October 9, 2015
This month, we had a visit from donors from the U.S. who wanted to get to know the Northern Jaguar Reserve. Although Saúl and I couldn’t spend much time with them because we had specific tasks to accomplish around the reserve, we were very glad they were able to experience this special landscape firsthand and thank them for their enthusiastic support.
Sometimes, when we have a lot of work, we need to work from dawn to dusk. It was raining on the day we went from Sahuaripa to the reserve, which complicates travel because it leads to bad roads, mud, and potholes. Saúl and I unfortunately had to drive out on a rainy day because we had a lot of work to do in the field and were not able to wait for better weather. Thankfully, the day after we arrived, the sky cleared up, and we were able to work peacefully the rest of the time.
Many times we spend a lot of the day checking motion-triggered cameras and neglecting to eat. It can take up a lot of our time walking back to the site where we will sleep that night. A medium-sized trip will reach the ranch we are staying at in three or four hours. The good part is that we get to see wildlife during these trips. We almost always see white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and birds like red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). We will also sometimes see javelina (Pecari tajacu).
We spent one day at Tésotas and checked cameras along the arroyo that moves through this ranch. While we were traveling through the arroyo, we saw some cows that belong to one of the ranchers who works with us in the Viviendo con Felinos project. Sometimes cattle break fences and trespass on the reserve. When this happens, our resident vaquero Laco catches them and takes them back to the ranch where they belong.
Later, when we were returning from checking the Tésotas cameras, we strayed from our usual route and walked along the Arroyo La Tinaja in order to find new potential sites to position our cameras. It may be a good idea to move some cameras here in the future to see what happens and what species we photograph.
On our rounds of the Viviendo con Felinos ranches each month, we always check the ranches close to La Ventana first and then drive the longer distances to the other properties. We usually begin with Las Cuevas, which is the ranch that is closest to the reserve. If we are lucky, we meet up with Ricardo Vázquez, who often is kind enough to lend us two of his horses. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at the ranch this time.
At Las Sabanillas, we almost always meet up with ranch owner Don René. He spends anywhere from three to six months on the ranch without going to town. René is one of the few ranchers who really loves his ranch, and he has lived most of his life there. He spends so much time on his property that he knows each one of his cows. Sometimes we hear him say, “It has been quite a while since I have seen the cinnamon-colored cow.” This is strange to hear, but for René it is easy to distinguish between each one of his cows and exactly where to find it. We talked with him about feline attacks on his ranch, and he said that he has not had any deaths from depredation, which was excellent news.
As we go along checking cameras, it is possible to see the beautiful scenery that nature offers us, particularly at El Puerto. El Puerto is one of the most beautiful places with its oak trees, mesquites, arroyos, and many other aspects that make it attractive. There are other ranches with less spectacular scenery, even though there are also specific sites with great beauty. The arroyo that runs through Rancho La Mula has crystal clear waters, and it is possible to see small fish. We always have fun walking through that place. This trip was not as much fun because while I was walking over some rocks to cross the arroyo, one of the rocks moved. I fell into the water, landed on some rocks, and scratched my legs. Unfortunately, Saúl was not there to help me because he went to some other camera sites. When we go to sites that are farther away to check cameras, we always go in pairs for safety. Something like this could happen, and we help each other when we are in need. Since we did not have much time and we still had to check other ranches, it was necessary to go separately this time. Luckily, they were only scratches. This was a warning that we should not go alone when we are checking cameras in far away places.
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.