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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Below are some of the exciting recent photographs we have gotten from our remote cameras. Flooding during the summer destroyed several of our cameras; but, generous donations enabled us to replace those cameras and thus continue with our cougar detection probability study. However, as you can see from the photos below, we are able to gather data on many species besides cougars with these cameras.

Above we have a good photo of a bobcat (Lynx rufus). We do not know yet if photograph frequency is correlated with actual population size, but if so, it would suggest that there are more mountain lions in this area than bobcats. We have almost 3 times as many mountain lion photographs as bobcat photographs.

The animal in the photograph above is the very rarely seen western hognosed skunk (Conepatus mesoleucus). Note the long front claws and the bare nose pad. These skunks previously ranged from Nicaragua to Colorado. In the 20's and 30's specimens were collected in Colorado and Oklahoma (according to Dragoo and Honeycutt). Now they are only found in the U.S. in southern Arizona and New Mexico. This one was photographed with one of our generously donated replacement cameras on Animas Creek.

The seldom seen western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis).

Mule deer fawns captured on remote camera in late August.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Here are LF1's locations for the last 10 days. Looks like she has successfully cached two large prey items during that time. The red circle indicates the location of the likely den site. IF she did give birth around the 6th of August those cubs are about 54 days old at this point. Logan and Sweanor, working in the San Andres mountains to the east of our study site, found that during the first 8 weeks of a cubs life, the mother's average distance from the den was about 1 km. They also found that the average age at which cubs moved more than 1.5 Km from the den was 50 days. Cubs are quite agile by this age. Since LF1 has spent so many consecutive days way from the suspected den site at these two kills, we can reasonably hypothesize that the cubs have left the den and are at these kills with her. That is, of course, if there actually are any cubs! We hope to have confirmation soon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We received a pleasant surprise yesterday when a download from LM1's collar showed up in my e-mail. We had not received any data from LM1 in six weeks, since the 11th of August. We received two good locations which appear in the middle of LM1's home range. I've included the three locations from 11 August along with these two data points received on the 25th and 27th of September. The red circle on the left side of the map indicates the location of LF1's suspected den site.

LF1 seems to have found a large prey item. Our most recent data indicates that she was in the same spot from 5:00 am on the 20th until 1:00am on the 25th of September. This is the longest period of time she has spent on a suspected kill early August.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The collar download from this morning indicates that LF1 has a kill about half a mile from the probable den site. Notice that both points 578 and 579 are both located at this site.

Here we have two additional photos of cougar taken in the last 3 weeks. It is possible that these two photos are of the same animal as they were taken 5 days apart and within a few miles of each other. Neither are collared and both appear to be adult males.

These two photos were taken a week apart. This particular camera seems to be having trouble focusing. However, we can discerne what appears to be evidence of lactation on the cougar in the bottom photo. Compare it to the cat in the top photo.

LF1 is remaining within a mile to a mile and a half from point 517.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We didn't receive any data from LF1's collar on the 14th. The data we received this morning contained three dubious data points (unlabeled in blue) and one reliable data point, number 575. If we could only get one reliable data point, surely this one is the most interesting. Point 575 is located precisely in the spot where we suspect LF1 has a den of cubs. Perhaps the data was not sent on the 14th because she was in the den during the satellite uplink window.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

LF1 is still staying relatively close to point 517. And, it looks like she might have a kill at 573/574.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The last two downloads from LF1's collar have contained very little usable data. The 5 September download contained no usable points. Today's download contained about 6 of the possible 12 locations. LF1 remains relatively close to the 517 point. As you can see from the map above her movements over the last week are still pretty much within the small area oulined in the map below. Point 564 is right back at the rock outcrop where Kate Thibault found the likely den.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Here we can see the dramatic reduction in LF1's range of movement since we first suspected her of having a maternity den. The blue shape represents her home range for the 30 days prior to her stay at the den. The red shape shows her home range for approximately 25 days since her stay at the den. Her movements prior to the supposed denning covered an area 9.5 times greater than her movements since the supposed denning.

LF1 remains near point 517, still suggesting that there is a birthing den here.