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, April 19, 2010

When following pumas around, it doesn't take long to realize that these critters can move. They cover an amazing amount of extremely rough terrain in no time. This graphs shows a frequency distribution of the number of nights a female (LF1) and a male (LM3) puma traveled certain distances: less than 100 meters, 100-500m, 500-1,000m, 1,000 - 5,000m, and so on, up to 20 km in one night. Both of these pumas traveled at least 5 km (3.1 mi) on most nights, and quite often exceeded 10 km - as the crow flies, and if you've ever spent time in New Mexico, you know there's a whole lot more ground to cover for us mammals than for the crows. LM3 liked to wander more than LF1, as we would expect for a lone male relative to a female that often has small kittens to tend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In our study of puma diet, we have discovered that pumas often provide valuable resources to a host of other species, including other predators such as these eagles and coyote. Omnivores, such as these ravens, as well as jays and javelina, have also been seen feasting on the leftovers. This young elk was killed in January by LM2, who uncharacteristically left it uncovered. This represents one of the many indirect effects top predators can have on ecosystems.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

We have an interesting series of scent behavior being displayed by three different carnivores at the same location in the photos from top to bottom. On the 28th of January a coyote (Canis latrans) scent marked this spot. Only five days later a gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) stopped to scent mark the same spot. One week later, our collared male LM3 got his nose caught by these scents. Because our cameras have a 1 minute delay, we can't be sure that LM3 didn't also scent mark this spot, although there was no definite scrape made.