The Cuatro Gatos project began as a wildlife monitoring effort in northern Sonora, Mexico. Our goal was to document the presence of the region’s four feline species: jaguar, ocelot, bobcat and mountain lion, while engaging local landowners in wildlife conservation. Our geographic focus was northern Sonora, geographically connecting monitoring efforts in Arizona and New Mexico with studies several hundred miles to the south.
Today, we have expanded this effort to include carnivore conservation on a much broader level – we publish new scientific discoveries resulting from our wildlife monitoring; conduct public outreach on the importance of carnivores to our ecosystem and our quality of life; and advocate for science-informed carnivore management policies.
The Benefits of Carnivores
The Sky Island region has been home to large carnivores like the grizzly bear, black bear, jaguar, mountain lion and Mexican gray wolf for thousands of years. Smaller carnivores like the gray fox, kit fox, bobcat, ocelot, coyote, badger and four different species of skunks are also native here. With the exception of the Mexican gray wolf, jaguar, ocelot and kit fox, which are federally protected in the U.S. and in Mexico, most carnivores are largely unprotected. Many carnivores are hunted as game or furbearing species, or as a predator control practice. But perceptions are changing. We now know that carnivores bring greater benefit to us alive and well in their native habitat. For some, simply knowing that animals like jaguars and mountain lions exist in the wild, in a place they can visit and hike to, provides a quality of life benefit all of its own. They are also an essential part of the food web, and as territorial animals, act as land managers for the home ranges they inhabit. They manage their own population sizes, and keep herbivores in balance with nature by affecting their numbers and their behavior, in turn promoting healthy ecosystems and biodiversity.