The plaintive cries of a Poorwill came up from the banks of Pool Wash in the earliest dawn, as I was packing the truck to get down to the pastures. They’ve hardly been heard since those evenings more than two months ago when the birds seemed everywhere from Mason’s to here, on the road, in the air, or calling.
After I’d got the water going, I drove to the west end of the fenceline between #1 and #2 pastures, which affords a good view of sprinkler head problems in the line across to the south. I was distracted from work, though, by a bobcat running from the middle of that pasture to the protection of the bosque along The River. Actually it was trying to escape from a raven that was harassing it likely just in devilish fun, as ravens seem wont to have. Then just as the bobcat disappeared into the mesquital: another cat, much larger than a house cat but not as big as the bobcat, and of black color, came scampering along in the same direction and also from the middle of the field but in a line further away from me. It was gone too quickly to get the binoculars laid on it and focussed. I’m thinking this was yet one more (of the many talked about when people here are feeling safe) sightings of our ever-elusive-but-never-to-be-documented Jaguarundi.
If such an animal were to be proven resident in this valley, the entire history and game of keeping “The River” the marvel that it remains would be changed in an instant. Myself I have full confidence that I have seen the critter here and more than once, sometimes close enough to study it well and at leisure, sometimes just a flash of body and incredibly long tail crossing Cascabel Road or a ranch road at dusk or dawn especially when the road was in such bad shape that I couldn’t go faster than five mph in the old Ford 100 pickup. The Jaguarundi hereabouts fills the same place in after-dinner conversations, when people are feeling expansive and out of earshot of hostile sceptics, as that held by the Onza in campfire talk in the remote monte of Sonora, or by the dreaded Escorpion that “is” an iguana-like reptile with poison-dripping fangs high in the rainforest trees in Costa Rica, or by the Chupacabras that stalks the corrals out on the Mexican deserts. Erudite biologists and people like Nathan Sayre whose research is always impeccable state that Jaguarundi being seen here is an impossibility, end of conversation! … yet we are tantalized by write-ups like that of the naturalist Stan Tekiela, in his book, “Mammals of Arizona Field Guide”:
Rare […] Very secretive, with a range from South and Central America into southern Arizona […] occasionally one jaguarundi is seen […] It is possible that some of these are the offspring of feral house cats. There are also reports of captive jaguarundi escaping and living in the wild.
I drive off soon as I can manage and find a phone, and call our naturalist Ralph W. who has been setting out cameras for years trying to nail down for us once this Holy Grail of our conservation. Later in the morning he and Kathleen and I hunt for tracks and try to determine if there’s enough evidence to warrant doing another camera project, but we don’t find much in the way of exciting clues. We do come on Badger sign, and an interwoven set of curving lines in the flour-like dust that tell where two rattlesnakes became more than strangers in the Sonoran Desert night–as I followed their movement through the powder and imagined the grace of what went on, in my mind’s ear there played the Ravel “Bolero”.
A Spotted Sandpiper is visiting the mud shore of The Stockpond again.