In the News

 
Image: Colorado lynx kitten

Lynx kitten in Colorado
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Image: Click here to get Adobe Reader!
Adobe Reader (free)
for viewing PDF icon articles

Look for an announcement on the NEW

Latin American Wild Felid Action Grant,

December 2018!

Below are a few abstracts of recent scientific articles regarding wild felids.

Retreat of the jaguar: a long history for el tigre in Arizona – but an uncertain future.
Brown, D. 2018. Wildlife Society Bulletin 12:50-54.

Summary – One of the earliest recorded observations of jaguars in Arizona was in 1837. By the early 1900s, hunters and trappers were taking about 1 jaguar per year, mostly along the Mexican border, although a few were also reported killed as far up as the Grand Canyon. The last female jaguar documented in Arizona was killed in 1963. Then, in 1969 the Arizona game and fish commission prohibited the killing of jaguars. The first photographic evidence of a jaguar was obtained in spring, 1996 when it was treed by a hunting party in the state’s southeast corner. This sighting and another the following fall sparked interest in the big cat. The jaguar was listed as a federally endangered species in 1997. Arizona and New Mexico realized the need for a conservation plan and created the AZ-NM Jaguar Conservation Team that same year. Camera traps were deployed in 2000 and captured 2 different male jaguars between 2001 and 2004. The second cat, Macho B, was monitored over the next 5 years in an area covering 1350 km2. In the following 15 years four more males were photographed, of which two may still range in Arizona. In 2009 Primero Conservation initiated a study with ranch cooperators along the western flanks of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Sonora, Mexico and identified the area as the probable source of Arizona’s jaguars. Preliminary DNA analyses supports this, suggesting cats from the two areas share the same genetic lineages. Primero Conservation deployed a camera trap array in 2009 and used it to assess jaguar population trend in the Sonoran study area. The detection rate (jaguar photos/100 camera-trap days) declined significantly over 6 years, from 1.4 to 0.2. Five jaguar deaths were documented in or near the study area, from causes that included poisoning, gunshot, and leg-hold traps. No jaguar photographs were obtained in the last monitoring period (November 2016 to May 2017). There is little, if any, enforcement of laws to protect jaguars in Sonora, so conservation and protection of the jaguar will be at the discretion of the ranchers. Should the Sonoran population of jaguars decline further or disappear, a future population in Arizona will be unlikely.

Halting the isolation of jaguars: where to act locally to sustain connectivity in their southernmost population.
Pardo, J. M. et al. Animal Conservation 20:543-554.
Abstract – Habitat loss and fragmentation are among the major threats to the conservation of biodiversity. Improvement of landscape connectivity becomes one of the main strategies for alleviating these threats and is an increasingly used target in management policies worldwide. However, implementation of connectivity principles in local management actions often implies great difficulties derived from the different criteria used by connectivity analysts and policy makers. We generated a management tool to incorporate connectivity criteria for large carnivores in landscape conservation planning at a local scale. Focusing on the southernmost population of jaguars Panthera onca, we use a graph‐based connectivity approach to (1) analyze habitat connectivity and availability in five areas previously identified as main corridors; (2) detect priority forest patches for maintaining connectivity, and (3) propose specific management strategies for each area matching the relative importance and role of the forest patches in it. For this purpose, we defined the patches as the local land management units (properties) and used information on land cover and jaguar movement for determining the probabilities of connectivity metric. We identified the key patches that represent 90% of the total contribution to connectivity in the study areas; these patches were less than half of the total number of patches in each corridor. Based on this forest patch prioritization, we identified the most critical areas and specific patches where urgent conservation measures need to be implemented. The percentage of patches and the total area they covered varied among the five analyzed corridors showing contrasting situations for connectivity management and highlighting the importance of the proposed approach to understand the impact of patch‐level actions in a broader connectivity context. This approach might serve as a model to account for habitat connectivity for large carnivores in the design of landscape management and land‐use plans at a local scale.

 

 

Forced neighbours: coexistence between jaguars and pumas in a harsh environment.
Astete, S. et al. 2017. Journal of Arid Environments 146: 27-34.

Abstract – Carnivores face conflicts with humans, which has reduced their numbers and distribution. Carnivores compete in intraguild predation systems, Subordinate predators usually avoid top predators through spatial or temporal separation. Coexistence requires a complex combination of resources and environmental conditions. In this study, we assessed the occupancy and temporal activity during night time of the jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) in the Serra da Capivara National Park (SCNP), located in the semi-arid Caatinga biome of Brazil. Felines face biological limitations in hot environments. We used camera-traps, occupancy models and temporal analysis to evaluate their patterns of habitat use, activity and interactions in SCNP between 2009 and 2011. We considered jaguar as dominant predator and puma as subordinate, and expected to find spatial and temporal avoidance between them. We found evidence of spatial and temporal coexistence. This coexistence could be a result of a restriction of niche separation between both species, influenced by the harsh conditions in the Caatinga, represented by a combination of extreme temperatures, scarcity of refuges to thermoregulate, an environment around SCNP with a high level of human disturbance and an apparent increase in prey due conservation policies.

