The past two months

Spotting for lynx in March.

It’s been a while since I last wrote here. I’ve been quite busy with a lot of different things in the past two months.

Last week I was in Värmland and Gävleborg teaching carnivore tourism for a group of nature students. Before that I was spending quite a lot of time inside writing the report for the puma project I did last year. The lynx census finished at the end of February and there was a little bit of work left with counting wolves in March, but now these censuses are done for the season.

Sara Wennerqvist at Wild Nordic talks bear tourism for a group of nature students in April.

Now I’m at my office in Uppsala doing administrative work and planning for future projects. Once all the remaining snow is gone we will be doing a shorter wildlife census based on scats out by the coast. But for now, I will be enjoying a time of more tranquility.

A wolf says Hi during a visit to Järvzoo in April.

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Lynx and wolf tours

I’m showing the group typical tracks from Eurasian lynx. Photo: Biotopia.

This last Saturday we organized a guided tour with Eurasian lynx in Uppsala county. The event was put together by Biotopia.

We started the day with looking at typical tracks from lynx and wolf. Then we headed out into the field and soon came across tracks from red fox, roe deer, badger and other animals.

We found fresh tracks from lynx. From top to bottom: the right hind paw, right front paw, left hind paw and left front paw. Photo: Biotopia.

Not so long after, we discovered fresh tracks from a lynx that walked there just a few hours prior. We back-tracked the lynx, looking at its behaviour, scent marks, scats and other things. It was a great day out in the field.

The week before this lynx tour we did one with gray wolf in the northern parts of the county, in the area where the only wolf pack in Uppsala county lives.

We had delicious food prepared by Elles utemat. Photo: Biotopia.

We might organize more of these events in the coming winter season. Shoot me or Biotopia an email if you think it might be interesting to join in some time.

 

 

 

This happened in 2017

In three videos created by Biotopia, I show how to identify tracks from gray wolf, Eurasian lynx and brown bear.

Continuing the tradition of reviewing the year that has passed, here is my story of 2017. It tells of the projects, the excitement, the difficulties and everything else that happened during the year.

Waking up to the first day of 2017 I began the year with a breath of fresh air in the winter chill, and wrote: “I open the door and go outside to feel what 2017 is like. I take the air in. It smells fresh, new and unspoiled. I hear birds chirping in the ambience as the sun throws its first rays. There is an aura of potential in the wind.”

Ananias overlooks the vast home range of the puma in Caatinga, Brazil.

While I enjoy the optimism of said quote, the real life situation for conservation of the world’s biodiversity is less optimistic. More and more species – along with the genetic diversity in existing species – are disappearing. But then again, why not at least enjoy the ride?

For me, 2017 offered its fair share of adventures and personal challenges. Perhaps the greatest experience of the year was traveling back to Brazil to work with puma. In late March 2017, Programa Amigos da Onça managed to collar a female puma. The team had already spent more than 80 days in the field trying to collar jaguars and pumas. I was there with them in September and October of 2016, but we were without luck. So when they finally managed to collar Vitória in March, I quickly gathered my gear and flew back to Brazil in early April.

Battered and bruised but not beaten. Here I am out in the field in Caatinga searching for what the puma had been preying upon. With temperatures up to 35-40 degrees C, this is no easy task.

What I wanted to do hadn’t been tried before in Caatinga. I wanted to see if and how much this puma was predating on livestock. This is perhaps the main reason these cats are threatened in this environment. As livestock owners suffer losses, they (illegally) kill pumas and jaguars. While I’ve successfully used this method on Eurasiand lynx and brown bear in Sweden, there was great uncertainty as to how it would work in this environment in Brazil. Luckily Vitória kept not extremely far from passable roads and trails. Had it been further away then the logistics would have made it nearly impossible.

A brown bear approaches to within ten meters of our hiding place, in April.

So after meeting up with the team in April, I began field work later on in the month and worked throughout May with gathering data in the field. It was the second most difficult field work I have done. Not only was the environment impossible to penetrate, with countless of thorny plants everywhere, it was also very warm and we had to wear thick clothing not to get ripped into pieces by the vegetation. Add to this that we had to bring all the water, food and other equipment we needed for sometimes up to several days of hiking.

Another unwelcomed addition to the experience was that a few weeks prior to me traveling to Brazil, I injured my left leg. Every step I took hurt a lot, and even more the more I walked, especially if I bent over. As you have probably figured, this was exactly what we did most of the time: hiking while bent over (not to get thorns in the eyes) in rough terrain. Hearing of my work in Brazil, people often tell me: “Wow! What an amazing experience!” Yeah, well, definitely an important project, but also very painful and difficult.

Following tracks of Eurasian lynx in February.

When I arrived home to Sweden in late May I felt like almost kissing the ground. I also decided I would do no more field work abroad for the coming six months. Working in Brazil was a humbling experience. It was difficult, but I am happy I did it.

Other experiences I had during the year was a short wildlife census in north-eastern Uppsala county in February. In March I spent one week teaching photography and carnivore tourism for a wildlife education in northern Värmland. In April, myself and Emil Nilsson of Biotopia spent a night at a bear hide in Gävleborg. We saw two brown bears during the night and later produced a podcast and an article from the visit. We were also seen in Upsala Nya Tidning during our quest to find lynx. Speaking of articles, I also wrote about snow leopards for Forskning & Framsteg and wolves in Germany for Våra Rovdjur. Interestingly, Germany now has more wolves than Sweden. We also ran a competition where you could win a snow leopard book, and had a small exhibition at Gottsundabiblioteket in Uppsala.

