April 17, 2015
Each month, we almost always begin checking our motion-triggered cameras from the farthest point, which is Los Pavos, and we finish at La Ventana near the Northern Jaguar Reserve’s entrance. However this month we started at two Viviendo con Felinos ranches, Bábaco and El Sapo, to have enough time to finish our work. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the locked gate at the entrance to Bábaco, I realized the key I brought was not the right one since it looks almost identical to another key I have in Hermosillo. This delayed us a little, but we were still able to complete our tasks. El Chavo, the vaquero at Bábaco, lent us two horses to go and check the cameras. Our field assistant Laqui and his brother Galo went to La Cochi, while Saúl and I traveled to El Mezquite. Almost every time I go to this camera site, I notice the scent of felines. The first thing I always think is that there must be a puma nearby.
Los Pavos is one of my favorite ranches on the reserve. It is very peaceful, and all of the sounds we hear are the exact opposite from the city: coyotes howling during cooler nights and birds chirping early in the morning. This is the best therapy against stress. One day while checking cameras, we were walking along a path and saw a coyote running 50 meters in front of us. Laqui remembered a similar experience he had many years ago when he was a teenager. A man from the ranch where Laqui was working told him to go to one of the ponds and hunt deer. Laqui hunched down to wait for them to come drink some water. The first animals to arrive were not deer, but three coyotes. While the coyotes were drinking, they realized Laqui was there and watched him for some time. After they left, Laqui heard noises and was surprised to see three coyotes just a few meters away. Seeing them, he suddenly was frightened, quickly got up, and fired a shot in the air. I think the coyotes had confused Laqui for something else and were curious to investigate. After Laqui fired the shot, they ran away.
Even though I really enjoy fieldwork, there are days that can be exhausting, especially when we check cameras at distant locations. It can take us an entire day just to go back and forth to some of the most remote camera sites. Los Aguajes and Los Chinitos take the most time to visit, approximately seven hours of difficult hiking. The topography contributes to a physically tiring journey. When we went to these sites this month, we returned worn out and anxious for rest. Earlier, we had found the remains of a spinal column and feet from a white-tailed deer. Unfortunately, there was little evidence left to help us form an opinion as to what had killed the deer.
When we returned to La Ventana, Laqui stayed with Braulio to work on road repairs. Our friend Randy, the new reserve manager, came with us to check the rest of the cameras on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches. We began at La Tinaja ranch where Randy walked with me to check cameras at El Oso. The distance wasn’t too far from where we left the truck, but on the return trip, there is a very steep climb that requires a lot of effort. At one point, Randy’s dog Farmer got lost, and we had to go back and look for him. Randy was calling Farmer, and each time we moved a bit, we heard a distant barking getting closer. Fortunately, Farmer was fine, and we could continue with the rest of our trip.
Until next time friends,
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.