Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Jaguar Guardian Blog – May 2016

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Chiltepin blog

Dear Friends,

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.

Maria Luisa blogOn 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

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.

Top photo: Chiltepin; bottom: Maria Luisa with new guide on livestock depredation

Jaguar Guardian Blog – April 2016

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dear Friends,

We have enjoyed another month of adventure on the Northern Jaguar Reserve. We traveled with Laqui, one of the reserve’s vaqueros, and Obed, a volunteer from Hermosillo. It is always a pleasure when we first arrive and meet up with Dona Lupe, Laco’s wife. She has a kind and calm demeanor, and her cooking is a delight for everyone who has tasted her dishes. Even though she doesn’t work for the project, she is part of our team, and we appreciate and love her for it.

We have noticed that some of the prickly pear (Opuntia) and pitahaya (Stenocereus thurberi) are starting to bear their delicious fruit. However, we have to wait until June or July to eat these gifts from nature. Meanwhile, bees, or “flies” as they are called in Sahuaripa, are constantly producing a delicious honey during this spring season. We often see honeycombs on the rock formations along the arroyos.

Los Pavos is one of the areas on the reserve where one feels an enormous amount of peace and tranquility. Its mountains and vegetation provide an excellent landscape to watch the sunset, and the nighttime silence creates the best atmosphere to get some good sleep after a long day of work. It is always possible to see wildlife at Los Pavos, especial birds in the mesquite trees close to our camp. It was strange that we did not see any sign of deer there this month.

We usually need to clear brush from the routes we hike to reach the motion-triggered camera locations. This month, we noticed the vegetation was very dry, and there were many branches in our way as we walked. We can tell that the vegetation is waiting for the rainy season. Despite a little rain almost every month last year, overall it was not a good year for rain. Many pools on the reserve and surrounding ranches are dry or only have a small quantity of water. There are other sources of water for cattle on the surrounding ranches, like tanks and wells, but the ranchers are worried that they will face a substantial loss of cattle, which happened in 2013.

Suki Cuevas blogThere are always more ranchers interested in working with us to protect flora and fauna. A few months ago, we talked with José Robles, owner of El Cajón de los Lobos, and invited him to join Viviendo con Felinos. He accepted our invitation, and we have now set up cameras on his ranch. His property seems like an excellent place for felines and other wildlife. This month, we had jaguar photos on two of the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, including one that borders El Cajón de los Lobos. The jaguar was the female “Suki” – we were happy to see her again.

Until next time,

–Javier

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.

Top photo: Lupe Duarte, photo by Marie Long; bottom: Suki at Las Cuevas

Jaguar Guardian Blog – March 2016

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

march 16 blog 1

Dear Friends,

Hello from the Northern Jaguar Reserve. This month, I was joined by Esteban, Laco’s grandson, on our rounds to check the motion-triggered cameras. We were grateful to see the vaqueros constructing a new palapa at Los Pavos, since it will help to keep us cool in the summer when the temperature reaches 45° Celsius. Esteban and I spent two days at Los Pavos, where some of the plants were beginning to bloom and there were new shoots. We saw butterflies and bees looking for flowers on these plants. Fortunately, we had rain this month, and the arroyos that had been dry are now running again. The natural pools that we find in some parts of the reserve are also full. This will be a great boost for wildlife.

I noticed that birds were beginning to sing near the Arroyo Dubaral. I heard cardinals, northern mockingbirds, and blue-gray gnatcatchers. We frequently see gray hawks and American kestrels, and I hope to see a Peregrine falcon soon. These raptors like to make their nests on the rock formations at La Ventana, which makes sense because they like cliffs or steep areas that are difficult to reach.

One of the most incredible places to visit on the reserve is the Arroyo Babisal, with its crystal clear water and small fish found throughout the year. A few hundred meters up from there is a site known as Mesa del Baile; we appreciate this rare flat area. The reserve’s landscape is generally steep and rugged, and traveling through it can be very tiring. Little by little, we are finding new places that we enjoy a great deal. Both La Ventana and Babisal have many locations with perennial water, thus we see a lot of wildlife during the dry months – including common black-hawks, elegant trogons, lowland leopard frogs, white-tailed deer, javelina, and coatis. If we are lucky, we can see almost all of these in a one-month period.

