New Trip Report – Big Bend NP, Texas

I was in Big Bend for a couple of nights of bat catching and saw more than 18 mammals (11 of them bats) and 7 lifers including the brilliant Ghost-faced Bat, Western Yellow Bat and Davis Mountain Cottontail.

I’m off to Hungary tonight for a weekend chasing Hamsters and various small mammals

Jon

14 Comments
  1. Profile photo of vnsankar
    vnsankar 4 years ago

    Did you ask anyone about Mountain Lions while there? How hard were they to see – I’m quite desperate and am thinking about making a trip there very soon.

  2. Profile photo of Jon Hall
    Jon Hall 4 years ago

    I didn’t make any effort to look for them I’m afraid nor did I ask. Sorry. I’d give the ranger station a call there. People were seeing bears when I was there but I didn’t overhear any Lion conversations.
    Jon

  3. Curtis Hart 4 years ago

    Nice trip. I’m envious that you actually got to net there.

    I was in Big Bend a few weeks ago and asked about Mountain Lions. One of the rangers said he has been actively looking for 10 years, and has only seen 2. There is a sightings board in the Chisos Basin Visitor’s Center, and you could look at that and get an idea of where to hang out. Seem like camping in the Chisos Campground may be the best bet, but still a long shot. For North America, the only group of people that I know of that regularly see them are Spotted Owl surveyors. They are hiking heavy timber alone at night and see 1 or 2 a summer. Good luck, let me know if you find a better answer than this.

    • Author
      Jon Hall 4 years ago

      Actually my impression is that central California might be a better place to look than Big Bend. I’ve a friend near Santa Cruz who has seen Mountain Lions in her yard. Not sure what the prospects are for actually finding one on demand there but it could be worth a couple of intensive nights spotlighting maybe
      Jon

      • Vladimir Dinets 4 years ago

        I lived in the mountains above Sta Cruz for 3 years and did get a few sightings. All except one took a lot of effort; the last one was from my house window (but the house was at the end of a remote road on the ridgecrest).

  4. Mike Richardson 4 years ago

    I was in Big Bend several years ago and asked a ranger how many lions she had seen. The answer was none in 10 years!

  5. Profile photo of tomeslice
    tomeslice 4 years ago

    Refer to Charles Hood’s note about pumas in the States.

    With Big Bend, I feel like there was one year or a couple of years when the population of mountain lions around the Chisos Mountains was denser than usual and therefore sightings were more frequent there for a while so it got the reputation for being a good Puma place. I was there in May of 2012 with my dad, specifically to find and photograph a puma, and didn’t see any. But when I interrogated the f*** out of every ranger I came across, both randomly along trails and purposely in 2 stations (Chisos Mountains one and panther junction) it sounded like they werent so common there anymore, and that the density of the population decreased after some droughts or something… The funny thing is, in their wildlife information page online, Big Bend lists mountain lions as “common” on their mammal checklist, meaning this is an animal visitors are likely to come across in a 2-day stay at the park. For comparison, bobcats are listed as “uncommon”, even though they can sometimes be seen at the Rio Grande village campsite in the open grass areas, especially in the early morning. I just think this is a little outdated because if you look at the online bear-and-lion sightings data, you’ll see that for 2012-2013 there are between 1-3 Mt lion sightings a month, compared to, like, 2010 when from feb/mar to late summer there were TONS of reported sightings a month.

    Plus I feel like the term ‘common’ is inappropriately used on several other mammals in the checklist. For instance, the unconfirmed Jaguarundi is described as “reports are common but hasn’t been confirmed”… That seems ridiculous because there are no roadkills, no feces, no pictures…. I mean, this is 2013, every little visitor, even ones who never heard of the word Jaguarundi, has a camera with 16X-35X optical zoom. Wouldn’t you figure, if sightings were “common” at least some pictures would surface?

    But talking to rangers can also be misleading because some of them are complete wildlife enthusiasts and others couldn’t care less, don’t look, and therefore don’t see. Even if they’re ‘actively loking’ maybe they are terrible spotters or their definition of ‘actively looking’ I’d skewed. I talked to one young female ranger who wasn’t so interested in pumas but she told me it took her 5 months to see the first one. 10 years sounds like this particular ranger is REALLY bad at looking…

    • Mike Richardson 4 years ago

      Funnily enough I did see a Bobcat on my visit in 2009. A ranger told me they are seen less often than Mountain Lions within Big Bend (although I doubt this is true. Less often reported maybe). The ranger who hadn’t seen a Lion in ten years didn’t strike me as a hardcore mammal enthusiast.

      • Profile photo of tomeslice
        tomeslice 4 years ago

        Probably not..
        But even the guy from Curtis’s encounter, who only saw 2 in 10 years after ‘actively looking’ sounds questionable…

        For comparison, when I entered Yosemite from Mariposa Grove I stopped to ask the ranger where I can see a bobcat. He told me he had only seen 1 in 20 years. I asked about martens and I don’t remember his answer but it was probably along the same lines. I saw both in the next 48 hours. (though I think I got particularly super effing lucky with the marten). conclusion :

    • Vladimir Dinets 4 years ago

      I saw one in 98, and none in 5 or 6 visits to the park in later years.

  6. Curtis Hart 4 years ago

    From the description of his efforts and his passion for the cats, I’d say the ranger I talked to really did put the time in. You have to remember this a very difficult animal to reliably see. Sure, there are people who get lucky and see them on their first trip to Yellowstone, but there are plenty of people who have spent their lives outdoors and in the west and have never seen them.

    I also wouldn’t be so quick to write off hunters methods. Dogs and game calling are effective ways to see predators.

    • Profile photo of tomeslice
      tomeslice 4 years ago

      Oh, no doubt. I’m just not sure I’m comfortable paying money to a guy who usually takes people to kill big cats.
      I was once offered to join a trip like that as an observer and a “non hunter” but I don’t want to see amountain lion getting killed. I’m not saying I’m “in the right” and someone who would choose this option is “in the wrong”, it’s just a personal preference.

      • Curtis Hart 4 years ago

        I agree, I wouldn’t pay to go on a kill hunt as an observer, but you may find someone who’ll take you just to see the cat. I doubt the price will be reasonable though. You may try learning to call them. I’ve had some success with other predators the few times I’ve done it. Mountain Lions are difficult to cold call though. You should get something in, and it may just be an opportunity to see/photograph another predator from closer range.

        • Profile photo of tomeslice
          tomeslice 4 years ago

          If I recall correctly, going just to see the cat without joining a hunting trip as an observer was upwards of $500… So I thought: “Nahh, I’m ok.”
          Keep in mind that I did get a very unsatisfactory glimpse of one without photographic evidence.. So I need to complete the checkmark as the pen is still dwindling on the paper mid-way through the mark.. Ok that was an extremely retarded verbal imagery, and I’m not actually looking for a checkmark but a genuine encounter with this super-interesting species which I have been drooling over, ever since my 2.5second glimpse in Costa Rica.

          Of course that now I live in Israel and there are no mountain lions here, but I have a feeling I will revisit Torres del Paine in the future! (Yes, I was already there with my parents when I was 19 and did not know about Jose, or even what an Andean Mountain Cat was…lol)

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