Jaguar Guardian Blog – May 2015

June 6, 2015

may 2015 blog

Dear Friends,

This month we had one of the few experiences we hope to never have again while we work on the Northern Jaguar Reserve. We began our trip checking the motion-triggered cameras that are close to the road, and we decided to travel to El Carricito ranch. Each time we go to Carricito, we notice increased deterioration of the road. There are some places where it is very narrow because the rains have caused erosion, and there are big trenches at the edge. This section of road is likely the steepest on the entire reserve, with loose rock and a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet on one side. While we were heading downhill, the truck suddenly stopped working! The engine seemed to have little strength and just stopped. Meanwhile, the truck had enough momentum to continue down, and Saúl could not stop it. Anyone who has had this happen knows that once a vehicle fails while you are driving, it is very difficult to maneuver. The steering wheel had tightened up, and even though we pushed down on the brakes, they did not respond the same as a vehicle that is operating normally. Little by little, as we envisioned the worst possible outcome, Saúl’s efforts to stop the truck were successful. We felt relieved, but we could not relax until we arrived at our destination.

After this incident, we had more trouble with the truck in an area that was flat and not as dangerous. Still, we decided to forego some of our stops on the reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches and have the truck serviced as soon as possible. This was the most perilous experience we have ever had on the reserve, and we hope something like this never happens again.

may blog 4Once we finished our work at Carricito, we left for Dubaral. While en route, we saw a coati climbing a palm tree, which is known locally as “babiso.” The coati was probably going to eat some dates, but when he saw us, he quickly came down and ran toward a small hill where we lost sight of him. We later saw one of the most beautiful birds we have on the reserve, an elegant trogon. It flew from branch to branch as we approached. This time of year, we hear trogons beginning their mating calls. One afternoon, we were listening to a wild turkey calling. The turkey sang for quite a while, and it was almost dark when we stopped hearing it. A bird that we almost always hear at La Tinaja ranch is the Mexican jay, and this time we saw a great horned owl flying among the oak trees. There was also what appeared to be a Cooper’s hawk chasing a raven. The raptor was soaring up high for quite some time, then swooped down to catch the raven… yet was not successful.

One night while I was sleeping, I heard the sound of water splashing. I woke up thinking that maybe a coyote or fox had come to drink water from a pail we had left outside. The following morning, Saúl found a dead rat inside the water bucket, and I realized that the sound I heard was the rat trying to keep from drowning. The rat had a parasite on the bottom of its neck, a larva that had grown inside of it. Saúl thought that it could have been a botfly, found on larger mammals (including humans) from Mexico south to Chile and Argentina. Fortunately, we have not had any experiences with this parasite or any others, and we hope that will never happen.

We have noticed that deer are beginning to form groups as they have done during past summers. It is common to see deer in the shade underneath the mesquite trees at Mesa de Cureda. Saúl found a small javelina skull next to one of the cameras at El Aguajito at Las Cuevas. He said that there was only part of the javelina and that it was young, possibly only one month old.

may 2015 blog 2We hope you will continue to check our blogs to see what we experience when we are out at the reserve. We will keep you updated on our happenings trip by trip so that you can work with us to preserve this land that is so abundant with wildlife.

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.

Top: Carricito, photo by Ian Fritz; midde: coati at Babisal; bottom: photo by Erik Rakestraw