Master tree

When I arrived at REGUA I met Steve Morgan, a well-travelled and knowledgeable mammal enthusiast who was undertaking a mammal survey of the reserve. He had used camera traps as the primary way of investigating what larger species inhabited the reserve. While he was using camera traps he discovered that the 4×4 trail was particularly productive for many species.

This trail is where Steve had set up some fruit bait to attract some species in front of the camera. This proved successful with South-eastern Common Opossum, pacas, Red-rumped Agouti and Nine-banded Armadillos. With all of the scent from these species in the area it soon attracted the attention of the resident puma which Steve was very pleased to finally capture on video.

Steve identified that there were scratch marks from a Puma on a tree that stuck out onto the track so he then set up a camera overlooking this tree. This proved successful in capturing the Puma not scratching but scent marking with urine, and rubbing its glands on the bark. A prominent tree on a wide track is an ideal location for animals to scent mark their territory as it has to be somewhere other animals are likely to encounter too.

I installed my camera trap overlooking the tree shortly after hearing the news and the results we have had show that this tree is being used by a range of other carnivores. So far 2 male Ocelots, 2 Tayra, Crab-eating Racoon and Crab-eating Fox have all been recorded scent marking on the tree. This is evidence that the tree is in prime location for scent marking and these species are overlapping their territory with the top predator the Puma.

One theory could be that since the Puma left the area probably to spend time in another part of her massive territory that the smaller predators became more bold and aggressive in proving their dominance in the area so have put more effort into marking their territory on such a prominent feature. The juvenile Puma was recently recorded back scent marking the tree and this has seen a drop in the sightings of other species.

It will be interesting to continue monitoring to see if there is a trend between the Puma activity and the other species. The presence of a wide range of predators including a top predator in this one area is a very positive sign that the protection of the prey animals (and the predators themselves) from the ranger patrol at REGUA is having an effect. Hopefully more areas of the forest will show this density in time.