December 3, 2013
This month, I traveled with Daniela, and we divided our time between the Viviendo con Felinos ranches and the Northern Jaguar Reserve. We began by visiting the ranches, checking motion-triggered cameras and finding new locations to place them. We realized that the vegetation was much greener compared to this time last year. There have been early winter rains, which make the ranchers very happy since many cattle died last year as a result of the lack of water and grass. This recent rain will help stimulate plant biomass and provide food for many herbivores. While at El Puerto, we saw a pair of javelina (Pecari tajacu) when we were placing our cameras. At Mesa Rica, we were able to see a female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with her offspring.
Something that the ranchers often talk about is how the cold spells affect the vegetation, particularly some plants that are economically important for them. They noticed that the populations of chiltepin pepper and agave have been affected by the weather. Both of these plants provide ranchers with income on their properties. Fortunately, this year they have seen a larger number of chiltepin plants. That is not the case with the agave, which grows slowly and requires a longer time to recover.
It was a rainy day when we went to a site called Mesa del Baile, located at Babisal. Despite the weather, we continued our trip because we had already completed half of our journey. We startled a group of coati (Nasua narica) as we were traveling through an arroyo with a lot of vegetation. Suddenly, we saw a huge number of them running in every direction. Some were very close to me, just a meter away, and it was an exciting encounter. It is possible that we came upon them when they were in the treetops, and it was difficult for them to come down quickly. We also noticed a group of four white-tailed deer while we were on our way to the Arroyo Los Pavos. They also ran away quickly when they saw us.
After checking our cameras on the reserve, we went on to Bábaco. While we were driving there, we were obstructed by a big rock in the road. I may be exaggerating, but I calculate that it weighed more than 400 pounds. Between Daniela and I, we were able to move it about half a meter, using some tree trunks as a lever. We didn’t move it very much, but it was enough that we were able to continue on our way.
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps to 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.