|Patricia Jean Downey|
|Graduate Student, Oklahoma State University|
|Seasonal Habitat Use of the Margay (Leopardus wiedii) Inhabiting El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas, Mexico|
|Location: El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas, Mexico|
|Species: Margay (Leopardus wiedii)|
Abstract: The margay (Leopardus wiedii) is an endangered neotropical feline listed on Appendix 1 of CITES. This project investigates seasonal habitat use of the margay inhabiting El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas, Mexico. This reserve undergoes two seasons, the wet season and the dry season. The preferred habitat of the margay is cloud forest. Relative abundance of margay will be determined by visitation rates to hair snag stations. One transect containing approximately 35 stations is run 4 times in the wet season and 4 times in the dry season. This transect spans 3 habitats including cloud forest. Genetic analysis will identify the hair at each station as positive or negative for margay. Once positive margay hits are known, the abundance of margay in each habitat in the wet seasons and the dry season can be determined.
Project Report: December 2005
Knowledge of margay ecology is limited because little in-situ research has been conducted in any part of its range, which extends from northern Mexico to South America. The objectives of the research were to (1) investigate seasonal habitat use of the margay and (2) determine which microhabitat variables are preferred by margays inhabiting El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas Mexico. Eight hair snare surveys were conducted (4 wet-season and 4 dry-season) from November 2002 to October 2004. Each survey consisted of 30 hair-snare stations placed every 500 m along a transect spanning 3 habitats. 117 hits were recorded during the 8 surveys.
Species analysis did not detect margay on any pad although they were known to exist in the area; 8 margays were radio-collared and monitored in the cloud forest of El Cielo from June 2001 to August 2004 in a non-related study. Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) was the predominantly detected species on the scent pads. Statistical analysis was therefore only carried out on gray fox data. Of the 3 habitats surveyed, gray fox detections were greater in oak-pine forest than cloud or tropical-deciduous forests across seasons. Gray fox did not prefer any microhabitat variable or combination of variables. The results of unpublished and published hair-snare surveys were compared and clear patterns were discovered in the success (i.e., detection of the target felid) of this technique. The method succeeded only outside the range of gray fox. The technique fails within the range of gray fox and the predominant species detected is consistently gray fox. The hair-snare methodology it therefore not recommended to survey felids within the range of gray fox. Instead, it is advised that a modified scent-station protocol equipped with a visual or auditory attractant be used to survey felids within gray fox range.