Wildlife density estimates provide an idea of the current state of populations, and in some cases, reflect the conservation status of ecosystems, essential aspects for effective management actions. In Mexico, several regions have been identified as high priority areas for the conservation of species that have some level of risk, like the Yucatan Peninsula (YP), where the country has the largest population of jaguars. However, little is known about the current status of threatened and endangered felids, which coexist in the Northeastern portion of the Peninsula. Our objective was to estimate the wild cats’ density population over time at El Eden Ecological Reserve (EEER) and its surrounding areas. Camera trap surveys over four years (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012) were conducted, and data were obtained with the use of capture-recapture models for closed populations (CAPTURE + MMDM or ½ MMDM), and the spatially explicit capture-recapture model (SPACECAP). The species studied were jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), jaguarundi (Puma yaguaroundi) and margay (Leopardus wiedii). Capture frequency was obtained for all five species and the density for three (individuals/100km2). The density estimated with The Mean Maximum Distance Moved (MMDM), CAPTURE, ranged from 1.2 to 2.6 for jaguars, from 1.7 to 4.3 for pumas and from 1.4 to 13.8 for ocelots. The density estimates in SPACECAP ranged from 0.7 to 3.6 for jaguars, from 1.8 to 5.2 for pumas and 2.1 to 5.1 for ocelots. Spatially explicit capture recapture (SECR) methods in SPACECAP were less likely to overestimate densities, making it a useful tool in the planning and decision making process for the conservation of these species. The Northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula maintains high populations of cats, the EEER and its surrounding areas are valuable sites for the conservation of this group of predators.
Keywords: keystone species, priority areas for conservation, density, abundance, Leopardus, Panthera, Puma.