The amazing ears of the Caracal

Desert and grassland carnivores of all kinds rely heavily on their superb hearing to survive. Hunting over vast open distances, it is essential that they be able to hear the squeaks and chirps of their prey so they know which direction to go.

In this wonderful video from The Smithsonian, we learn that the Caracal uses 20 muscles – in three distinct groups – to independently control each of those large tufted ears. They act as super sensitive parabolic sound antennas, and the long tufts at the tips are thought to enhance their hearing by funneling sounds into the ears.

The Caracal is also famous for their impressive leaps straight into the air, swatting birds in flight at the same time. They are truly remarkable hunters.

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#WhoseSideAreYouOn

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Wildlife is in crisis. Poaching is out of control.

  • 97% of the tiger population has been killed in the last 100 years
  • 35,000 elephants are killed each year, more than are being born
  • 5000% increase in rhino poaching in the last ten years

United for Wildlife is fighting the illegal wildlife trade with some powerful friends. Join their side and help spread the word.

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@united4wildlife

https://www.facebook.com/UnitedForWildlife?fref=ts

#WhoseSideAreYouOn

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No Canada Lynx Recovery Plan Until 2018

CP_LA108-69_2014_203210_lowBILLINGS, Mont. – U.S. wildlife officials revealed Monday that they expect to complete a recovery plan for imperilled Canada lynx in early 2018 — almost two decades after the snow-loving wild cats first received federal protections.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service laid out that timetable in court documents filed as part of a federal lawsuit in Montana brought by environmentalists unhappy with prior delays.

Lynx were designated a federally protected threatened species in 2000. Since then, federal officials have repeatedly missed their own deadlines to start work on a plan to help the animals. Officials have blamed budget limitations, other species that took priority and lawsuits that challenged the government’s designation of critical habitat for the animals.

In the Lower 48 states, lynx are rarely seen across a 14-state range that includes portions of the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the Cascade Range of Washington and Oregon. There is no reliable estimate of its population size.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy last month expressed frustration with the government’s progress on the recovery document and gave officials 30 days to craft a schedule. He said the “stutter-step” approach taken to date by the agency necessitated court intervention.

The lawsuit was brought last year by Friends of the Wild Swan, Rocky Mountain Wild, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. They have argued that the government should be pushing ahead on the habitat and recovery issues simultaneously to keep the lynx from edging closer to extinction.

The groups’ attorney, Matthew Bishop, on Monday criticized the latest schedule offered by the government.

“Asking for nearly four additional years to complete a long overdue recovery plan — without any interim deadlines for completing a draft plan or updates to ensure progress is being made — seems unreasonable to me,” Bishop said.

In a written declaration filed with the court, a senior federal wildlife official said the additional time is needed because of budget constraints and staffing issues.

Complicating the work is the lynx’s huge range and the uncertain role that climate change could play in its survival, said Michael Thabault, assistant regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The scale, scope and complexity of this plan factor in our proposed timeline,” Thabault said.

A response from the plaintiffs in the case is due in 15 days.

Canada Lynx Research Using Remote Cameras

Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) detection and behaviour using remote cameras during the breeding season

Shannon M. Crowley, Dexter P. Hodder, Karl W. Larsen
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Abstract

The efficacy of surveys in detecting Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) can vary considerably by geographic area. We conducted surveys using digital passive infrared trail video-cameras from January to April 2013, during the breeding season of the Canada Lynx, in the John Prince Research Forest in central British Columbia. We used snow-track surveys to test the efficacy of our camera surveys. We measured trail camera detection rates by survey week and location and we noted Canada Lynx activity and behaviours recorded by the cameras. The detection rate increased between January and April, reaching a peak of 8 Canada Lynx/100 camera-days in early April. Canada Lynx spent more time at camera sites displaying behaviours such as scent-marking and cheek-rubbing in late March. The combination of both snow-track and trail camera surveys was especially effective, with Canada Lynx detected at 77% of all monitored sites. Depending on survey objectives, it may be beneficial to conduct camera as well as other non-invasive survey methods for Canada Lynx during the breeding season, when survey efficacy and detection rates are maximized.
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Read the full paper Canadian Field Naturalist Vol 127, No 4 (2013)