On the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, we observed 14 deer at Las Cuevas near the reserve’s entrance. They were not all together but resting in small groups in the shade of the mesquite trees. At El Sapo, we heard a pack of coyotes howling nearby. They continued for a few minutes and then stopped.

march 16 blog 2While we were at Los Alisos, Esteban received news that one of Laco’s sisters had suffered a heart attack. We quickly finished checking cameras in order to return to La Ventana to let Laco know. After that, we returned to finish our journey and check cameras on the other ranches. When we went to Agua Fría, we saw that they were fixing the path in order to reach a site known as el Último Bajío. The rancher told us where there is a water hole nearby, and that we would surely see jaguar photos there.

Until next time,

–Javier

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.

Jaguar Guardian Blog – February 2016

Monday, March 14th, 2016

feb 16 blog 1

Dear Friends,

After two months away from the Northern Jaguar Reserve, I returned again in the company of Carmina and Miguel, our friends and former jaguar guardians. At the outset, we had problems with the truck losing power while going uphill. We continued in spite of these mechanical failures, but later decided it was better to return to Sahuaripa because it seemed serious. This would be the final excursion for that truck. The next day, we set out in the truck used by the cowboys and workers, nicknamed “La Perrona” by our vaquero Braulio. He gave it this name because it is a good truck for the field. In Sonora, we often say that something is “perron” or “perrona” when it is in excellent condition, or when it is attractive (which this truck is not). The roads were in bad shape, and La Perrona’s tight suspension made it jump a great deal when we went over rocks or holes in the road.

We first traveled to the Viviendo con Felinos ranches surrounding the reserve; on our first day, we visited Agua Fría. We almost always assign paired work teams to check the cameras. Unfortunately, on this trip, I could not help my friends very much because I was diagnosed with a hernia and the doctor suggested I avoid straining myself while in the field. I tried to avoid long hikes, although sometimes it was necessary in order to finish our work.

feb 16 blog 3We almost always see white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) when we approach the ranch house at Los Alisos, and this time we saw three that began to run when they noticed us. The rancher, Ramón Vásquez, often tells us about pumas or jaguars attacking cattle or other prey. This time, Ramón told us about two head of cattle that he had lost; yet he did not know the cause of death. Each month, ranchers will ask us questions or share concerns about cattle loss, and we know that some of these are jaguar and puma kills. The ranchers and their vaqueros also share good stories and humor that is contagious. Nothing is more enjoyable than having a conversation with people whose life and experiences come from working in the field.

Another place that we always see deer is at the entrance to the reserve at La Ventana in a place known as Punta de Agua. We usually see deer here throughout the year, but especially during the dry season (which is more or less January-June). We saw many deer there this month, and we expect to see more in the months to come.

feb 16 blog 4We spent time with Carmina and Miguel learning how to improve our motion-triggered camera placement and design. They gave excellent advice, and together we made changes to some of the camera positions on the reserve. On our hikes to the camera sites, we were able to see wildlife, and on one occasion I saw a coati walking toward a hill 120 meters away. It seemed like he was looking for food, as he was checking one area for a while and then left. On returning from Los Pavos, we met up with Randy, Turtle, and a group of our supporters visiting the reserve. We were able to go to the Río Aros together, relaxing and enjoying ourselves for a while.

Until next time,

–Javier

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.

Photos by Miguel Gómez

Jaguar Guardian Blog – November 2015

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Francisco 11-2015

Dear Friends,

This month, I traveled with Braulio Duarte, one of our newest vaqueros on the Northern Jaguar Reserve. We began our adventure at Los Pavos, the ranch that is furthest north on the reserve, and we visited some of the sites where we have been known to get the best wildlife photographs. We saw white-tailed deer on two occasions, including two deer standing just 200 meters from us. They were peacefully enjoying the heat of the afternoon sun after a cold morning. Another time, a deer was running very quickly into the bushes, away from us and out of sight.

Because winter is coming, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. This is an advantage for us this time of year. Our hikes to the camera sites are not as tedious as they are during the hottest season, and it is possible to be out during the day without getting dehydrated. Still, we have to work as hard and fast as we can because there are fewer daylight hours. This is the changing nature of fieldwork throughout the year, and those of us who love being out in nature don’t mind because there is nothing better than spending time in the tranquility of the reserve.

