A New Way to Photograph Wildlife in the CER

Dear Rainforest Friends,

I have got some great news to share with you! Our MCL colleagues have been introduced to an ingenious way to take pictures of wildlife in the CER!

Just recently, during the early morning of the 23rd of January 2011, the dedicated park guards of the MCL were able to take the following photograph of a mountain lion (Puma concolor) in the reserve:

Puma Shot on Film in the Children´s Eternal Rainforest!

The picture was taken about one kilometer from the Pocosol Field Station located outside of La Tigra de San Carlos on the 23rd of January, 2011 (I know the photo has a time stamp of 2006, but the MCL informs me that the year was scrambled on accident. They check the camera regularly, and this photo was found just a few days ago). The Pocosol Field Station is one of the many places you can visit the CER and have up close and personal interactions with Costa Rican wildlife, and this photograph definitely proves it!

The Hidden Camera

A little over one year ago, Monteverde´s sister city, Estes Park, and Monteverde community members wanted to create an exchange program based on hands on science projects between high school students from the two towns. One of these science projects was focused on wildlife monitoring, specifically of large cat species in the reserve. During one of the many visits of Estes Park residents to Monteverde, they gave one camera trap to each of the reserves, including the CER. The camera trap is designed to be easily strapped to a tree, is waterproof, and completely camouflaged as to not draw attention from wildlife or anyone else for that matter (like poachers in the reserve). It is triggered by movement, and the idea was to place the camera in an area thought to be highly traveled by mountain lions in order to take pictures of the individuals and collect valuable information about the populations in the reserves.

The MCL, including every other reserve in the area, has been utilizing their camera traps as much as possible, and the effort has paid off!

Natural History of the American Mountain Lion

The American Mountain Lion, (P. concolor), is a large feline species with the largest known range of any New World terrestrial mammal. It is found from the Canadian Yukon (Northwestern Canada) all the way down to the Straights of Magellan (basically the southern tip of South America…WOW!). Their size ranges between 50 and 140 kilograms, depending on where they are found. They are one of the last remaining large feline species of the New World, and co-existed with the now extinct American Lion (Panthera atrox), the North American Cheetah (Miracynonyx trumani), and the Saber-toothed Tiger (Smilodon fatalis).

Mainly due to human influences like habitat destruction, mountain lion populations all over the Americas have diminished and there is only one remaining population east of the Mississippi (the Florida Panther, Puma concolor coryi). Habitat encroachment has also forced many human and mountain lion populations to live side by side, and many of these encounters can be dangerous for both humans and mountain lions. Many cattle farmers in Costa Rica, for instance have had to seriously wound or kill mountain lions that attacked their livestock. Some of these farmers still answer to nicknames such as Matatigres (Tiger-killer).

How You Can Help

The MCL at this point in time does not have a scientific project organized in order to effectively utilize this information for the benefit of science, so if you have any ideas or would like to make a contribution (more camera traps, funding to further pursue research in the CER) we are all ears! These are just baby steps, but the CER has great potential and is an invaluable resource to science.

Hopefully with the help of our supporters the CER will grow and be able to provide a better home for these beautiful and powerful creatures.

For the Forest,
Mia Roberts

References:

1) M Culver,WE Johnson,J Pecon-Slattery and SJ O’Brien*. Genomic Ancestry of the American Puma. Journal of Heredity. 91(3): 186-197.

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