After finding the slaughtered coyote a couple of weeks ago, I believed that we had only two left in our territory. Indeed, for those weeks, I never saw more than two at a time in wildlife camera photos. However, last night, a trio appeared! Either we actually had more than three living in the area prior to the killing or a new coyote has already migrated into this rich home range.
In an abundance of good luck, a bobcat visited the most prominent scent post in the area just the other night. In the photo below, the scent post sits at the base of the boulder. If you compare the two photos, you can see that the bobcat would barely reach my knees in height.
And, here's the feline walking briskly toward it, checking who's been visiting lately.
Today, I took the pair of Labradors with me on my hike. I finally feel confident that I could hold them both on leash if the need arose. My neck is getting stronger every day, now more than 2 months post-surgery. I no longer feel so afraid that I might literally "break my neck" due to an inconsequential fall or yank on a leash.
As usual, we started by practicing recalls. K's enthusiasm sizzled.
It sizzled so hot that she sunk too deeply into the snow on her stride and struck an odd pose.
R followed close on her heels looking jet black against the snow-covered terrain.
Soon after some frolicking and training, we found mountain lion tracks on the same hillside as where we found a freshly killed deer guarded by a lion in early January. Each track measured 4" long and across. The gait was purposeful, walking deliberately in a straight line and usually in thick cover.
Needless to say, I rapidly attached leashes to the dogs.
Interestingly, although the predominant direction was uphill, the mountain lion backtracked a couple of times leaving opposing tracks in very close proximity. I've read that this technique completely confuses scent hounds chasing lions. They run in circles unable to figure out which way the lion went.
As we approached the top of the hill, we stood in a grove of leafless aspens, and a pair of runners with their dog passed on a trail 20 yards away. To my utter amazement, they were so consumed by their running and conversation, they didn't see us as we stood in the paw prints of a lion. Imagine how easily a lion could be overlooked given that he doesn't wear bright colors or bells on his collar.
Once we crested the hill, we hit a sun-baked south-facing slope, and we lost the lion tracks. I kept the dogs on leash for a little while before letting them burn off some more energy.
We climbed to the top of Hug Hill, and both dogs, including R, stood tall for a photo. I'm biased - but I love their lean builds.
And, their cute faces.
Near the top, we found a shallow hollow in a boulder, where the water had been frozen solid all winter long. Today, it had melted. Not for good but for at least a day.
Tomorrow, a big snow storm is forecasted to hit, dropping 1-2' of heavy spring snow. I'll smile and enjoy it. That snow is our ticket to a beautiful wildflower season!
After hiking and PT today, I worked on collating a couple of more clips of our bear pair. Enjoy the video! Several people asked about the flashes of light in the video. The camera that's shooting still photos is flashing infrared light for each photo. It seems obnoxious for the bears so I may turn off the still photo function when I next visit the den.
And, Stella asked about why I'm worried about the dermatitis on the sow's face. The reason is that a study showed that it's usually mange, and a fairly bad form of mange. Most bears recover from it but an occasional bear dies from it. That's why I felt worried when I saw its progression on my last visit. I think that the yearling's tan colored face is not mange but simply tan fur. I have a good idea of who the yearling's dad is, based on my wildlife camera footage from last year. He's a huge chocolate colored boar - by far the biggest bear in our forest. I'll include a photo of him sometime in the near future.