How Did The Lynx Cross The Road?

posted in: Cats in the wild | 0

The biggest threat to the future of the small Texas Ocelot population is the highway. One transplanted Canada Lynx in Colorado found her way home over 1,500 km, which must have required crossing a great number of busy roads. No matter the size, wildlife around the world is being struck and killed by ever increasing volumes of traffic.

Canada lynx on wildlife overpass
Canada lynx on wildlife overpass

Highway Wilding is a collaborative research project focused on getting wildlife safely across highways. The project builds on over 15 years of world-renowned research demonstrating that wildlife crossing structures are effective at both reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and ensuring that animals are able to move freely throughout their habitat. The construction of wildlife crossing structures has proven to be less expensive than the costs associated with a “business as usual” approach, including the costs of vehicle damage and human injury.

Cougar family using highway underpass
Cougar family using highway underpass

Build them and they will live. That is the simple message of Highway Wilding, a short documentary exploring highway-wildlife conflicts and the pioneering solutions that are preventing roadkill and reconnecting landscapes in Western Canada. Here in the Rocky Mountains we have a unique opportunity to maintain a fully functioning mountain ecosystem, but highways remain a significant barrier to ecosystem health and connectivity. Everything from grizzly bears and cougar to ducks and salamanders need to cross roads safely to meet their life needs, and these critical connections are increasingly threatened by highway expansion. After seeing Highway Wilding, you will never look at highways the same way again.

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Photos and video courtesy Highway Wilding. For more information see Highwaywilding.org

Wildlife research carried out within the framework of the Pumas on the Edge project

Puma

What are our aims?

This project aims to produce much-needed information on the carnivore community occurring in the Espinal bushlands of central Argentina. In particular we aim to tackle the conflicts between livestock and puma Puma concolor, as well as identify and develop new tools to mitigate them, because the conflicts are threatening the survival of the local puma population. Also, we carry out public awareness campaigns with the aim of increasing the acceptance of carnivores by the society, and start a longer term process to design a sustainable management plan of carnivore populations in the region.

MapWhere do we work?
The study area is located in the Southwest of Buenos Aires province; more specifically corresponds to the area of two counties, Villarino and Patagones. This region covers over 25,000 km2 and represents the last relict of the Argentine Espinal in the province. This is a transitional area between grasslands, located in the center of Buenos Aires and Monte woodland habitats, found to the west and to the south. Topography is mostly plain. Climate is temperate arid, with mean precipitation of 350‐500 mm/year.

The region has experienced a marked transformation during the last decades due to the increase of agriculture and ranching activities, which are the most important regional sources of income. This fragmentation process has turned the original landscape into a mosaic of croplands and pastures with residual patches of original vegetation. From 1975 to 2002 logging decreased the percentage of woodland areas from 65% to 37%, and this trend continues. Because the proportion of the Argentine Espinal that is legally protected is extremely low (less than 0.1%), we are working on private ranches.

What have we done?

Since the beginning of 2013, we have carried out two different field activities: photo-trapping and interviewing local people.

PampasCat

Photo-trapping:

The objective of using this technique is to monitor the presence of different species of carnivores, including the puma, in the Espinal and use these data to construct models that allow us to understand how habitat fragmentation and other human activities influence carnivore distribution.

In order to select the sampling sites, random points were generated with a minimum distance of 6 km among them. Then, in each of those points, 5 cameras were installed with an approximate distance of 1.5 km among traps. Cameras worked continuously during 25 days in each site. From March to May we set a total of 12 monitoring sites with 5 cameras each one (total of cameras used: 30).

