Every day dogs can be seen walking the Idyllwild streets. It is not uncommon to see a few cats either.
But Dr. John Laundré, assistant director of the University of California, Riverside’s James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve, and the next Idyllwild Community Center speaker, will show the audience that the cats, which he has seen stretching and walking on our local streets, are not cuddly house cats or common feral cats.
Laundré has photographs of bobcats and even a mountain lion visiting town while most of us sleep. His research background has involved large predators and the prey ecology, thus he is prepared and capable to understand and interpret these visitors.
“We live in a mountain setting, which has no clear boundary,” Laundré said, explaining his interest in capturing unexpected residents and the title of his talk, “What’s Wild in Idyllwild?”
“In an effort to document some of the common and not-so-common wildlife species in the human-inhabited parts of Pine Cove and Idyllwild, the James Reserve elicited the help of several locals,” Laundré wrote in the “Journal from the James” column, which appears in the Town Crier. “We placed motion-activated trail cameras in the yards of their homes and businesses.”
The cats are not the only unusual mammals his cameras have recorded and won’t be the only topic of the evening. “I’m concerned [as to] how will people and wildlife co-exist in Idyllwild,” he stated.
But he added, “The bobcats are very photogenic.”
“Beyond the curiosity of these species,” Laundré asks, “what are we doing with this information?” In his opinion, this is a citizen-scientist effort.
Where do these animals live and travel? What are their activity patterns — day or nocturnal, proximity to humans? Besides the cameras’ locations, the photograph includes the date and time.
Laundré expects that the project will yield greater insights into the animals’ behavior and biology.
Surprises have been part of his observations. For example, he wonders how common the bobcats to this area are since they have appeared in almost all the camera locations. Also, a grey fox has been captured in several camera shots. “How many people even know foxes live here?” he asked.
Some surprises are not what are seen, but what are not seen. For example, Laundré noted that neither the mountain lion nor bobcats have been observed in any of the camera shots from the Double View Drive area, which is where he would have expected to see them — along the edge of town.
Of course, the familiar coyote has been photographed and will be discussed during his presentation, which begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at Silver Pines Lodge.
Laundré is a Wisconsin native, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin and then earned a master’s degree from Northern Michigan University. He then moved on to Idaho State University for his doctorate and has done research in New Mexico and New York. He left the State University of New York at Oswego to join the James Reserve staff as assistant director.