The snow leopard exhibition at Gottsundabiblioteket in Uppsala in February and March, with Jan Fleischmann’s and my pictures.

During the winter, Biotopia produced a few videos where I show how to identify tracks from Eurasian lynx, gray wolf and brown bear. Later on in the year, they also released three videos where I talk ten things that you probably didn’t know about lynx, wolf and bear, respectively. I also held a couple of guided tours for Biotopia doing snow tracking of lynx and wolf (there will be another couple of chances for this now in February 2018!).

I show furs and tracks of large carnivores for the visitors of Biotopia in Uppsala, in November.

Later on in the year, beginning in November, I would also go on to work at Biotopia as they have a carnivore theme running from November 2017 until February 2018. A lot of what I do there is talking large carnivores in Uppland and making carnivore pawprints in clay for the visitors. Besides talking carnivores at Biotopia, I also held another few other talks in 2017, among them for a conservation biology education at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and another at Uppsala University, talking carnivore conservation.

Beginning in December, I would begin with censusing Uppsala county for large carnivores for the County Board of Uppsala. It was good to get out into the field in Sweden again. I have missed snow. This work will continue throughout the winter.

Out censusing Uppsala county for lynx and wolf, beginning in December 2017.

So, that wraps up some of the things that happened during 2017. All in all, it has been an eventful year full of interesting experiences, both difficult, important and equal parts fun and thrilling. Let’s see what 2018 will have to offer!

Peace and love to all friends and everybody reading this! ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

Videos: Ten things you probably didn’t know about wolf, lynx and brown bear

Biotopia has released three videos where I talk ten things you probably didn’t know about gray wolf, Eurasian lynx and brown bear, respectively. See the videos in Swedish below. English versions will be due in 2018.

I also want to take the opportunity to wish you a happy Christmas! 🙂

 

Puma field work in Brazil

Ananias looks out over an area that we are soon trekking into.

In the past few weeks I’ve been out in the field in Caatinga in eastern Brazil studying the diet of a female puma. This is the first time that puma has ever been studied in this biome.

What I’ve done is I have visited sites where she has stayed for a little bit of time in order to see what she has done there. Was she eating something or just resting? The most important thing I have been wanting to find out is how much does she prey on domestic animals. This is very important because there is a lot of poaching of jaguars and pumas since they do kill and eat livestock. But how common is it? Are the farmers exaggerating or is it a real problem? And what could be done to alleviate this conflict?

There are a lot of thorny plants in Caatinga.

The field work was very difficult due to the harch environment of Caatinga. The plants are thorny and the vegetation is thick. Many plants have fish-hook thorns that would rip a normal t-shirt into pieces in a matter of hours. Also, for each step you take, there is at least one plant there to trip you. When going off-track, we progressed about 500 meters per hour. Luckily, to my help was Ananias, a local who came to be my field assistant. With his help I could use the many trails that exist which helped a lot.

Here I am investigating a goat that has been eaten by puma.

Ananias and I trekked on average ten hours per day in sweltering temperatures in this rough environment visiting these cluster sites. The temperature where we worked averaged about 30-35 degrees C in daytime. Add to this the clothes necessary to protect against the vegetation and it soon becomes very warm.

This six-banded armadillo was eaten by puma.

Some of the interesting things about working in this environment is trying the local fruits that grow ever so seldom. Running in to a mango tree after trekking a long distance was a great experience and I think that I have never tasted mangoes that sweet. There have been a lot of other interesting fruits, too, which I can’t even pronounce the names of.

Ananias has found a site used by locals to illegally trap carnivores.

There have been a lot of interesting finds in this study. This is the first time ever that this species has been studied in this biome, making it a pioneering study. I will now get down to analyzing the results. Hopefully this will lead to us being more able to protect pumas and jaguars in this area in the future – so that we can have a green planet full of life.

The project has been done as a part of Programa Amigos da Onça.

 

This is “cocinha”, small coconuts that you can find every here and there. Crack the shell between two rocks and you can eat the small coconut inside.

Puma study to begin

Vitória received her collar in late March. On the photo from left to right: field assistant Neto, veterinarian Gediendson Araujo, field assistant Ismael and project leader Dr. Claudia Campos. In the front row is the newest member of Programa Amigos da Onça: Vitória.

After a third and long field campaign of 45 days (!), Programa Amigos da Onça in Brazil has amazingly managed to collar a puma. This has taken a long time and the team has had to endure difficult field conditions. In total, the team has spent more than 90 days in the field in three field campaigns spanning September 2016 until now.

So, in the last days of March, a beautiful female puma named Vitória has received a GPS-collar. The name is suitable, as it means “victory”.

As a result of this success, I have now traveled to Brazil where I am currently in Petrolina preparing for field work. I am very happy that my part of the project can now get going. In the coming weeks, I will be investigating Vitória’s diet by visiting kill-sites to see her predation on wild animals and domestic animals. This will give us highly valuable information which will help us save the puma and jaguar in this area.

As a hint on the importance of the project: We can already see that Vitória has passed a farm, where the owner found tracks in the sand and, as a result, put out traps to catch her. This is unfortunately very common and shows how imperative it is to help alleviate the conflict between herders and the large carnivores. Hopefully, this is what the Program can now do.

 

Once again, I wish to thank everybody that has donated to the crowdfunding project! If it wasn’t for you then these next steps would not be possible.

You can read more on the Facebook page of Programa Amigos da Onça (in Portuguese but please use translate), and please click Like there to follow the work.