Reflecting on Pumas

Its been a great year. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be able to approach pumas, either adults or kittens. Yet, here I am, made all the richer for having done so. I’ve also picked up numerous skills along the way. I’ve worked on radio telemetry and puma captures. There was a little bit of off road driving and finding my way via GPS as well.

In the cover photo, I was in the process of downloading the GPS coordinates for the mother of the kittens we were trying to track down. Once we had the GPS coordinates from her collar, we could determine the location of the den.

The kittens we were trying to locate were hidden very well. I heard them before I saw them. A hiss and a low growl.

This particular litter had three kittens. Paul, our experienced Field Biologist, retrieved the first two kittens, and instructed Anna (pictured), the newest grad student, on how to retrieve the final kitten from the den. These were two tiny little guys, and one girl. They were light at around six pounds, but it wasn’t too hard to imagine them becoming efficient killers in the not so distant future. They frequently flexed their paws and we got good looks at their already sharp claws.

This morning, we were focused on collaring and tagging the kittens. A special double sleeved collar was used for the kittens. These weren’t GPS tracking devices. They served two functions. One was as a radio transmitter so that we could locate them using radio telemetry. The second was to serve as a mortality indicator. After a specified amount of time with no movement, the collar would emit a mortality signal. It doesn’t always mean the kitten has died, and in some cases, the mortality signal was triggered because the collar came off.

While I would love to post photos of the pumas, I’ve been asked not to. I follow the Puma Project on Facebook and do see the varied responses there. Some people are fully supportive, whereas others are quite antagonistic to the project. Where ever you fall on that spectrum, I hope you can understand and appreciate the need for good science.

The cover photo is by Sebastian Kennerknecht and was taken for the Puma Project. It is used here by permission. No permission is granted for other use.

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