Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Finding a lion kill

Today's snow bike ride started peacefully, with two tails, brown and black, leading me along the snowpacked trail. The snow sparkled in the sun's rays as we wound through a dense aspen forest under a blue sky with scattered white clouds.
Silence reigned in the forest, but suddenly, both dogs raised their noses to sample a scent. With an alarming intensity, they sprinted uphill toward a pine forest higher on the slope. I called them back, and they both happily complied.
We restarted, and the canines began to run up the hill again. I called, and I believed that I had both of them with me. Alas, it took a minute before I realized that only R was running next to me. I called K and got no response. I called again - the same. I began to panic. K's recall to me is rock-solid. We practice it daily, and she's almost 100% reliable. Consequently, I assumed that her lack of response meant that she was hurt or worse. I released R and started following him up the hill, hoping that he'd show me where K was.

First, we traipsed through an aspen grove, with deep snow and widely scattered small trees. A few pines towered among the aspens.
Within 20 yards, the aspen grove started to give away to pine forest.
After slogging through knee-deep snow up another 20 yards, R and I entered a dark Lodgepole pine forest.
We'd walked about 50 yards uphill from our trail, had crossed another trail, and K still wasn't responding to my calls. I was beyond panic, almost hyperventilating with fear. Then, I spotted her feasting on a carcass. K is not in the photo below but the carcass is visible. It lay about 20 yards above a trail that we used yesterday (so I assume that the animal died last night or early this morning). The body was carefully concealed from the trail with a pile of snow. A closer view showed that it was an adult mule deer, a doe, and the scene screamed violence, with blood and bits of muscle and fur scattered in the snow. The doe was covered in pine needles and snow.
The concealment of the body was an obvious indicator that a mountain lion killed this deer. Moreover, her throat was sliced open, just as lions sometimes do.
I rapidly started scanning the area, searching for the yellow eyes that I felt certain were trained upon us. I even looked up in the tree canopy for a mountain lion lounging in the branches. But, I saw nothing.

Then, I noticed myriad tracks around the carcass, leaving huge indents in the snow. My chemical handwarmer is in the photo for scale - it's 3.5" long.
Another pair of tracks, side-by-side, caught my eye. One was huge, like the first track that I'd spotted (shown above) but the other was smaller. I began to wonder if a mother mountain lion and her kitten had both fed on the deer.
That scenario would explain why K wasn't attacked when she visited the carcass. Mountain lions usually stay close to fresh kills for days, at least, and often vociferously defend them from interlopers. I'm betting that a lion lurked nearby but, perhaps she didn't confront K out of concern for her kitten. That's wild speculation but it explains the unlikely series of events that took place.

After we moved some distance from the scene, K wriggled on her back with happiness. Even when K lay on the ground, the low sun cast long shadows.
The two dogs beamed. What I'd found to be a scary escapade had been fun for them!
K wasn't so happy when we arrived home. I called the vet, concerned that K eating raw deer meat would set off an acute pancreatitis episode like the one she survived in September. The vet said two words "induce vomiting". So, I did, and K lost her feast. But, she seems happy and hungry now. I'm thankful.
I may have some very interesting wildlife camera photos in the coming days. We strategically placed a camera to get a photo of the lion returning to the carcass. But, for now, I mainly feel very lucky that both dogs seem healthy and unscathed after our almost close encounter with the fiercest predator in our forest.


  1. Well, Okay, my heart can descend down from my throat as I am promised that K is fine and her adventure was just adventure.....

    Lordy, KB, but you DO keep me on my proverbial toes :)

  2. WOW!

    And all we did today was go for two very cold walks through the neighbourhood!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Poor K!

  3. Wow, I head about your blog through Stella. She did an awesome job describing it: "great writing and personal challenges". Happy new year and congratulations on your blog and your award.

  4. your story just gave me a little rush of adrenaline.....especially when you said K was feasting on a carcass...her pancreatitis, was the first thought that crossed my mind....but, then to read on how lions linger at their,just like a winter Masai Mara.....can't wait to see if you get pictures of a lion with a cub!!
    how did you make K vomit?

  5. KB, I find this unsettling, to say the least. Will K recall in that area now that she knows she can get the meat? How far off the trail was the kill site? I'm worried. Be careful!

  6. Very scary for a town girl like me!

    I am happy you recovered the dogs, but won't they be dreaming of this spot in their sleep tonight?

    Take to the roads for a while?

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  7. I'm speechless!!!
    Your exciting life has now crossed over to "scary!!!"
    I'm scared for you and the dogs.
    Have you considered putting bells on the dogs to scare off wildlife?
    I can only imagine what might have happened if K had surprised the lion and kitten.
    Please be careful out there!

  8. Hey there KB
    I wish you a very "BOBCAT" year and hope that 2010 will bring the painfree state that you so need. I've read your posts and updated myself reasonably, but still don't know when your surgery is???
    I am so happy to hear about the re-routing of your thoughts - hoping for a painfree state. "Sometimes" the things we fear most bring us the greatest reward (see my post today).
    I am so happy to speak to you again and to see your beautiful pictures and dogs. Here's to an incredible 2010!
    With love

  9. Wow.
    I can't think of anything else to say. I am rendered speechless by your adventure today. Absolutely speechless.
    Do be careful!

  10. Oh man! My heart dropped just reading the beginning of the story. I'm glad K is alright! I'm guessing you'll head in another direction for your rides together for the next few days.

    It's so cool that you have so many different trails to choose from! I envy you! We just have cornfields!

  11. A big YIKES on this one!!!! Glad all are safe, and away from the kill area.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  12. How does one "induce vomiting?"

  13. Cool. Just found a couple of lion kills. Never heard of a dog that couldn't eat game--that's weird! Must have lost the wolf gene somewhere.


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!