Judging from its teeth and weight is likely a subadult, 18 to 24 months old. More photos and information to follow soon!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Friday, April 06, 2007

Finally, as recently as two nights ago, a cougar was again photographed in Summer Spring Canyon. This photograph was taken on April 4th at 11:47 pm. By comparing the cougar in the image to the surrounding rocks and vegetation you can see that this cougar is the same size as the animal in the previous two photographs from this location. It is most likely the same cougar. It is remarkable, but not surprising to the veteran cougar trackers advising me, that this cougar (or these three cougars) have traveled precisely the same path on three separate occassions. The canyon bottom at this location is approximately 30ft wide, flat, and unobstructed and yet the travel path in this location has not varied by more than 18 inches side to side.

Several miles south, on the eastern side of the Fra Cristobal range in Silver Canyon, we captured this photo on the 26th of March at 7:20 pm. Unfortunately, the image is blurred by movement. However, we can see that this cougar has a significantly distended stomach. It is likely that it has recently fed.

A few days later, on the 19th of March, we retrieved these two photos of a cougar on the river. These photographs were taken at 1:30 and 3:30 pm respectively. Given the time of travel and the fact that the cougar (almost certainly the same animal) was traveling in both directions, it is very likely that it had a kill in the immediate vicinity.

We have had a dramatic increase in cougar activity in the study area over the last month. Counting the photographs taken on the 8th and 9th of March, our cameras have captured a total of SEVEN cougar images in the last 29 days. If you are a follower of this blog you might recall that between 1 June and 27 September we captured ZERO cougar images and only three between 28 September and 20 December. The first photo above was taken again in Summer Spring Canyon on the 13th of March. As you can see below the graphs, a cougar was photographed in this exact same spot on the 9th of March, just four days earlier.