The paths we use are frequently covered with an overgrowth of prickly plants, like Acacia cochliacantha and mesquite, so we proceed slowly and almost always bring our machetes to cut branches. After the vegetation grows thick from the rainy season, it is impossible to see where we are, and we get lost at times. The roads we travel are also full of branches that hit against the truck. We can’t always cut them because it is so time consuming. The roads are worse on the reserve than they are on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, probably because the ranch roads are used more often and have more maintenance.

We obtained some photos of the jaguar “Francisco” moving through the Dubaral arroyo this month at a site known as Los Aguajes. This site has two watering holes where these photographs were taken. We were happy to also retrieve photos of the male jaguar “Osman” at both Babisal and Tésotas.

On the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, we count on the help of ranchers and their vaqueros who lend us horses to go out to check cameras – like Uriel Villareal at El Saucito, Luis Alberto at Agua Fría, and Jorge at Teópari. At the end of the trip, we are usually very tired, and the cowboys realize how much we need to walk each day to accomplish our work. We appreciate their assistance, which allows us to recuperate from earlier, more tiresome days.

It is always a pleasure to tell you a little of what we have experienced and enjoyed here. We hope to surprise you with incredible adventures in the coming year.

Until next time,

–Javier

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.

Top photo: Francisco; bottom: Osman

Jaguar Guardian Blog – October 2015

Friday, November 20th, 2015

camera check october 2015 blog

Dear Friends,

We were at the Northern Jaguar Reserve again this month in the company of new friends and donors who are helping us with jaguar conservation. On this trip, we were able to spend more time with the donors, who were a great group of people – Doug, Scott, Harriet, Darry, Mike, and NJP’s volunteer Treven. We were able to get to know each of them a little, and they were able to learn a little about what we do on the reserve and the Viviendo con Felinos ranches.

We began our trip at Bábaco where our U.S. friends accompanied us to check the motion-triggered cameras at the site known as La Cienega. It is one of the most interesting and important sites because it has had many jaguar sightings. We walked for around 30 minutes to reach the camera site, but unfortunately we were not lucky and there were no jaguar photographs here this month. We returned to the vehicles, drove to another monitoring point, and saw two white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). One of them ran away when it saw us, and the other stayed quietly for a moment. When we got back to camp, we met up with Turtle and Randy who had prepared lunch for us.

Oct 2015 blog triptych

After visiting Bábaco, we went to Babisal, where we walked along the arroyo that has the same name. Usually our walk ends in a deep canyon where we come to a large pool and waterfall. Even though it is possible to scramble over rocks to continue, we prefer not to – especially with a large group – because of the potential danger of falling on the climb up that waterfall. Two of the donors, Doug and Scott, went with us to check cameras up the hill at Mesa del Baile later that day. We saw a pair of military macaws (Ara militaris) flying high above. Although it is possible to find these birds on the reserve, it does not happen often. Another bird we were able to catch a glimpse of was the elegant trogon (Trogon elegans). This is a very beautiful bird that we enjoy seeing on the reserve. We also saw a gray hawk (Buteo nitidus) flying among the oak trees. Our friends were good at hiking in the mountains. They were able to handle the hikes without being very tired, at least that is what we noticed.

Javier cleaning road Oct 2015 blogOn the last day with the donors, they went with us to check cameras along the Arroyo Dubaral, a site where we usually get good photos of jaguars and other felines. After checking those cameras, our friends went to visit the Río Aros. Meanwhile, Saúl and I continued checking cameras before joining them on the river for a swim. We spent a little more time together as a group, and then Saúl and I left for Los Pavos to continue our camera work (see photo of the road conditions we encountered, at right). During the two nights we spent at Los Pavos, we had strong rain with hail. This was good because we have not had much rain this year, and we are preparing for water shortages during the dry season.

At the Viviendo con Felinos ranches surrounding the reserve, there was not much human activity. We found Don René, the owner of Las Sabanillas, who accompanied us to check the cameras on his ranch. We had to clear a path with our machetes to reach the camera sites. We all noticed that the trees (Acacia cochliacantha) that died back during the 2011 frost are recuperating with new buds and branches.

