Jaguar Guardian Blog – January 2011

February 21, 2011

Hi again!

As always, there is something new to see at the Northern Jaguar Reserve, and 2011 seems like it is going to be a good year filled with good experiences. This month we will be sharing with you a couple of adventures from our most recent stay at the reserve.

One day, we traveled from Los Pavos to the Río Aros. We walked for most of the morning along the stream called Arroyo Los Pavos, which flows directly into the Aros. Along our route, we followed tracks of a mountain lion and also found fresh tracks of a jaguar walking in the opposite direction to us – these last ones were the biggest tracks we’ve ever seen. Also, we saw many more traces of other carnivores such as coyotes and gray foxes. When we reached the river, we stood on the shore, and a few minutes later a white-tailed deer came to drink water without being aware of our presence. That was amazing, because the deer stayed a good time in the area and then went deep into the vegetation. Soon after, an eagle flew up from a nearby cliff, and it was a surprise to see that it was a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). We knew that these magnificent animals come to spend winter in the region, but this was the first time we saw one at the reserve. As you can see, this was a great day at Los Pavos.

Another day, we were at Dubaral during our routine rounds to check camera traps, and we climbed a path on a slope parallel to Arroyo Dubaral. We reached the end of the climb, and as with many similar times, we decided to stop and rest for a few minutes. The next thing that happened was in some ways ironic. We took a breath while Laqui the cowboy, who accompanied us this time, was talking about when vaqueros hunted jaguars in Zetasora lands that are now the reserve. Laqui was a child when his family worked for the former owner of Zetasora, and he practically lived with them at the ranch and in the field – unfortunately, he saw several jaguars killed in Zetasora several years ago because people thought big cats were the main cause of livestock deaths. So, as we stood on that hillside, and Laqui was talking to us, pointing with his hand: “At that point between the two hills, the vaqueros caught a young jaguar.” “And how did they do it? With a trap?,” asked Miguel. “No, the jaguar was chased by dogs and when they cornered him, the vaqueros shot it,” said Laqui. Just as he finished speaking, we heard a loud roar, a silence, and another roar in the bottom of the canyon about one hundred feet away. We were impressed; it looked like that cat did not want to know more about our sad conversation. We kept quiet and looked for some movement in the distance at the bottom of the arroyo in the hope of seeing a jaguar with our own eyes, but unfortunately we did not see or hear anything else.

That same afternoon, after reviewing our cameras, we decided to take the scenic route to return to camp – the arroyo, the place from which the roar came. It was the first time we walked along all of this arroyo. It is a beautiful and pleasing place for us and the same for a cat, we suppose. There are oaks, palms, and other large trees that provide a lot of shade, little waterfalls, large rocks that form caves, and in dry season there is water in some pools and small springs. We saw many recent traces of cat – scat, tracks, scratches on fallen trees, but again we did not see jaguars. Surely they were hiding out there.

The bad news is that Miguel tripped into the arroyo where we heard the cat roaring. He slipped between the stones, and it was graceful but also painful. Because he has a hurt knee, he went to the doctor, and it seems that it is nothing serious – just an inflammation in la pata de ganso” (something like goose foot, seriously it sounds funny; the medical name is pes anserine bursitis). We hope this inconvenience soon passes and Miguel’s knee heals well because this year we plan to travel many miles and discover interesting new places within the Northern Jaguar Reserve.

This month there were many photos of wildlife. Among the jaguar photos was a picture of an apparently new adult jaguar in a stream at Babisal. We say that this is new since the spot pattern is not similar to any that we have identified, but as we only have the photo on the right side of the jaguar, this may be one of those that we have only identified on the left. We’ll see later when this jaguar is photographed on both sides. We had a photo of Cecilio in the area of La Hieleria in Babisal; this was captured during the first days of January. Finally, we have pictures of an adult male jaguar in Los Pavos. This is a jaguar whom we haven’t seen before, and it is a new individual in the reserve and is the one that the left large footprints in Arroyo Los Pavos a couple of nights before we were there. We don’t have any doubt that these were his footsteps, since we found footprints in front of cameras and the cameras have his photographs. Is this new male competing right now for Mayo’s territory? The next question for us is: Where is Mayo now? Please, help us to find names for the two new jaguars.

We will continue writing next month and letting you know what is happening with jaguars and us, and telling you some new experiences from the reserve. Meanwhile, join us and continue supporting the Northern Jaguar Reserve.

Until next month! Best regards,

– Carmina & Miguel

Our jaguar guardians, Carmina Gutiérrez and Miguel Gómez Ramírez, have worked at the Northern Jaguar Reserve since October 2008. As the reserve’s resident biologists, Carmina and Miguel patrol lands to keep out poachers, sustain ongoing management of the reserve, maintain a network of motion-triggered cameras, and inventory the ecological health of reserve lands and waters.

Bobcat photographed by motion-triggered camera at Babisal, January 2011; view more recent wildlife photos here.