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Thursday, July 29, 2010

A lion among the deer

We've had two nights in a row of no bear alarm frenzies from the Duo. Breakfast on the deck is peaceful again. K sleeps in the soft morning sun while the flycatcher family of two parents and four young call to each other from the forest edge. They've stayed nearby for about 10 days since the young ones learned to fly. What a joy to have their calls rising from the treetops!
Almost every outing, including my morning bike rides with K, starts with a visit to the meadow where the wildflowers are still singing.
A jungle of Horsemint and Mariposa Lilies blooms.
In the deeper pine forests, Pinedrops have begun to blossom. They're an odd plant that lives symbiotically with subterranean fungi rather than using photosynthesis to generate energy. The "blossoms", hanging like lanterns from the stalk, are tiny but a close look shows their beauty.
We've fallen into a predictable summer storm pattern with clouds building over the mountains all morning and exploding into wild storms in the afternoon. In a Front Range mountain community, more than 8" of hail fell yesterday afternoon. Snowplows cleared the streets (in July!).

Behind K, you can see the clouds already building in the morning. It makes running cooler for her so I don't think that she minds!
Today, after K and I took a mountain bike ride together, I headed east on my mountain bike. When I looked over my shoulder, I realized that more big storms would surely strike this afternoon as the Divide looked ominous even at that early hour.
I spotted a nearby deer with a huge velvet rack. When the sun's rays glanced off his antlers, the velvet fuzz assumed a golden glow.
Later in the ride, I rode along a very isolated trail where I haven't seen another soul in years and followed the obvious path of a black bear who had foraged there since my last visit two days ago. The bear had dug up ant hills, flipped rocks so huge that I couldn't nudge them with all my weight, left scat in the middle of the trail, and eaten berries.
I didn't eat the ones shown above because I wasn't sure what they were. But, I did forage in the wild raspberry patches at the base of a cliff. The cliff towers behind the bee on the Cone Flower shown below.
I must have spent 30 minutes eating raspberries below the cliff. These raspberries are completely wild and not escapees from gardens. Each berry is about half the size of a domesticated raspberry so 30 minutes of foraging might yield a few calories of energy but not much more. Bears must be much more efficient foragers than I am. Otherwise, they'd burn more calories picking berries than they gained by eating them!
After enjoying foraging for berries and some hard riding, I beat the storms home. They hit later in the afternoon when I could relax indoors while the rumbles of thunder shook the house.
During this wonderful summertime life, my remote wildlife cameras have been working hard. They haven't recorded any bears on Black Bear Trail in weeks. However, they caught the image of a mountain lion walking the trail the other night. While I was on the trail checking the cameras' memory cards, I noticed what I thought was a mountain lion "scrape", an area where the lion kicked dirt backward with his hind paws to mark the territory as his own. In the photo below, there are obviously the tracks of two paws, and they scraped from my toe toward my heel. I didn't know until I looked at the memory cards at home that a lion had actually been here! I'm glad that I got verification that I'm actually reading the signs in the forest correctly.
This is the second video clip of a mountain lion on this trail, and I think that it's the same hulking male as we saw previously. He has no radio collar and moves with the swagger of the king of the forest. The "Tom Cats" patrol huge territories so it is indeed possible that he's been absent from our neck of the woods for the past 7 weeks, only reappearing this week. In his previous appearance, he seemed to be limping. This time, he isn't obviously favoring one hind leg. That's good news. Just one more note - I believe that this lion is the same one as I got extensive footage of eating a mule deer last January.

On an eerie note, one male deer seems to be missing. We've seen a pair of bucks together in my recent wildlife footage, one with a bigger rack and a younger one with small prongs. Now, the younger one is traveling alone. It could mean that our lion made a meal of the older one... but I can't be sure.


  1. Great photos and video montage!

    Khyra says hi to her 'khytty' pal!

