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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here's another view of LF1 looking to the SW of a relief map. She is essentially moving in a circle around Bell Mountain, with Animas creek as the northern extreme of this circle.

It seems that LF1 may have made three kills in the last 9 days. Quite possibly, these are fawns, but only ground checks will tell us for sure. At points 258, 272, and 290 we have clusters. At 290 there are only two locations as of now, but given their proximity to each other it is likely that something of significance has happened here, and that something is likely a kill.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Above is an updated and exciting map of all of AM1's locations to date. AM1 was collared on 24 April, 2007 and we began collecting data the same day. His home range has been almost exclusively within the Rio Grande flood plain. The blue line on the Fra Cristobal Range in the foreground represents the 5,000ft contour line and the demarcation of the bighorn recovery area. As you can see, in over a year of tracking this male has stayed out of the recovery area and away from the sheep. The most exciting aspect of this map is that it also shows the four locations far to the west of the floodplain that were recorded the week following the application of male tiger uring to a scent post. Again, this has exciting academic as well as practical implications regarding scent marking and behavioral ecology.

Above is a map of the total locations we have received for LM1. It appears that there may be a kill at points 60 and 61 as well as 64 and 65. The total estimated area of his home range, based on all of these points, is about 88sq Km or 35sq miles. As this is on the low end of male cougar home ranges we may expect him to be traveling further in the coming months. However, prey density and the availability of females (LF1 and LF2 for sure) may keep him from wandering too far.

It appears that LF1 has made a kill on the southeast side of Bell Mountain and yet another in the south center of the map!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The top photo of an uncollared lion was taken in Tank Canyon along a wash lined with Cottonwood trees. Tank Canyon is along the southern limits of LF-1's home range. We've also been getting a lot of non-target photos including this mother Black Bear with 2 cubs that are a little hard to see. This photo was taken by a another camera in Tank Canyon on a small overflow of water from a nearby tank which is one of the only permanent water sources in the area.

LM-1 made a mule deer kill in Seco canyon around May 5th (point 42 on the LM-1 map). The mule deer was an old male whose teeth were worn down. The prey was dragged about 30m uphill from the wash into the trees lining the wash. The deer was probably killed in the thick Apache Plume stand in the foreground of the photo and then dragged and cached under an oak tree lining the wash in the background.

Monday, May 19, 2008

These photos are from a camera that Orvel helped me relocate to a game trail running parallel with Animas Creek and underneath a large Cottonwood Tree. There are 4 pumas that we know of from photos and GPS data that travel through this corridor including all three of our collard Pumas and an uncollared male. Probably the same uncollared male is in the first photo. The second photo is of LF-2. One of our collared males, LM-1 is in the 3rd photo. The camera is pointed at a scrape site and it seems most pumas that pass by are stopping to smell the scrape.

Yesterday I checked out a juvenile female elk kill in a wash running into Ash Canyon prbably made by LF-1 around May 6th. The carcass had been dragged at least 10m down a grassy slope to a cache site, shown in the first photo, under a small dead Moutain Mahogany bush where it did not appear to have stayed very long. It was then dragged 5m downhill to the largest cache site under the Juniper tree in the second photo. From there it was dragged 3m further downhill under another small Mountain Mahogany bush. The kill was uncovered when I found it, but this is probably due to scavenging since it had been 12 days since she made the kill.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Not surprisingly, Orvel knows his business. Within a few days of setting the cameras we had our first photo of an unmarked cougar. The uncollared adult male in this photograph represents the fourth known cougar in our Ladder Ranch study area.

Recently, Orvel traveled to the Ladder to assist and advise Megan in the placement of remote cameras for our cougar population estimate study. Orvel is instructing Megan on the most likely travel routes that a cougar will take. Correct placement of the cameras is essential to maximize our detection rates.

LF1, on the Ladder Ranch appears to have yet another kill. She is a busy cougar! At points 214 and 215 Megan discovered that LF1 had eaten a turkey. Now, less than a week later, it appears that she has another larger kill in the NW quarter of the map.

Our first collared cougar, AM1, is back to his usual haunts, patroling the salt-cedar thickets of the middle Rio Grande. It looks like he may have made a kill or scavenged something last week as indicated by the cluster of points on the west side of the river. Hopefully, we'll be able to ground check this soon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It looks like LF1 may have yet another kill. Her movements have been concentrated on Animas Creek for the last 10+ days. On this map there is a cluster of red points beside the creek that indicate that she has been in one spot for at least 24 hours. Unfortunately, we are receiving fewer data points from all of our cougars lately. It is likely that as the trees grow their new leaves in the canyon bottoms is becomes more difficult for the collars to make the necessary satellite links.