March 14, 2016
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.
We 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.
We 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 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.