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, October 30, 2008

Six days of camping, 38.5 miles of walking, 9,000ft of climbing, and 15 minutes of watching cougar cubs! That's what Megan Pitman and I did from 20 to 25 October.

The week of 18 to 26 October, while Orvel and Debbie Fletcher, Steve Dobrott, and Harley Shaw made their own heroic attempts to recapture and recollar LM1 using hounds, Megan Pitman and I hiked into what has become the back-country of Animas Creek since flooding this summer destroyed the roads, in an attempt to recollar LF1. Although a series of unlucky events prevented us from recollaring LF1 (more on that in a bit) we did manage to confirm that LF1 had a litter of cubs on or about the 7th of August. As a result our data on her movement and kills are much more valuable.

Below I have posted maps of our daily hikes, including the elevation profiles. The elevation profiles still astound me.

Day 1, the 20th.

Day 2, the 21st.

Day 3, the 22nd.

Day 4, the 23rd. That was a long one. We had to return to the car for food and to make contact with the ranch headquarters. Then we had to return to camp and search for LF1's most recent kill before dark. A healthy walk of some 14 miles.

Day 5, Friday the 24th.

Day 6, Saturday the 25th.

The New York State Zoo in Watertown, New York just made a generous contribution to the project through their "Cans for Cougars" project. Many, many thanks to the zoo and Sue Sabik in particular for their support. THANKS SUE!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

LF1 has settled on another prey cache it seems. She has moved a little further from the suspected den site than she had in the first thirty days. Hopefully, she will be with a prey cache next week and will be easier for us to recapture and recollar. Unfortunately, she remains far from our camera array.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Our latest download from LF1 shows that she has moved off of her last prey cache but remains within the same area that she has occupied since the suspected denning (rose colored polygon, circle indicates suspected den site). To the right her locations I've added the camera grid that was set up by Orvel Fletcher and Megan Pitman in the spring. At the time the grid was constructed LF1 was almost constantly within its borders. As you can see, she has been far from our cameras for the last few months. Fortunately, we are still gettin occassional shots of LM1, like the AMAZING photo BELOW.

Friday, October 10, 2008

We captured LM1 on camera twice (we think) in this latest survey period. The difference in his appearance between the two photos strains credibility. Contrast the thin, hunched cougar in the bottom photo with the sleek, well feed cougar in the top photo. We know that the cougar in the bottom photo is a male (The scrotum can be seen beneath the tail.) and also wearing a GPS collar of the same make and model as the collars we use. Also there is only one other GPS collared cougar in our study area (that we know of) and that is LF1 who was 5 to 10 Km from this camera site on the day the photo was taken. Even accounting for the differences in lighting, distance from the camera, and the three weeks that passed between the two photos, the dramatic difference almost has us wondering if another collared cougar has wandered onto our site.

It is astonishing how many photos were are getting with foxes carrying prey items, such as the photo above.

recent photo of a small fox with a big rabbit

Below are several bobcat photos retrieved from our lates round of camera checking. All but one of the photos were taken on the same camera which makes us wonder if there might not be a bobcat den nearby.

BIG bobcat

Just enough to know it's a bobcat

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We did not receive the last scheduled download from LF1's collar but we did receive one today. This download contained location data for the last two days. It appears that LF1 has a second prey cache about a kilometer to the NW of her last one. Unfortunately, we are missing 4 days of location data between these events. The rose colored polygon represents the extent of her movements in the month following her suspected denning. You can see by the map that she is continuing to stay within this area and relatively close to the suspected den site (red circle).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We were surprised to receive a second download in a row from LM1's collar. Previously it had been 6 weeks since we had received any data from his collar and we had assumed that the collar was permanently damaged. We only received 2 of a possible 12 locations from the previous days which is not enough for us to identify prey cache sites. However, we can at least follow his movements to some degree.