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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hidden Dangers of "Cougar Scene Investigation" aka "C.S.I.": While visiting kill sites and random points all over the ranch Team Puma has encountered quite a diversity of species so far this sumer, some more friendly than others. The above photos shows Furman Junior Michael Jiang "taming" one of the many local herps, a lively Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister). This guy was caught while displaying for a female at a recent LM2 Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) kill. The below photos are from this kill and show the little evidence left after the puma and scavengers were finished with it.

Catching herps is a favorite pastime of the 2010 Team Puma recruits. Below Furman Junior M.C. Coppage poses with a charismatic Round Tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum) . Showing her true talent as our resident "Lizard Whisperer" M.C. is also featured hypnotizing a brightly colored male Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) caught just outside of our bunkhouse on the ranch.

While collecting Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and Elk (Cervus elaphus) pellets for measuring decomposition rates and estimating population sizes on the ranch we've found ourselves in close proximity to some of the resident ranch mule deer. The below photos are of deer in the fields our bunkhouse looks out over and the surrounding shady areas.

We also had the opportunity to observe a matriarchal herd of American Bison (Bison bison) over lunch one day when they surprised us by gradually surrounding our vehicle at a waterhole. The photo-op was great, but we were a bit disturbed by some of the bison's hygienic practices (see below video).

Stay-tuned for more Team Puma adventures in "C.S.I. - New Mexico Edition" as we head into an exciting summer of pellet counts, vegetation survey, kill sites, and lizard catching.


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