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Mexico's Wilderness Provides a Safe Haven for Several Species of "Big Cat," like the Jaguar.
Mexico's Cats enjoy uneasy truce at presentClick thumbnail to view full-size
Wilderness areas give Mexico's big cats a chance.
Mexico’s Big Cats
Mexico is number four in the whole world for the diversity of its wildlife. Luckily, Mexicans do not hunt or eat most of them, nor believe in fertility-aids made from their ground-down parts like many mindless Orientals. Why China needs fertility boosters is beyond me; aren’t there enough of them as it is? One might think they need tranquilizers or soporifics; anything to stop them breeding like rabbits.
There is an exception to Mexican’s even-handedness with their ecological heritage, that is over-fishing, although we can see the self-obsessed machinations of the Japanese, along with Mexican bribe-taking, in this area, too.
But my article today is about hope, not despair, and features some of the most elusive and beautiful creatures on the planet: large felines, or cats.
Mexico is not just majestic mountains and spellbinding coast and sea vistas, although it has a plethora of both. The country also has many thousands of square miles of desert with its special beauty, and much unexplored forests and jungle in States such as Nayarit.
It is here the Jaguar rules as king of the beasts. He is heavier in head, jaw and body than the African leopard and twice as elusive. His only enemy is man, although to hunt them today is forbidden internationally, and the terrain makes that kind of sport difficult. The jaguar here feeds on wild boar, peccary, coatimundi and white-tailed deer.
Jaguars are solitary animals, only seeking mates during the appropriate season. The female normally gives birth to two cubs. The jaguar has been saved from certain extinction as it will take semi-wild stock allowed to graze freely through its range. It has taken some patience for ecologists to convince farmers that the jaguar has just as much right to be there as they and their moo-cows have, and, hey! A cowbell is no protection against a hungry predator; if they loose a few, keep them fenced, or suck it up!
Next on the list and just behind the jaguar in raw power, is that feline star of Hollywood westerns, the Mountain Lion, or Puma which is distributed all over Mexico and parts of the US in wilderness areas. Its diet is almost exclusively based n the White-Tailed deer. Being more exposed to farm animals, due to its wider distribution and familiarity with man, the puma does prey frequently on domestic stock. Meat and potatoes for Hollywood. “Hey, boy, grab yew thet winchester behaand thet do’…we goan t’ grab us a varmit!” The puma, in fact, is more often shot when it returns for the second time to its kill, which it can drag and carry for incredible distances.
Pumas often make their lairs in high caves and even large, hollow trees where the female bears 2 to 4 young. They are also protected, but the law in remote rural areas turns a blind eye to their sometimes being shot, especially with all the negative publicity coming from the United States in recent years over the (about 3) attacks on humans out jogging. In truth, man cannot have both. Africans know this and avoid going alone and unarmed into lion territory. The threat from Pumas is much less, of course, but we are still venturing into their territory, they don’t come into ours.
This writer would rather have Pumas, etc., even if it means we loose a couple of sweaty joggers once in a while, but don’t tell anyone I said that. After all, thousands get killed and injured by cars every year, but there are few Ford hunters around! (although British mechanics do a good job in neutralizing some mechanical predators).
Next in line to the throne is the Bobcat. This feline is native to the whole “Nearctic” or temperate region. Its most southerly point of distribution is Central Mexico. It also haunts brush and desert regions and can also be found in some pine and oak forests. It closely resembles a small lynx in appearance. What does a lynx look like? A large bobcat! It mainly feeds on rabbits, hares and small rodents, day and night, and will occasionally take deer fawns (Ohhhh! Not Bambi). The bobcat does suffer from sporadic hunting from nuts who say its meat has medicinal properties, or to make fur coats for ladies who should have a bounty on themselves. Thankfully, women are generally restrained from wearing real fur these days, unless from captive animals. Good old man, double standards as ever.
The most beautiful of the Mexican felines, perhaps because it looks like kitty next door, is the Ocelot. This creature is very shy and lives in tropical forests where its gorgeous and distinctive markings provide camouflage. Another solitary creature, pairing-up in the spring leading to two cubs. Eats small rodents and birds, up to rabbits and hares; when in dire need, may attack larger prey, even monkeys and snakes. Nocturnal, the animal is rarely seen, perhaps as a legacy to the time it was nearly hunted to extinction for its unique pelt - no more.
The Jaguarundi. Often confused with the Ocelot, but not really similar, this beast looks more like a rugged alley-cat than the sleek Persian next door. It hunts birds and small animals. It is often shot on sight by ranchers who complain it eats their chickens. What twit would murder a beautiful creature like this for a couple of bloody Leghorns beggars belief. Same class of idiots who boil gorilla’s hands to make fertility soup, I suppose. The ocelot can still be found in gun-happy Texas, whereas the jaguarundi is now extinct there. Maybe because it’s not as pretty, I don’t have any idea. They are both better looking that any redneck I have met.
The rarest and smallest of Mexico’s pussy cats is the Margay, resembling an Ocelot and even more cute-kitty-like. One reason no one sees it is because it is strictly nocturnal and is looking down on you from a great height in the tree tops…mama margay didn’t breed no fool. It has special long, hooked claws for moving around easily in its arboreal world and it can hang from its tail or back legs. It is a specialist hunter, and feeds on birds, snakes and reptiles that are also found where it lives and not available to the other mammalian predators. Naturalists think the margay may play a significant part in controlling these creatures that have few other natural enemies.
The main problem facing Mexico’s fascinating felines is one that troubles all the world’s large creatures, the disappearing habitat. Another good reason for us to curb breeding and give the other creatures of the planet a chance.