  2. Raspberry foraging sounds super tasty! It is amazing that bears find enough food to fatten up.
    Love the picture of the pinedrop. I've never heard of those before, but what a cool plant!

    Oh, big kitty! That lion is huge! Any guess on his weight? There was a young male that was tranquilized after finding his way into a neighborhood recently, but he was only 60 pounds and looks like a house cat compared to your lion!

    I'm going to have to start taking pictures of the animal signs I come across. I found what looked like bobcat scat and tree bark, rubbed down by a bear, but I wasn't sure about either. I kept thinking, "I bet KB would know!"

  3. Great photographs and video. I especially love seeing R running through the wildflowers. Pure joy!

  4. Beautiful meadow with wild flowers for R to run through, I've never seen pinedrops before!

  5. I liked the running photo with R speeding through he wildflowers. Yikes - that's a big lion. I couldn't help thinking his scrape looks heart-shaped (sorry - I don't think it's a Valentine for you!). I'm swooning over the Horsemint and Mariposa! Raining hard here.

  6. Ahhh nature - I guess "it" does what it needs to do - feel awfully just thinking about a lion taking down an older large buck - ewwww. Lions and ..., oh my. Speaking of which... I am certain that you have heard of or read about the campers in Montana, close to Yellowstone, who were mauled by bears. Any comments? They apparently had stored food correctly and done everything right - I love the wilds and camping and all but what could the provocation be?
    And also want to comment again on your beautiful flower pictures - the Pinedrops are really interesting! And the raspberries look scrumptious! So much to see here always!
    Hugs xoxox
    Sammie and the crew and Ma

  7. Today I spent a lot of time with my oldest grandchild, a six year old sweet girl. She was asking me a lot of questions about the terrible bear incident in Montana that was all over the news. One question led to another and on and on. I found myself telling her about all the things I have learned about bears from you. She was so eager to hear and learn more. I think I am going to have to let her share in the beauty and joy and wisdom of your posts.

  8. I agree, that must be a ton of berries that those bears consume! Still, who can blame them?

    I just hope if the buck did become a lion dinner that K and R don't decide to make another snack for themselves!

    I was sad to hear that they'd caught a sow and two cubs in Yellowstone and are doing DNA tests to see if they attacked the campers. Hopefully there won't be three bears put down! I'm betting you hear more news about it there than we do here.

  9. I love all the wildflower pictures.
    I read your story of Rover yesterday and it was a most heartbreaking one. My son Mike and I (he was just six or so) were out at a mountain lake in NC and we had our sweet Cappie dog with us(half Lab and half Golden) and we came around a path to see Cappie had approached a man who was holding a pistol to her head! We were both terrified of this guy, and called the dog quickly to come and we all got safely to our car. We called her Marshmellow Queen because she was so sweet and never wanted anything but a hello from him. Maybe he was terrified of dogs, who knows?


  10. What a beautiful place to rmp around in. Love the picture of the deer. Hope you had fun
    Benny & Lily

  11. How amazing that you seem to have found the same lion that you filmed over six months ago. I think that speaks volumes about how acquainted you are with the wonderful natural world around you.

    Of course, I don't like to think about what happened to the deer, but I know that such is the circle of life!

    Gorgeous picture of the velvet-antlered buck, too!

  12. In all the world is there anything as calming and relaxing as the sight of a happy dog dozing?

  13. "moving with the swagger of the king of the forest"... That is so visual and such a vivid description, you hardly have to watch the video after reading that. But the video, as always, is such a treat.

    I'd really like to set up a cam like yours so I could get footage of the raccoons raiding my corn stalks at night. They are a delight to listen to, even if they do eat all the corn.

    I loved when you said you burn more energy foraging for berries than you gain by eating them. I've gathered strawberries and raspberries in the wild to make jam, and I barely get enough for one sandwich, even though I bring home a basketful! I may have to resort to a glass of sun tea in the future and stretch the berries out a little further!


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