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Confessions of a Las Tangaras Camera Trap

March 18, 2014

As there is no electricity at Las Tangaras, the sun defines our days. The sun rises and wakes us, lights our journey through the day and then when the sun disappears, it lets us know that it’s time to relax and unwind. During the day, while we go about our daily chores, we a privy to a huge amount of avian, mammalian and herpetological species and we are constantly kept in a state of wonder with each new encounter. You would think this would be enough for us…. But you would be wrong. We needed to know what was prowling the darkness after the doors of the lodge were firmly closed. So, with the help of our trusty camera trap, we delved into the Las Tangaras nights. This is the result of our first 2 weeks camera trapping.

 Central American Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata)


Although we have an Agouti that regularly visits our back yard, so regularly in fact that we have named him Frugal, we had no real idea of how many Agoutis were occupying Las Tangaras and in what habitats. Based on our preliminary photo trapping we have found Agoutis to be numerous and widespread throughout the Riparian and Secondary Forest habitats. Most of our camera trapping records are from between the hours of 4.30pm and 6pm with the addition of occasional daytime observation.

This species of Agouti is the most widespread in the Americas, distributed from Mexico down into northern South America.

Oncilla  (Leopardus tigrinus Spp. pardinoides)


By far our favorite and most exciting camera trapping result is this one of a small Oncilla. This tiny jungle cat was photographed in Secondary Forest cautiously coming in to check out the cows digestive tract that we were using as bait. Given that this species is known to have a territory of only 2km squared it is safe to assume that the majority of this animal’s territory, if not the whole thing, is contained within Las Tangaras.

Footprints for this species were also found a day after this photograph was taken only 50m from the house. These tracks measured less than 5cm in length which gives you some idea of how small these cats actually are. This cat is know to eat small mammals, lizards, birds, eggs, invertebrates, and the occasional tree frog which is good… because there is an abundance of all of these within Las Tangaras. Oncillas are typically distributed from Costa Rica through to Northern Argentina, and show a strong preference for montane forest.

This species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Paca (Cuniculus paca)


Although they look rather similar, with the obvious exception of the stripes, the Paca is not as common as the Aguti within Las Tangaras. In fact, this is the first of 2 we have observed here. This animal was photographed in Riparian habitat, attracted by the bait of egg and banana that we were using at the time. 

Interestingly, Pacas originated in South America and are one of the few mammal species that successfully emigrated to North America after the Great American Interchange 3 million years ago. Their similarities with Agutis mean that they were formerly grouped with the agoutis in the family Dasyproctidae, subfamily Agoutinae, but were given full family status because they differ in the number of toes, the shape of the skull, and coat patterning.

Black Eared O’Possum (Didelphis marsupialis)


The scavenger of the forest, the O’Possum has appeared in every single trapping period in which we used meat in the Secondary Forest habitat. Wherever present, they increase the survey effort required by us because they come in and eat all of the bait in the first few hours, therefore removing the incentive for other species to come in to the camera trapping site. Although frustrating at times, this is still the first time we have seen a wild O’Possum on our Journey so it was still pretty exciting.

This opossum is found in tropical and subtropical forest, both primary and secondary, at altitudes up to 2200 m.  


Stay tuned for more Confessions of a Las Tangaras Camera Trap.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Lord permalink
    March 18, 2014 5:08 pm

    Great photos guys! Good to see the Oncilla again! Tricky job, but maybe you could try and match a coat pattern to the video we got last year? Be interesting to know if it could be the same individual, or maybe at least a pair?


  2. March 19, 2014 3:42 pm

    How exciting! I think that brings our opossum species up to 3 – correct?


  3. March 21, 2014 1:46 pm

    The Black Eared O’possum is the same as the Common O’possum Dusti. I haven’t seen the records of past observations of O’possums but I would assume the Common has been seen before. Ill see what I can find out.
    As for the Oncilla, where on the reserve did you get your photo from Tom? We will also have a look at your photo on the blog and see if we can match him/her up. Such tiny cats.


    • Tom Lord permalink
      March 21, 2014 3:09 pm

      Got a video of Oncilla at the junction of GDP and Bosque Trail, no bait just luck with that one. Saw tracks on thre Amor trail pretty close to the cabin.
      Also got a decent video of a mouse opposum (Marmosa sp.), unsure of species, (possibly Little woolly) and we had very regualr visits from an Andean white-earned Opposum (Didelphis pernigra). If you leave fruit or an egg on the hand rail behind the sofa and turn the lights off, it’ll come right up to the window at dusk/early evening. Got some great photos and videos that way. We were convinced by the very dark stripes on the face, much darker than Common Opposum. And of course the bright white ears!!
      The feeding stations, with any luck, will still be in place on the Amor trail. We had a lot of luck here in that all the food dissapeared – so carry on with that and the fabled mammal walks may be a success!
      let me know if I can send you any phots to help your investigations.


  4. March 22, 2014 12:50 pm

    It appears that the Common and the White Eared distribution crosses over right on the reserve. Common are from 0-2000m and the White Eared are from 1500 – 3700m.
    As far as the Oncilla is concerned we will have a good look at the images we have and see if we can find some identifying markings. Will be an interesting Little exercise.


    • March 26, 2014 3:22 pm

      But yes, after a review of the photos and some additional information it appears that Tom is correct. It is the white eared. Good call.


  5. April 9, 2014 4:52 am

    Cool post guys, nice to see you got things on there! Keep up the good work 🙂


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