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, March 29, 2008

Our collar seems to be operating as we had hoped. Above is our first map for this tom. The little data we have on this cougar shows that his movements overlap the home range of our collared female in the vicinity of Bell Mountain.

Friday, March 28, 2008

We have ANOTHER collared cougar on the Ladder Ranch! Recently, due to the heroic efforts of Orvel Fletcher (84) (top photo) and Harley Shaw (71) (bottom photo) our third GPS collar was placed on a large (135+ lb, 60kg) male cougar near the Ladder Ranch headquarters. An excerpt from Orvel's field notes can be found below:

Harley Shaw and I went up the Animas. Harley drove my truck and I rode my mule. I went south and circled Bell Mountain and Harley drove over Pucker Point into the creek and looked for sign where Cave Creek dumps into the Animas.
He called me on the radio and told me that he had found fresh sign of a big tom. I rode over a rough buffalo trail and when I arrived the dogs hit the track and ran up into the bluffs overlooking Cave Creek. We heard them, then suddenly everything went silent. It was hard to tell which way they had gone, so Harley drove up the Animas and I followed him on the mule, but after a mile or so we turned around and went back to the bluffs.
Finally, I could hear the faint sound of hounds and we discovered that the dogs had followed the cat into the bluffs and inside a cave. The bluffs overlooking Cave Creek are riddled with holes and the cat was down in a hole.

I could hear the cat hissing, then silence, again. Within a few minutes, my hound Sleuth picked up the hot trail in the creek bottom and the other dogs joined the chase and ran the cat up a tree. The cat jumped out and treed several times before Harley could get the dart into him.
Harley climbed the tree and put a rope around one of the cat's feet, lowered him to the ground....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It looks like our female cougar has made another kill. This map shows her locations over the last week. She has traveled counter-clockwise in a large circle. In the southwestern quarter of this circle there is a cluster of locations spanning almost 24 hours. Hopefully, we'll know soon what has gone on here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Here's the lastest on our collared female. This map shows most of her movements over the last week. After moving up Wanda Canyon she returned to the upper end of the farm area before heading south again. As far as we know she hasn't made a kill since the 10th.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Here's the latest on the Ladder Ranch's collared female. She returned to her last known kill last night at around 10:00 after making a wide circle around this area. By 1:00 am she was at the mouth of Wanda Canyon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Our female cougar has been collared for 4 weeks as of today. The map above shows the GPS locations we have recieved for her during that period. The red crosses on the map indicate the kill sites we have located so far. We're starting to get a nice picture of her home range.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Switching back to our collared female, here is a map of her movements since the 10th of March. The red star indicates her location as of the 14th. The red crosses indicated the location of the two kills that we have located since her collaring. As you can see on the right hand side of the map, the location data we collected for her on the 10th are clustered tightly around the mule deer kill. She apparently wandered no more than a few yards from this kill for over 48 hours.

The red cross on the map shows the location of the kill along with the GPS points Chris used to locate the kill.

As we suspected our collared male had made a kill last week. Field biologist Chris Jones investigated the small cluster of yellow points indicated on the map below, and found fresh scat and a mule deer kill (above).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Now, switching back to our male cougar, the above map shows all of his recorded movements since the 1st of March. Again, it seems that if our data are correct and this cougar did shift his movements to the west following the application of tiger urine, he seems to be settling back down to his usual routine. Actually, it seems that he's spending a little more time in this area than usual. Although, a possible kill located in the vicinity of the two yellow dots could explain this.

All that remains of the fawn are the lower legs, the rumen, and hair.

Harley Shaw records the kill site coordinates. You can see that this was a small kill, a mule deer fawn, and was extremely well hidden. In fact, this kill site was well within site of ranch driveway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is the site where our collared female has been spending so much time. In the foreground, immediately adjacent to the oaks, you can see a small mound of debris. As we suspected, given her lack of movement recently, she had made a kill in this location. In typical cougar fashion, she has cached this kill, dragging it beneath nearby shrubs and covering it with grass and other material.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Here is the most recent map generated for our collared female cougar. She has returned to the farm area near the Ladder headquarters. It looks like she may have another kill. In the immediate vicinity of her last location (the red star) we have GPS fixes covering at least 24 hours. Hopefully, we'll be able to do a ground investigation soon.

Here's the most recent photo of our collared male. It's not terribly recent, having been taken in November, but the important thing is that it shows he was still in good shape, at least as of November.

It appears that the far north fix was an error, although we can't yet be certain. The star indicates the cougar's location just about 24 hours after the far north location. Not surprisingly, if the tiger urine has had an effect, the single application hasn't moved him permanently.

A few days ago we recorded the VERY far north location on the map (red star) for our cougar. We think it might again be a satellite error. Although, it would fit with the hypothesis that his normal home range has been shifted due to the application of tiger urine.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Our cougar has traveled some 18 miles since she left the javelina kill a few days ago. The map above shows her total movements since she was collared. The numbers indicate the sequential order in which the GPS fixes were taken.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Steve Dobrott, the Ladder Ranch manager, located the first kill we've been able to document for this cougar - a javelina. The cougar fed on this kill for at least 48 hours (See the yellow-orange cluster of points on the map below). Interestingly, she took several long trips away from the kill on two occassions, but immediately returned.

Here is a map of our female cougar's movements as of 2 March. She has rapidly traveled a few miles to the west after making a kill. As suspected the yellow-orange cluster of points on the east side of the map was indeed a kill. See the post above!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Our cougar seems to have returned to his usual haunts. So far we have not heard that his westward movements following the application of the scent posts was a satellite error. Although he has returned to the river, the long-term effects of repeated scent marking remain to be seen.