This protocol had already been applied the previous year and so far we have a completed a total capture effort of 7054 trap-days and collected 196 photos of Geoffroy’s cats Leopardus geoffroyi, 8 of Pampas cats L. colocolo, 45 of pumas, 547 of Pampas foxes Pseudalopex gymnocercus, 75 of Molina’s hog-nosed skunks Conepats chinga and 2 of lesser grisons Galictis cuja.

Geoffroys

These proportions represent the following percentages of detection in the cameras:

Lesser Grisson Galictis cuja 0.82
Geoffroy’s Cat Leopardus geoffroyi 36.9
Pampas Cat Leopardus colocolo 2.9
Puma Puma concolor 11.5
Molina’s Hog-nosed Skunk Conepatus chinga 16.8
Pampas Fox Pseudalopex gymnocercus 44.7

These data show that the Pampas fox, the most adaptable carnivore of this guild, is the most widespread carnivore of this guild, but also that pumas and –especially– Geoffroy’s cats are still relatively common throughout the region. The Pampas cat would be quite rare but not as rare as the jaguarundi Puma yagouaroundi, for which we have been able to record only verbal reports of presence by a few local ranchers.

PampasFox

Interviews with local people:

This method was applied with the primary objective of identifying and quantifying the damage/impact produced by the carnivores in the region. Also, this technique allowed us to identify hunted pumas and foxes by the stakeholders and estimate, approximately, the rate of killed animals per year.

The interviews were done from June to September. During this survey, 2 students of the International Master Degree program of Sherbrooke University (Canada) collaborated with our team and, the data collected were used for their Master’s final work. In total we carried out 59 interviews in all the study area.

The preliminary results show that rural people think that the carnivores represent the biggest reason for economic losses.

fig4a

Athough pumas and foxes were the carnivore species most blamed for livestock losses by local ranchers, many of them had suffered no attacks during the previous year.

Additionally, the information about the husbandry practices adopted by ranchers suggests that their improvement might be a way to mitigate the carnivore-livestock conflicts in the region.

Fig6a

Unfortunately, the most commonly cited measure to effectively reduce the losses from predation was predator control aiming to reduce carnivore population numbers, whereas changes in husbandry practices were considered much less effective and only a small number of ranchers thought that economic compensation by the government was a solution.

Fig7a

We took advantage of the interviews to collect puma’s genetic samples. Muscle or skin samples were collected to understand the population dynamics and to collaborate with an international genetic project (International Barcode of Life – IBOL) that aims to obtain the genetic barcode of all the species in the world.

We also started gathering information from livestock predation sites, which are important to create a spatial model that describes the environmental or anthropogenic factors favoring puma’s predation on livestock and to identify the selection of areas for mitigation process.

In conclusion, all the information collected supports our initial hypothesis that the Espinal region of Buenos Aires province still hosts a diverse and widespread community of carnivores, but also the perceptions that the situation is deteriorating rapidly because of the joint effect of retaliatory killing (related to an intolerant attitude by local ranchers) and habitat loss (related to logging to make space for agriculture). The top predator of this region, the puma, with its relatively low reproduction rates and wide space requirements, may not be able to survive these threats.

deadpumas

The Future

Until now, we have been doing the hard work collecting data in the field, and now need to start extracting information in order to understand the dynamics of conflicts in our region.

Our long-term objective for the next steps is to make all that information available and to propose mitigation actions to decrease the level of conflict between human and carnivores in our study region not only to the local people but also to the governmental agencies which are the responsible for taking decisions. In order to achieve this goal we are planning to carry out participatory workshops with ranchers and people from government in 2014. However, to be able to provide reliable and sound information, we have to continue our field survey focused on determining the magnitude of the conflicts and the factors –both ecological and anthropogenic– affecting them.

mauro

Team members

Dr. Mauro Lucherini – Dra. Estela Maris Luengos Vidal
Dr. Diego Castillo – Lic. Nicolás Caruso – Lic. María de las Mercedes Guerisoli

Grupo de Ecología Comportamental de Mamíferos (GECM),
Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina