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Friday, February 5, 2010

Dog communication and more lion tracks

K and I bounced out the door this morning, looking forward to our "rehabilitation" walk. I'm supposed to be walking many miles a day to help my neck heal - but it isn't a chore most days. It's a joy!

On the trails today, we ran into our local dog pack and their human almost right away. The pack has a new leader who has changed the dynamic of the pack. He's a young but big German Shepherd, who seems playful and friendly to other dogs. After he kept gently taking K's entire head into his jaws to entice her to play, she decided to do a snow wriggle in front of him. I took a whole series of photos, and the GSD repeatedly raised a paw while K wriggled. A paw raise is thought to be a calming signal in a hypothesis generated by Turid Rugaas. Indeed, it looked like a message that the GSD meant no harm and that K should relax and play with him.
The two didn't ever fully engage in play but I suspect that they will in the future. To me, the most fascinating part is the transformation in his entire dog pack since this new alpha dog arrived. They don't swarm K as annoyingly anymore. And, the former lead dog doesn't make K cower behind me. It's been eye-opening to see how much one new dog in a big pack of 7-8 dogs can change the pack's behavior.

Shortly after meeting them, I thought that K needed a fun game so we did a "hide and recall" session, where I left K in a sit-stay, walked about 150 yards, and hid in the midst of small pine trees. I hid so that the prevailing wind wouldn't take my scent to the trail that K would doubtless use to search for me. Notice how calmly she handles not finding me immediately. If R doesn't find me immediately, he starts running back and forth frantically. R wasn't with us this morning.

Soon thereafter, we tromped through the wind-packed snow of a meadow, and K wriggled happily.
Then, we renounced the established trails and started exploring. We headed down the same gulch as we followed on the day that we found the bear den. However, today, we descended all the way to an established trail to make sure that we didn't accidentally stumble upon their den again. I watched for bear tracks because I was interested to find out if we'd awakened the family so much that they'd gone for a stroll on the trail. However, we saw none - a very good sign.

As we contoured along the canyon wall, we passed many cliff-like formations above us. No fresh tracks marred the snowy trail. I don't think that any humans or domestic dogs except me and K have walked this trail since late fall.
Next to one of the cliffs, mountain lion tracks stomped down the hillside. In the photo below, the uphill side is to the right and the lion had walked down onto the trail sometime within the previous 36 hours. I know that it was within that time frame because his tracks had been made after our most recent snow.
None of the tracks were perfect specimens due to the crust below the new snow. In the photo below, my chemical handwarmer is 3.5" long, and the track is at least that long and wide.
On the other side of the slope, the lion tracks came in close proximity to deer tracks. However, I doubt that both animals moved through this spot at the same time because I saw no evidence of a chase by the lion. The deer did move at high speed with huge strides. One landing of all four hooves shows up on the left of the photo. The lion tracks move from the bottom to the top of the the photo on the right but never showed signs of acceleration.
The lion must not have been too interested - either the deer hadn't come through yet or the deer was already far away. The lion soon turned around and headed back upslope into the rocky wall behind K. Although she kept one eye on the wall at all times, she didn't seem overly anxious, suggesting that the lion wasn't nearby.
While we stood by the tracks, I checked the distance to the hibernating bear den. It was less than a quarter mile. Does anyone out there know whether mountain lions ever try to attack sleeping bears? I'm very curious.

In case you missed them, my posts of a sampling of mountain lion photos at a deer cache can be found here (part 1) and here (part 2). I've mentioned that I'm still working on putting together all 400 photos and video clips. So far, I've completed editing and collating the material from the lion's first day at the deer carcass. It's a huge job!

Near the end of our hike, K stood tall on a rock, with deep blue sky behind her. She loves finding rocky lookouts to survey her kingdom... or perhaps I should say the lion's kingdom


  1. More incredible stuff!

    I wanted Khyra to see the video but she wouldn't stop her Siberian laughter as she mumbled something about finding me but then taking off for Utah!

    The last picture is incredible!

    We hope you have a great weekend!

    We'll be enjoying our 12"-18" for YOU!

  2. I now understand why you take K with you now that you're still recovering. :) Dear KB, I feel as if I spent my day in your blog. I had a great time though. Thank you. :)

  3. K's hide-and-recall is really impressive! My heart raced with excitement and suspense as she looked for you. Marge would flip out if she couldn't find me right away, for sure.

    Looking forward to seeing your final compilation of lion footage!

  4. Lots of fun watching K find you! She is just a great dog for you.

    Cheers and hugs,


  5. You are getting pretty fancy with the videos. Next I expect some music and slow motion. I fear that Java wouldn't try very hard to find me but would just pick up whatever stick she found on the ground and start playing.

  6. We love that recall game here! We usually play in the house, though, since the hounds have to be on a leash outside.

    The photos are outstanding, yet again! That must be one huge lion! I would think that attacking a bear wouldn't be worth the risk to a big cat, but that's just my intuition. I'd think if there were easier prey to be had that the lion would go for that.

  7. beautiful photos of K...
    love the shepherd, i think he and K will be friends!
    i was wondering too why a lion wouldn't attack a bear in a den...i suppose the bear can snap out of hybernation fairly quick...don't know...will ask around today..

  8. Isn't it amazing how a good, strong, confident alpha dog can get their entire pack to act in a more socialized manner. An alpha lacking confidence simply can not keep order.

  9. I'm glad the pack has shifted so no one is intimidating K. I love the picture of K on her back with the Shepherd's paw raised.

    And what a good girl K was to keep her cool during her recall!

    Thanks again for the tracking stories!

  10. Great post. I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up on your recovery and I'm so glad things are going well for both you and for K. I especially loved the bear den post.

  11. Wonderful way to practice recall! Sammie would have a panic fit too, although I do have her sit/stay facing rear-ward, while I leave and hide her kong. Then I return and ask her to "find it!" She always does. But she has abandonment issues and it is going to be very hard to transition to "Open" oBED. with the out-of-sight longer sit/stays. Anyway - enough of me - your posts are just incredible - you should really write a book about your amazing adventures - you're like a Rachel Carson - I am always spellbound by the building suspense and terrified that a lion will emerge quickly from the woods. Be careful!!! (From a Mom, of course!) Keep healing - both of you!
    Hugs xo

  12. I liked the recall video. K seems very pleased with herself - lots of wriggling and posing!

  13. yup! the raised paw! I get that a lot in obedience class with my GSD. not so much with my sibe. it's also a form of submission, meaning, i will do as i'm told. he does it when he's nervous or confused. almost like a bargaining chip to show me he's trying or a surrendering tool. at first i didn't mind seeing it because he was so willful and naughty. now when i see it, i realize he's not being confident enough and makes me sad. I don't see it often anymore, but in the beginning I did see it a lot!

    the hide and recall vid rocked! ya, with early search, you do quick easy finds. Loki still "looks" like he goes nilly willy BUT in the end when i disecet what he does, i see his "points of decsion turns" and realize with the wind and his decisions, he was being quite methodical. but yet he's so springy and hyper he just looks willy nilly. but he's actually not. it's beautiful to watch.

    Labs make the best search dogs. so stable and confident! yes even K! :) maybe you should hide in a cardboard box for K! LOL!

  14. I've been looking for info on lions and bears (Oh My) but haven't come up with anything. It seems to me that a lion would avoid a bear unless it was sure it could take it without getting injured. There's not a lot you can do around bears, especially momma bears, without getting injured.I'll let you know if I find anything.
    Your continuing walks and good health are quite amazing, and your blogs get better and better!!



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