The construction of the Macrolibramiento (Guadalajara’s outer ring road) was presented to the public as a way of reducing traffic through the metropolitan area by forcing semis, trucks and buses to bypass the city.
Concerned environmentalists pointed out that the superhighway would skirt the perimeter of the Primavera Forest, preventing the natural movement of animals between this protected area and the Selva Negra reserve near Ahuisculco. Authorities subsequently promised to build underpasses and overpasses for the animals.
The efficacy of those wildlife passages is now being called into question by Aura Jaguar, an organization working for the benefit of Mexico’s wild animals, especially big cats. In a Facebook post on November 8, Aura Jaguar described a recent field trip to check on how well the passages are working.
Reports Aura Jaguar: “Last Sunday we went to have a look around the animal bridge over the Macrolibramiento between Cuxpala and Ahuisculco. Hoping to discover who or what is actually using the bridge, we found fresh tracks belonging to canines, apparently domesticated but free roaming or perhaps feral dogs living in the Primavera Forest. It had rained, so tracks laid down on previous days were not visible. A walk across the bridge convinced us that changes were needed to make this passageway more animal friendly, so more woodland creatures will choose the bridge instead of the four-lane highway below.
“From the bridge we noticed a large spotted body below, lying alongside the highway. It turned out to be an adult lynx, also known as a mountain lion. It had been hit by a truck or car and surely had been killed instantly. Its body still felt warm and its limbs were still flexible, indicating that the accident must have take place less than a few hours before.
“We found the lynx at 3:45 p.m., so it must have been trying to cross the highway in broad daylight. It’s teeth and claws were in excellent condition. It was a beautiful creature.
The paw prints around the cadaver indicated that the big cat had tried to evade the dogs by crossing at the level of the highway. We could also see that the dogs had eaten parts of the cat. Everything suggested that this pack of dogs may be frequenting this animal overpass on a regular basis.
“It’s important to add here that even if a dog is small, its pheromones identify it as a carnivorous predator and these will discourage or impede woodland fauna from using an animal bridge or tunnel.
“On this same day, along the Macrolibramiento from Ahuisculco to Mazatepec, we found, lying on the concrete, various run-over corpses of mammals, such as coatis, skunks and possums. These accidents appear to take place in agricultural zones, as well as wooded areas, all along the highway.
“Our investigation aims at suggesting initiatives for creating efficient and satisfactory passages for fauna. At the same time, we want to inform the public of the importance of these infrastructures to help our Mexican fauna survive.”
The bridges and tunnels literally represent the last and only hope for the survival of the Primavera Forest’s large animals, which, by nature, need to roam far and wide. When these passages were planned, it was never envisioned that the animals using them would be waylaid by ferocious packs of “domesticated” or feral dogs. That was not in the equation.
Now It seems all the large wild animals from Quila Park to the Primavera may be doomed unless something is done about the dog packs.
My community, Pinar de la Venta, is located smack on the edge of the “protected” Primavera Forest. So many dogs run loose in its streets that most people have given up taking walks. We see dog packs forming before our eyes on a regular basis. “Dog packs are now a major menace for us,” a local rancher told me. “My calves are being eaten, not by coyotes, but by supposedly domesticated dogs.”
Apparently, the situation inside Bosque la Primavera is much the same, according to an Aura Jaguar spokesperson.
“Years ago, we did a study of the Primavera fauna, beginning at the junction of Vallarta and the Periférico,” I was told. “What we found in this area was very little wildlife and plenty of dogs and cows. These were not wild dogs, but domesticated dogs, with owners. We learned that even if these dogs fight amongst themselves by day, at night they join together to form packs.”
I also learned that Aura Jaguar usually backs up its findings with camera-trap photos. “We would now like to install cameras at the animal passages to see just what is going on, but we can’t. All our cameras were in use on the Nevado de Colima mountain to study the big cats up there and all were stolen by poachers.”
So, it looks like the battle to deal with dog packs won’t even begin until camera traps are found to prove that there’s a problem.
Anybody out there want to lend a hand? Just look for Contacto at aurajaguar.org.