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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lion power

I started my evening hike yesterday evening with both halves of the Labraduo. We did some training on the trails, with the Duo switching between down, sit, and stand.
A little later and further from home, R and I saw the sun set with a storm still looming on the horizon.
Yet, despite that sunset, I was still surprised to see SNOW flying out the sky this morning. K and I meandered through snow-laden yellow aspen trees.
It wasn’t until R and I headed out for a short and slippery mountain bike ride that I began to get an inkling that something had happened in our forest overnight. R led the way, with his usual verve.
At one intersection, he started veering off into the forest with his nose held high. Uh oh, I thought, that’s the exact spot where he and K abandoned me last year to check out a mountain lion’s freshly killed deer. Today, R didn’t immediately respond to my call and continued to drift uphill with his nose in the air, further alerting me that something was up. However, soon he did return to my side, and we finished our ride without incident.

I left him at home and headed out on my bike to check my wildlife cameras. Woo, it was a big night! Two mountain lions passed my most popular camera that the bobcat visited the other night. Notice in the series of photos below that the time appears in the top bar of the photo. Also, the camera took a rapid series of ten photos, and the number of the photo appears too.

First, one lion appeared near the middle of the scene. 
Then, he appeared in the far right of the scene as the second lion, following directly behind him, passed behind the tree.
The first lion's body showed in the far right of the scene.
Then, the second lion's head and glowing eye emerged from behind the tree.
The second lion's body...
Finally, the second lion exited with only his hind end showing in the far right of the frame.
Mountain lions are normally solitary except when they have a kitten or when they're courting. I did photograph and mother with her kitten in May. At that time, the kitten was almost as big as his/her mother. In the series of photos above, the two lions look almost the same size. That means that they are either a mother and kitten who is about 18 months old and just about to leave his mother OR a pair of courting mountain lions. Mountain lions breed and have kittens all year around so the possibility of a breeding pair is real. However, a breeding pair stays together for only a few days... so the odds that I captured them together seem low.

Also, notice that despite the effort to radio-collar all the lions in our area, both of these lions appeared to have naked necks! I like that. They're truly wild and free animals.

Nearby, after it snowed this morning, a doe and her fawn passed the spot that I've been staking out to get mountain lion photos - about a mile away from where the lions actually walked last night. First the doe appeared.
Her fawn, who has lost his spots, wandered onto the scene next. In the photo below, he's walking to the left of a Douglas Fir Tree with a lion's ambush spot underneath it. I've tracked lions to this spot on more than one occasion. I think that they lie under the low boughs of the fir tree waiting for naive deer to pass by. The spot that they use is scraped bare of pine needles and cones so I know that it's used regularly.
All in all, it was an exciting night in our forest. I need to be extra careful for the next few days for I fear that the lion pair has a mule deer carcass cached near a trail that I mountain bike regularly.

Whenever I see our mountain lions on my wildlife cameras, I realize that we humans move safely through our forest due to the grace of the lions. They choose to let us pass unscathed, thank goodness.

I might be without a computer for the next few days as mine needs some work done on it. So, don't worry if my blog goes silent for a little while!


  1. Magnificient creatures!

    P.S. - And we are having a steady rain and low 40F temps. The Herd says so close, yet so far from the white stuff.

  2. I know they are there, but I try not to think about it. :o)

    Great pix.

    It did surprise me to wake to snow, even though it's a bit later than usual.

  3. The pic of K in the snowy aspens is INCREDIBLE!!!!

    Of course, Khyra likes the khytty pics a lot!

    Thanks for sharing everything!

  4. Absolutely amazing pictures!!! I can't get over those mountain lions. I didn't realize they were solitary creatures.

    Your pal, Pip

  5. I agree with you that Mountain Lions or other wild animals should not be collared. Whenever I see a wildlife television show and the first thing they do is shoot an animal with a tranquilizer dart, and I find it disgusting. I don't know what kind of information they wind up with but I would rather see the critters naked!

    We loved the snow on the aspens.

    Stella and Jo

  6. I know I'm echoing my earlier sentiment, but I'm so excited to follow your blog. Truly one of the most interesting I've encountered! Thanks again!

  7. SSnow! White stuff, holy milkbones. You guys get to take the best hikes.
    Benny & Lily

  8. Wow! I love seeing all the activity through your cameras!

    Also, that photo of the duo together in synch is beautiful!

  9. Oh my gosh.
    i love coming here soooo much,,
    you take the most splendorious photos.. (that is my own special word that I think i made up, that means AWSOME.)
    I love your storys and photos of the mountain lion,,, and trees. do you know my mama scared one away from behind our barn? It was going after one of the donkeys. She just yelled and it ran.
    Are you afraid? My mommy tells me I need to be afraid, and not go into the woods alone...
    K and R are so beautious, I love them so much,,,, I can tell how much they love you.
    I am going to wait for one of your snow flakes to come visit me.., I think its on its way.
    be safes

  10. These pho-toes are beauTeeful!!

    We's furiends of 'da OP Pack~

    We are sorry for K's hurt Paw!

    We's puggies and stopped by to say hello.

    Hello!! snorts!!

    IzZY, Josie and Anakin Man

  11. the pic of K in the snow covered aspen trees is just gorgeous!!!
    and the think it is going to be a good year for wildlife pics....

  12. WOW! Incredible photos! Great blog post :)
    Kodi x

  13. SNOW!!! We can't seem to get below 85 here!! Ugh! Love the wildlife shots. I've often wondered, during our hikes, who or what might be watching us!

  14. R and K...standing identical, make a perfect pair!

    Loved the photo of K under the covered aspen leaves!

  15. The picture of K in the snowy trees should be in a calendar somewhere... Glad you told us abt the computer so we don't think the mountain lions gotcha.

  16. Hi KB, That photo of K framed by gold and snow is a keeper - you must frame it, for sure! Your wildlife camera captured exciting visitors in the night. Be careful on your trails if they have a kill that R smelled. I'm having deja vu of last year!

  17. In addition to admiring the wonderful photographs I learn something from your posts on a regular basis. I had no idea that mountain lions breed all thoughout the year.

  18. ok, now i'm gonna have nightmares about the boogy man under the bed. mt. lions are scary! no matter how much they claim they don't want to be near people...

    btw: did you ever hear of the mt. biker attacked/killed by a lion in Orange CA a few years ago? it was awful. very unusal i think. i can't imagine why it happened, tho there was plenty of speculation (he was fixing his chain, hunched down, etc.) still...

    i know you are careful and know what you're doing but i'm gonna say it anyway: please be careful!

  19. Wild Dingo: Yes, I remember that story of the mtb'er. It seems that every now and then, a mountain lion starts to look at people as food. It's quite rare but it happens. I've gradually come to trust that they don't want to eat me. But, I always feel better when I have a dog with me. K once treed a lion when we were mountain biking. We came around a corner, and there he was. Before I could stop K, she took off snarling and barking straight at him. He went up a tree, and we took off right away.

    K really covers my back when she's with me. But, now R is starting to do the same thing when K isn't with us. Isn't that amazing? The problem is the times when I'm alone - then I'm really careful about where I stop to fix my bike or look at things on the ground...

    To Everyone: I fired up my old computer, and it still works! That's why there's a post today!

  20. Wow- amazing pics. You're right about the lions. Magnificent, excellent predators. Please watch your back!!


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