 

Conservation payments in a social context: determinants of tolerance and behavioural intentions towards wild cats in northern Belize.
Harvey, R. G. et al. 2017. Oryx 51: 730-741.

Abstract – Carnivores are valued by conservationists globally but protecting them can impose direct costs on rural, livestock-dependent communities. Financial incentives are increasingly used with the goal of increasing people's tolerance of predators, but the definition of tolerance has been vague and inconsistent. Empirical correlations between attitudinal and behavioural measures of tolerance imply that attitudes may be a valid proxy for behaviours. However, theoretical differences between the concepts suggest that attitudinal tolerance and behavioural intention to kill cats would have different underlying determinants. We surveyed 112 residents within a forest–farm mosaic in northern Belize inhabited by jaguars Panthera onca and four other species of wild cats. A conservation payment programme pays local landowners when camera traps record cat presence on their land. Results indicated that tolerance was associated with gender and participation in the camera-trapping programme, whereas intention to kill cats was associated with cultural group (Mennonites vs Mestizos), presence of children in the home and, to a lesser extent, tolerance. Neither dependent variable was significantly related to depredation losses or economic factors. Results suggest that monetary payments alone are unlikely to affect attitudes and behaviours towards carnivores. Payment programmes may be enhanced by accentuating non-monetary incentives, leveraging social norms and targeting specific groups with information about risks and benefits associated with carnivores. By empirically separating two concepts commonly conflated as ‘tolerance’ we clarify understanding of how social forces interact with financial incentives to shape people's relationships with predators.

 

Creating voluntary payment programs: effective program design and ranchers' willingness to conserve Florida panther habitat.
Kreye, M. M. et al. 2017. Land Economics 93: 459-480.

Abstract – Landowner resistance to Endangered Species Act regulations is a key conservation challenge. In 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that a mix of payments for ecosystem services and regulatory assurances be implemented to encourage cattle ranchers’ participation in Florida panther recovery efforts. To identify cattle ranchers’ preferences for the proposed programs, we implemented a best-worst scaling choice experiment. Our results suggest that voluntary conservation programs are most likely to enroll politically conservative landowners if these programs provide per acre payments or tax reductions, are of shorter duration, and do not require overly intrusive or restrictive levels of monitoring to ensure compliance.

 

Using certified timber extraction to benefit jaguar and ecosystem conservation.
Polisar, J. et al. 2017. Ambio 46: 588-603.

Abstract – The jaguar Panthera onca requires large areas of relatively intact habitats containing adequate amounts of prey to survive. Since a substantial portion of jaguar range occurs outside of strict protected areas, there is a need for economic incentives for habitat conservation, which carefully managed selective logging can provide. Forest Stewardship Council and Pan European Forest Council certifications intended to regulate wood extraction to maintain the ecological functions of forests require evidence of biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. We draw on twelve surveys across four countries and a range of biomes to present evidence that adequate logging management can maintain jaguar populations, but that they are at risk without efficient control of secondary impacts of access and hunting. Where resident, the presence of jaguars can serve as an indication that the ecological requirements of certified timber extraction are being met. We present a gradient of rigor for monitoring, recommending cost-effective options.

 

Modeling landscape connectivity for bobcats using expert-opinion and empirically derived models: how well do they work?
Reed, G. C. et al. 2017. Animal Conservation 20: 308-320.
Abstract – Efforts to retain ecological connectivity have become a conservation priority to permit animal movements within home ranges, allow dispersal between populations and provide opportunities for animals to respond to climate change. We used expert-opinion and empirically derived models to investigate landscape connectivity at two spatial scales among bobcats Lynx rufus in New Hampshire, USA. Paths of marked bobcats were compared to random movements in the context of program CircuitScape. At the local scale (within home ranges), the empirical model (based on observations and telemetry locations) performed better than the expert-opinion model. At the regional scale (state of New Hampshire), both models identified urban development as a potential barrier; however, the models differed in predicting how specific natural features (e.g. mountains and large water bodies) and some roads affected bobcat movements. When compared with bobcat population structure based on genetic information, the expert-opinion model overestimated the influence of roads. Alternatively, the empirical model overestimated the influence of snow. Our findings indicate that the empirically based resistance model was better at describing landscape-scale effects, whereas the expert-opinion model provided a good understanding of gene flow at a regional scale. As such, both models may be considered complementary. Bobcats were sensitive to disruptions imposed by habitat fragmentation and thus may be a suitable focal species for evaluating the consequences of land-use changes on the regional suite of mesocarnivores.