As he usually does, the owner of El Saucito, Uriel, lent us his horse. It was not possible to borrow two horses, so we decided that Saúl would go to check El Saucito’s cameras. I decided to check cameras at La Mula, and Uriel kindly came with me.

Until next time,

–Javier

Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.

Top photo: Checking cameras, photo by Doug Jackson; middle row: photos by Scott Swearingen; bottom: Javier clearing road, photo by Saúl Amador

Jaguar Guardian Blog – September 2015

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Mtn lion Puerto Sept 15 blog

Dear Friends,

This month, we had a visit from donors from the U.S. who wanted to get to know the Northern Jaguar Reserve. Although Saúl and I couldn’t spend much time with them because we had specific tasks to accomplish around the reserve, we were very glad they were able to experience this special landscape firsthand and thank them for their enthusiastic support.

Sometimes, when we have a lot of work, we need to work from dawn to dusk. It was raining on the day we went from Sahuaripa to the reserve, which complicates travel because it leads to bad roads, mud, and potholes. Saúl and I unfortunately had to drive out on a rainy day because we had a lot of work to do in the field and were not able to wait for better weather. Thankfully, the day after we arrived, the sky cleared up, and we were able to work peacefully the rest of the time.

Pecaries La Ventana October 2015 blogMany times we spend a lot of the day checking motion-triggered cameras and neglecting to eat. It can take up a lot of our time walking back to the site where we will sleep that night. A medium-sized trip will reach the ranch we are staying at in three or four hours. The good part is that we get to see wildlife during these trips. We almost always see white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and birds like red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). We will also sometimes see javelina (Pecari tajacu).

We spent one day at Tésotas and checked cameras along the arroyo that moves through this ranch. While we were traveling through the arroyo, we saw some cows that belong to one of the ranchers who works with us in the Viviendo con Felinos project. Sometimes cattle break fences and trespass on the reserve. When this happens, our resident vaquero Laco catches them and takes them back to the ranch where they belong.

Later, when we were returning from checking the Tésotas cameras, we strayed from our usual route and walked along the Arroyo La Tinaja in order to find new potential sites to position our cameras. It may be a good idea to move some cameras here in the future to see what happens and what species we photograph.

On our rounds of the Viviendo con Felinos ranches each month, we always check the ranches close to La Ventana first and then drive the longer distances to the other properties. We usually begin with Las Cuevas, which is the ranch that is closest to the reserve. If we are lucky, we meet up with Ricardo Vázquez, who often is kind enough to lend us two of his horses. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at the ranch this time.

At Las Sabanillas, we almost always meet up with ranch owner Don René. He spends anywhere from three to six months on the ranch without going to town. René is one of the few ranchers who really loves his ranch, and he has lived most of his life there. He spends so much time on his property that he knows each one of his cows. Sometimes we hear him say, “It has been quite a while since I have seen the cinnamon-colored cow.” This is strange to hear, but for René it is easy to distinguish between each one of his cows and exactly where to find it. We talked with him about feline attacks on his ranch, and he said that he has not had any deaths from depredation, which was excellent news.

As we go along checking cameras, it is possible to see the beautiful scenery that nature offers us, particularly at El Puerto. El Puerto is one of the most beautiful places with its oak trees, mesquites, arroyos, and many other aspects that make it attractive. There are other ranches with less spectacular scenery, even though there are also specific sites with great beauty. The arroyo that runs through Rancho La Mula has crystal clear waters, and it is possible to see small fish. We always have fun walking through that place. This trip was not as much fun because while I was walking over some rocks to cross the arroyo, one of the rocks moved. I fell into the water, landed on some rocks, and scratched my legs. Unfortunately, Saúl was not there to help me because he went to some other camera sites. When we go to sites that are farther away to check cameras, we always go in pairs for safety. Something like this could happen, and we help each other when we are in need. Since we did not have much time and we still had to check other ranches, it was necessary to go separately this time. Luckily, they were only scratches. This was a warning that we should not go alone when we are checking cameras in far away places.

Until next time,

–Javier

Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.

