January 6, 2015
This month, Saúl, Laqui, and I were joined at the Northern Jaguar Reserve by Carolina, a student from UES (State University of Sonora) on her second visit this year. We were glad that Carolina could return to help us check the motion-triggered cameras. Like many people who have come to the reserve, she was delighted with the wonderful things she noticed on her first visit and eager for the second.
We divided up into two teams in order to make the fieldwork more efficient. We began by checking cameras at Los Pavos, and we had one of the most exhilarating experiences that we have had to date. On our way to a place called Cerro Colorado, we saw a white-tailed deer. As soon as he was aware of our presence, the deer tried to hide and made some very high jumps while trying to find a safe place 150 meters away. He observed us for a few seconds and then ran further away, hiding from our view in the underbrush. A little later on, something incredible happened. While Laqui and I were walking through the undergrowth, he noticed an enormous javelina seven meters away under a small oak tree. When Laqui told me, we remained quiet for a few seconds and then the javelina began to chase us, making heavy snorting sounds. Adrenalin helped us run quickly in order to get away. We also were shouting loudly, which scared this javelina and others away. It is possible there were young javelina nearby that the adults were trying to protect.
One afternoon at Los Pavos, after eating and resting a little from checking cameras in the morning, we were getting ready to set out to check a few more cameras. While we were preparing the supplies that we needed, we heard a pack of coyotes howling very close to us. It is likely the coyotes were in the small arroyo around 100 meters away. We listened for about a minute, then they stopped howling. Even though we couldn’t see them, it was thrilling to hear them.
Dubaral has a large amount of land and where we make the longest trips to check cameras. We began our journey at eight o’clock. The route continues upward until we arrive at a path that is a little less steep. We have to stop and rest at least five times and then the route gets easier until we go downhill to Los Aguajes. We rest there for a little while in order to begin another long ascent and arrive at Los Chinos. This hike to check cameras takes six to seven hours on average. At the end of the day, we are exhausted and our legs feel weak. Even though we take many breaks during our hike, the long ascents and the distance depletes our energy. We are compensated for our work in knowing that we are contributing to the conservation of that fascinating feline, the jaguar.
After finishing our work at Dubaral, we returned to check cameras at Babisal. We visited Mesa de Baile and La Hielería. At dusk, we were able to observe something that people usually only see in wildlife documentaries. We were resting after a long day of work when suddenly a deer ran by probably 10 meters from us. He was bleeding from his muzzle, had a cut on one side of his stomach, and part of his thigh was torn with a piece of skin hanging. We were surprised by this, and we wondered what animal had caused those wounds. We realized that the deer was very tired from running, as he stopped for a moment. He stayed there for a few seconds and then continued running. Laqui then noticed the predator downstream: a coyote, running up a small hill and hiding among the bushes. We were even more surprised when we saw the deer again, and this time, the coyote was running after him very quickly. The deer again ran very close to us. Yet when the coyote saw us, he stopped and changed course.
It was almost dark when we noticed that the deer had hidden in some bushes behind the cabins where we sleep. He stayed there for a very long time; we are not sure how long, since we walked away and left him to rest. During the night, I made a sound like a coyote, and they responded immediately after hearing me. They were waiting for the deer to leave his hiding place in order to continue the hunt. It is possible that they were successful because the following day when we looked for the deer, we did not find him. Again I made the coyote howl, and they answered from above the arroyo. This was an event that very few people have the opportunity to see and luckily it happened to us.
While checking cameras at Tésotas, toward the end of our trip, we saw Rodrigo. He is a friend from Sahuaripa who works for the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE). He was with his brother and a worker to repair the road from Tésotas to La Canastilla ranch, where the CFE station is located. The road was badly damaged because of the recent rains, and we stopped to help them and make their work go faster. We worked with them for two hours until we finished repairing the place that we needed to cross. They planned to continue working on the road until they arrived at Rodrigo’s work location. They helped us a great deal by repairing the entire road to Tésotas that we use. We are really grateful to them as their labor indirectly supports us.
As you can see, a lot of things happened this month. Many of these events will remain in our memory. We are looking forward to our next trip in order to tell you of our new adventures at the reserve.
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 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.