This month, Roberto Garcia, the grandson of our resident vaquero Laco, joined me at the Northern Jaguar Reserve and helped with the motion-triggered cameras. We immediately noticed the scarcity of water on the reserve and surrounding ranches. Minimal rain has negatively affected vegetation growth on the ranches, which has led to weakened cattle and increased livestock deaths. Even though there are water holes where cattle can drink, I have observed that soon even those could be dry. When we arrived at La Ventana, we met Braulio and the workers who have been repairing fences at Babisal. This is an ongoing task for our cowboys, since cattle will regularly break fences to enter the reserve.
The hotter temperatures of the summer season have begun, and the heat is intense. There have been days where it has already reached 40 degrees Celsius (104° Fahrenheit). This limits the times when we can hike to check cameras. From late morning to mid-afternoon, the heat is very strong, and there is danger of dehydration and heat stroke. We start our work by 6:00 a.m. when the sun isn’t as bright, then we spend the hottest part of the day in the shade. Usually we go out again in the late afternoon until dark, when the temperature is not as extreme. Thankfully we now have a water tank at Los Pavos, so the problem of having enough water while we are on this part of the reserve has been solved – we can drink, wash dishes, and take a bath.
This time of year, the elegant trogon has begun its call to look for a mate. To observe this bird, you have to be quiet and walk softly. That is how I have been able to see many of them. If they hear you approaching, they will fly away and perch on a branch in the distance. Another larger-sized bird we heard on this trip was the wild turkey, or huijalo, as they are called in Sahuaripa. Even though we could not see them, we were able to hear them by a stream at La Ventana early one morning.
We had a new jaguar photographed on the reserve this month, which made us very happy. We named him “Chiltepin,” which was a name suggested by one of our NJP supporters. We also saw the jaguar “Elvis” again. He was first seen in September 2013, next in December 2015, and most recently at Las Cuevas in April. We also had a photo of the female jaguar “Suki” at Los Alisos. Suki was also seen at Las Cuevas in March.
As Roberto and I hiked to our camera site at Las Tésotas, we were talking about how incredible it would be to see a puma or jaguar hunting. Just then, we saw a group of turkey vultures perched on some mesquites. We thought there was probably a dead animal nearby and began to search. We were surprised to find the remains of a young white-tailed deer who had been killed by a jaguar. It had part of its skull destroyed, and its shoulder and internal organs had been devoured. We noticed that the body was still soft, fresh, and did not have a bad odor. Perhaps the predator had been eating it, heard us, and ran away when we came close. Even though we looked for feline sign, the leaves on the ground and the rocky terrain prevented us from seeing anything. It distinctly felt like a jaguar was observing us while we were checking his prey.
On the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, we had the opportunity to speak with Isaac Ezrré, the son of Las Cuevas’ owner, and Ricardo Vásquez, who is the vaquero at Las Cuevas. They told us that they had lost a calf due to an attack by a puma or jaguar a few days before. The calf had claw marks on its head and body, and it was not possible to save the calf, even after giving antibiotics, since the wounds were infected. We try to help ranchers who have losses like Isaac, supporting them with information regarding what to do in case of attacks on their cattle, how to prevent this, and how to cover this with predation insurance.
While checking cameras on the different ranches, we often meet up with friends, such as Don René from Las Sabanillas or Doña Maria Luisa from El Sapo. They are very grateful for the feline photo awards they receive. As you may remember, Maria Luisa’s husband passed away last year, and the money she receives for feline presence has been really helpful ever since. The Viviendo con Felinos project has been changing the viewpoint of the participating ranchers. They are realizing that felines can live on their ranches without hurting cattle and have seen positive results when they avoid hunting the cats’ natural prey. We hope that our rancher friends are able to help us spread this message.
Until next time,
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he maintains an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventories the ecological health of the land and water, and works with ranchers to support local wildlife.