The pawprints were completely snowed in so I couldn't compare these tracks to the ones that I've been seeing frequently throughout our forest. However, this lion took strides of the same length as the lion who has been frequenting our forest (~40"). In contrast, this winter, I've measured a stride length of 52" for a huge male mountain lion, and a stride length of 35" for a smaller lion. So, the identical stride length suggests that this is the same lion as I've tracked so many times this winter.
Yesterday, I speculated that this lion might be a female with kittens in the area, keeping her tied down to a relatively small slice of the forest. However, an alternative idea occurred to me. Yesterday afternoon, the elk herd tromped through our meadow and spent the night nearby. I wonder if this lion is following the elk herd. The herd has stayed in a fairly small radius (5 miles or so) around my house so far this winter. If the lion were following the herd, he/she also would be in that same radius. Moreover, on Saturday, I saw lion tracks near where the entire elk herd had bedded down, and then I saw the lion tracks head toward my neck of the woods.
In any case, I whooped when I saw the mountain lion photo this morning. It's my first lion photo in the Year of the Mountain Lion!
K and I were treated to a stupendous sunrise this morning, as the storm clouds still hovered on our eastern horizon. It was -7°F when we headed out for our hike so we didn't linger long to enjoy it.
After dropping K at home, I headed out on my snowbike. It had warmed to 0°F, and I was actually overdressed. I worked up a storm of heat under all my layers as I plowed through the fresh snow. I had a glorious time, seeing the world wake up as I pedaled through the forest.