July 2, 2014
This month on the Northern Jaguar Reserve, the temperatures were extreme enough to make our fieldwork challenging. We were still finishing our work as the thermometer climbed to 47º Celsius (117º Fahrenheit), which is almost unbearable to be out hiking in this rugged terrain. We checked all of the cameras on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches and more than half on the reserve as time permitted.
The thornscrub is completely dry with the absence of rain, and we can see that the plants are adapted for this. Only some of the trees like the velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) and palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata) have leaves during the early summer season. Others, such as the elephant tree (Bursera sp.) and palo blanco (Ipomoea sp.), need water in order to generate leaves. We hope the rainy season begins soon, since it will benefit vegetation, wildlife, and those of us who work on the reserve – and it will also reduce the potential danger from wildfire.
Water is such an important resource on the reserve. We noticed that we did not see as many white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) or any traces of deer where they normally congregate. Instead they were gathered in small groups near the ponds that still have water when the rest of the landscape is so dry. There were signs of deer at the reserve’s entrance and Mesa de Cureda, which retains water throughout the year. We are not sure if the deer tend to form larger herds during this season or if they were there together in search of water. When they spotted us, the deer did not immediately run away, and we were able to watch each other from as close as 20 meters.
One place we really like to visit when it is so hot is El Carricito. This ranch is located along the Río Aros, and we always enjoy swimming here in the afternoon. There are some amazingly beautiful places on the reserve, and the river is one of them. One of our favorite spots has water up to a depth of seven meters. This is where we get away from stress and fatigue, enjoying a dip and once in a while fishing for largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). This is an introduced species, and when we are able to catch them, we enjoy a delicious meal. During this trip, we were unsuccessful even though bass were swimming close to the riverbank.
Early the next morning around 5:30 a.m., I saw three wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). They began singing very early at around 4:00 in the morning. When I heard them, I got up and noticed two males and a female walking close to the ranch house. It was easy to distinguish which was the dominant male, since he displayed his tail feathers, lowered his wings, puffed himself up, and put on a show of what wild turkeys do during courtship on the reserve.
When we were reviewing the camera photos, we were excited to discover a fox with three rats in its mouth and a bobcat that had caught a ring-tailed cat. There are also continued sightings of new jaguars on the reserve. During the last several months we have had four new jaguars – “Sierra,” “Caliente,” “Seda,” and “Osman.” This month, we had another new jaguar on one of the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, Bábaco. The ranch owner gave this jaguar the name “Socrates.” We hope that more individuals continue to arrive in order to give them the protection they need. The efforts we have made as caretakers of the reserve have given us good results so far.
We hope next month we will be able to tell you that the rains arrived and calmed the dry heat of the mountains, with all of the plants turning green and brightly colored flowers emerging.
See you soon 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.