Top photo: Mountain lion at El Puerto; bottom: javelina at La Ventana

Jaguar Guardian Blog – August 2015

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Bobcat Dubaral October 2015 blog

Dear Friends,

It seemed like our truck was in good condition, so we left for the Northern Jaguar Reserve with confidence. Yet even before reaching Sahuaripa, the truck began to lose power, made a few jerking motions, and then returned to normal. This continued to happen and give us difficulty throughout most of the trip. We also had to stop several times for the transmission to cool down. We arrived safe and sound, but still are going to need to begin our search for a new truck since this one seems to be near the end of its lifespan.

Venados El Dubaral October 2015 blogOn our journey to the reserve, we met up with the reserve’s vaquero Laco on the road; he was on horseback and returning from his day’s work. We talked with him for a little while and then continued on our way. We soon saw three deer crossing the road. Two of them were running away from us, but one stayed still and looked at us for a few seconds. The deer did not seem to pay us much attention before moving toward some shrubs.

Once we reached the reserve, we noticed that there had not been much rain in some areas, since some of the vegetation had yellowed. Laco told us that the rains have not been very good this year even though August is one of the months when we usually have the most precipitation. In fact, the well at La Ventana that provides drinking water is still dry. The rainy season began early but has not been strong enough for water to run in the arroyo near the La Ventana house. This is the water that filters and replenishes the well. We went in search of water at a place called “Punta de Agua” near the reserve’s entrance. There is a spring here that we will utilize to fill our new water cistern and insure access to drinking water in the coming months.

Even with what seems to be less rain, the reserve’s vegetation has changed. Many plants that were growing have had their fruits reach maturity. Some, like the hackberry (Celtis pallida), have fruits that are small, orange, and sweet tasting. The two palm species we have on the reserve also have dates right now. They are Babiso (Brahea brandegeei) and palma real (Sabal uresana). Only the palma real produces edible fruit. The other is too hard and does not have a good flavor. Along with these plants, there are many more that can be eaten, like the yucca flower and its fruits, as well as the seeds from the bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).

Coyote Babisal October 2015 blogAs I have said before, it is always possible to see deer on the reserve, but they are most often seen at La Ventana. We had not spotted coyotes for quite some time until this month. While we were driving toward El Sapo to check cameras, a small coyote jumped out of the brush and moved toward the road. He continued his journey on the road for some time before changing direction back into the bushes. Although it is harder to observe some species, like a mountain lion or jaguar, we were happy because we had not seen a coyote for a long time.

Until next time,

–Javier

Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.

Wildlife self portraits on the Northern Jaguar Reserve: Bobcat, white-tailed deer, and coyote

Jaguar Guardian Blog – July 2015

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

july blog 1

Dear Friends,

We had some new visitors this month: Ethan and Leticia, interns from the U.S., and Laura, from Aguascalientes. They came to help with the work we do on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches. We began by visiting Bábaco. Our interns got to experience some of Bábaco’s fascinating landscapes, and we showed them how to program our motion-triggered cameras. Leticia did not have prior field experience, but she made up for it with a lot of enthusiasm to participate. Ethan told us that he had worked with wildlife before, specifically on a project with bighorn sheep. He was accustomed to walking in this type of rugged terrain.

After finishing our work at Bábaco, we left for La Ventana so that our companions could meet our team of vaqueros on the reserve – Laco, Laqui, and Braulio. They were also able to meet Laco’s wife, Dona Lupe, and his son Galo. That night, it began to rain around 10 p.m. and continued for quite a while. In the morning, Laco told us that we had received an inch of water. We hope that the rain continues because La Ventana’s well is nearly dry.

july blog 2On the way to Los Pavos, we observed the natural beauty of the reserve. Our visitors were very happy to learn more about this special place. They spoke about the biodiversity and their interest in learning more of the sites. During our daily outings to check cameras, we showed them some feline tracks, scat, and scratchings. I also showed them the different types of vegetation and the medicinal plants of the region. At El Sauz, we saw an elegant trogon that landed on a branch very close to us. We only saw it for a few seconds because it flew away as quickly as it arrived. Saúl and Ethan then checked the cameras at Cajón los Pavos. Ethan really liked that site.

