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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Megan and our recent undergraduate assistants, Michael Jiang and Eliza Stucker, were fortunate enough to set cameras on another of LF1's recent kills. This time they also placed the kill in a box trap, wired open to prevent it from actually catching a puma. The idea here is to condition these puma to take their kills from a box trap, in the hope that we have a quick and easy recapture and recollar in the fall. Ideally, we will also collar LF1's offspring as well.

In the overlay photographs below, we still seem to be seeing two uncollared puma at LF1's kills. In the first photograph we have an overlay of what is almost certainly the same puma. These photos were taken only one minute apart and show two images of a puma of the same size. This puma is about the same size as LF1.

In the overlay photograph below note that although the angle of the body is different, the forepaws are in essentially the same place. Now compare the shoulder height, the white mark on the back of the left ear, and the size of the forelimbs. It seems very likely that these are two different puma - consistent with the photos taken at the kill on the 20th. If these are two different puma, it would be very unlikely that they are independent adults sharing a second kill with LF1.

Our recent photos of multiple puma at the same kill site has generated some speculation as to the identity of these individuals. As LF1 is the only marked puma, her identity is the only one that is certain. I have created some transparent photo-overlays to help us determine how many puma there are at the kills, and their likely identity. Below is an overlay of what may be two different puma at the kill on 20 June, 2009. We first interpreted these two photos as representing two different animals, one slightly larger than the other (see photos from previous post). This overlay seems to confirm that original hypothesis. Note that the right forefoot of both cats is in the same location. Now compare the height of the back, the shoulder, and the head size. This overlay strongly suggests that there are two cats of different size; obviously, neither is LF1. From what we currently know about adult puma social interaction, the sharing of kills seems to be relatively rare.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

EXCITING NEWS: LF1's cubs are alive and well. We had reason to believe that LF1 gave birth to cubs on the 7th of August, 2008. In October of 2008, Megan Pitman and I saw two cubs with LF1 in a rock outcrop. In November, 2008 when LF1 was recollared there was some risk that she would abandon these cubs. We have been anxious to confirm whether or not the cubs were still with her since that time.

In Megan's latest round of camera checking she downloaded a photo of LF1 with a robust, male puma. This male is large enough to be a mate to LF1 and not an offspring.
On the 19th of June, 2009 Megan discovered one of LF1's kills that was only made in the early morning hours of the same day. Megan set up a remote camera on the kill to determine whether or not LF1 was indeed still traveling with cubs and sharing kills with them. The photos below confirm that LF1 is probably traveling with healthy cubs - large ones.

LF1 above. She is a little smaller than average adult female, weighing only 65lbs.

Cub one. This cub is larger than LF1 herself, but noticeably smaller than the other cub (below) which is almost certainly a male.

Cub two. This is likely a male cub, but may not be the same male photographed with LF1 on 12 June.

BAD NEWS: It appears that the collar LM1 was wearing has failed. We last received a transmission from him on the 18th of May. We are hopeful that he will reappear on the cameras soon.