Build it and the Snow Leopards Will Come–Maybe

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student who bought a one-way ticket to Mongolia to work at the base camp of our long-term research project.  These are his adventures…

I was wrong about catching a cat on the 2nd of September, too bad, we almost caught one though. A week ago a trap camera photographed a snow leopard at a trap site. He was standing looking at the big pile of rocks that were stashed between him and the scrape that he wanted to get to [one way snow leopards mark their territory is by scraping with their claws].

Short explanation: everything takes place at the foot of a cliff wall, the trap is set close too the wall cause snow leopards like to walk along walls. On the other side of the trap we buried a big piece of scrap metal that the snare is attached to and on top of the metal there is a pile of rocks. The idea is that the leopard will walk between the rock pile and the cliff and that the rocks will funnel him into the snare. In theory this holds. It’s just that our spotted friend didn’t agree; he thought that the rock pile looked a bit suspicious so instead of walking between the rocks and the wall, he climbed the rocks and took a pee at the scrape.

 A few bad Swedish words could be heard quite far from the camp when we looked at the pictures from the trap camera…

I think that Aztai was the 14th snow leopard ever to be collared and so there is very little knowledge of how to trap them. Naturally, the trapping is based on trial and error and Kim and I have the huge benefit of having cameras at the trap sites so we can actually see what the cats are doing, what scares them and even where they place their feet. The concerned trap was one of the first we set and in the beginning, everyone really wanted to help, and we might have gotten a bit carried away in the rock-pile building…

Anyways, shame on the ones who give up. We went to the trap, threw away all rocks, moved the trap and the metal piece and opened up the area so it wouldn’t look as suspicious.

As we have hiked around and checked and fixed the traps after the rain, we have taken away lots of rocks. In some cases I have replaced them with small thorny bushes, hoping that these will not look as threatening but still do the job of funneling the cat towards the trap.

A couple of days later we downloaded the pics from from the nearby camera and you can probably imagine that the bad Swedish words that came out of my mouth this time were even worse and could be heard even longer cause on the pictures there was a new cat standing on top of our trap. He had one foot on each side of the trap, looked into the camera for a while, then walked to the scrape, turned toward the camera and really took his time relieving himself…
 

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