After returning from Los Pavos, we stayed at Dubaral to check cameras. We had some more rain, and our interns took advantage of this by having a bath with fresh water that came directly from the clouds. We cannot waste water given to us by nature when there is such a scarcity of it. The next day, Ethan and I got ready to check two of the farthest sites: Los Aguajes and Los Chinitos. This hike always takes seven hours round trip, but Ethan was in excellent physical shape and is accustomed to hiking in the mountains, so we saved an hour on the trip. Meanwhile, Saúl, Leticia, and Laura went to check cameras at El Burro. Later we all headed toward Babisal where we met up with Randy, our reserve manager.

july blog 3Work days on the reserve can be tiring. The journeys are long, and the type of topography makes the hikes more exhausting. At the end of each day, all we want to do is rest. One of the longest trips we make to check cameras is to La Hielería. Although we weren’t planning on going there this month, Saúl and I decided that Ethan needed to see it. In the beginning, it is an endless climb up a mountain before it becomes level terrain, and finally we begin to descend. This site is one of the most beautiful on the reserve. It is always a delight to visit because it is a verdant oasis with tall trees, palms, and abundant water. When Ethan arrived, he described it just as I did, like an oasis. I was happy that the interns were able to experience this place and that they enjoyed it as much as we do.

The interns would return to town a few days before Saúl and I, as we finished our work on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches. Before they left, the interns were able to see a large number of deer at La Ventana and Las Cuevas. It is always easy to spot them at short distances while they also observe us. Their fear of humans seems to be slowly waning, which ensures more deer sightings.

Saúl and I later met with Uriel Villareal, the owner of El Saucito ranch, which is always a pleasure. He lets us use his horses to check cameras, and he always makes us laugh. Uriel is without question one of the ranchers with the best sense of humor!

Until next time,

–Javier

Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.

Photos by Ethan Sandoval

Jaguar Guardian Blog – June 2015

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

june 2015 blog2

Dear Friends,

Our time at the Northern Jaguar Reserve is always interesting, but this month something happened that caused a lot of worry. While we were at the Naturalia office in Hermosillo, we received a call from one of our neighboring ranchers that there was a wildfire on the reserve. Based on his description, our impression was that the fire was on the border of Bábaco and La Ventana.

We left Hermosillo with plans to contact the Sahuaripa fire brigade. At first, it was hard to find them and after making many calls, we contacted the person in charge of the brigade. We agreed to go to the reserve the following day at 5:00 a.m. Fortunately, that night there was a lot of rain in Sahuaripa and also at the reserve. Our reserve manager Randy headed out with the brigade in the morning, intending to fight the fire since we were not sure the rain had put it out. Saúl and I left later, as we had to buy supplies for the firefighting crew, and the stores were not open that early.

As we were on our way to the reserve, we met up with Randy and the fire brigade coming back out. They told us that the rain had extinguished the fire, and they only needed to put out some embers. There did not appear to be any danger. We have had luck with wildfires so far because one other time, in 2013 and again thanks to rain, we did not need to call in the fire brigade.

We spent the first couple days of our trip at La Ventana and checking motion-triggered cameras on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches. We started there so Saúl could go with our vaquero Laco to measure the fire’s perimeter and determine the size of the area that burned. Even though some oak trees had burned, the damage was not severe. They estimated it covered approximately 200 acres.

We continued to Babisal where we checked cameras at La Hielería and Las Tinajas. We noticed that there were many gray hawks (Buteo nitidus) in these areas. During the rainy season, it is common to have sightings of this raptor on the reserve. It is also common to hear and see elegant trogons (Trogon elegans) during this time of year.

While we were at Los Pavos, we noticed many changes. During our previous visit, the vegetation was dry, but when we arrived this month, we observed green vegetation and buds on some of the trees. The rains continued, and the plants were full of life. Some trees, like palo blanco (Ipomoea sp.), were full of new leaves.

june blog deer 2015The rest of the trip was peaceful and without setbacks. We did not have many sightings of deer, possibly because they disperse during the rainy season. At the end of the month, we were able to see a coati that ran in front of our truck. After a few seconds, he changed his path and climbed up a hill. We stopped for a moment to get a better view, but he managed to get away.

The most important thing this month was that the rains have begun and have helped us all equally. The wildlife received nourishment, and we received the water that we need. We hope that the rains continue and that it will be a productive year for everyone.

Until next time,

–Javier

Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.

Top: Burn site on the Bábaco/La Ventana border, photo by Saúl Amador; bottom: white-tailed deer at Dubaral