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Monday, January 10, 2011

Mountain lion captured in photo

Remember, yesterday, I talked all about how "our" mountain lion has me intrigued and I really want to get a photo of him. After writing that, the whole pack went out for a hike and the pups romped in the frigid air and feathery snow.
At almost exactly the same time, a mountain lion walked past one of my wildlife cameras. Notice the greenish tinge in his ear - that's an ear tag and tells us that this lion dons a tracking collar. He must be part of the local mountain lion study.
You can see the snow accumulated on his thick tawny fur, indicating that it was still snowing hard at that time. In fact, it kept snowing for hours, rendering his tracks unrecognizable. In the photo below, his tracks approached my camera set-up. If I hadn't captured a photo, I would not have known that these were mountain lion tracks.
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.
K's face, with snowflakes adorning it, lit up in the sunrise rays.
We both got chilled very fast despite the sunshine so K ran and I hiked fast, trying to generate some heat. K wore boots on all four paws due to the extreme cold.
Then, she stopped in her tracks, sniffed furiously, and then sat and stared into the forest. I had no idea at the time that the divets in the snow that she had sniffed were mountain lion tracks. They were so indistinct that they could've been deer or even dog tracks.
I finally leashed her to get her to hike with me again. We hiked up toward a ridge. On the ascent, only the tip tops of the trees were illuminated by the sun.
After I'd pulled her off the lion tracks, I released her again, and she trotted around like a supremely happy dog!
But, despite her boots, her paws started to get cold. She goes "on strike" when her toes are freezing. So, I leashed her again, and we hightailed it home. We passed through the meadow as we headed home, and the elk herd had departed already (usually they stay longer than 12 hours). I didn't yet know that a lion had been near them... but his stalking might explain their eagerness to move on.

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.
The deep blue sky behind the snow-laden pine trees awed me. And, the thought that a powerful mountain lion had walked so close to this spot yesterday afternoon gave me chills of amazement. What a world we live in!


  1. Wow! That lion is beautiful! I always wonder if they could hypnotize their prey with those stunning eyes.

    I love how happy the duo looks out there in the snow!

  2. You put me to shame - I didn't venture outside today - too cold! That's a great lion capture! I love the blue light in your tree photos. Great new Header, too.

  3. WOW KB!!! the photo of the lion is amazing!!!
    i love your new camera, takes very vivid pictures...absolutely gorgeous!!

  4. What An Awesome Photo of the Mountain Lion! It is amazing the things those trail camera's can capture. It Looks like K had a blast in the snow. All the Pictures are awesome, we are getting some snow on Wednesday which the dogs will Love

  5. That lion is amazing. Think about that. You have a LION walking around you. What a world you guys live in. Love K with the snowy muzzle.

  6. What an amazing shot of that lion. I hope it's the first of many. I really like that morning shot, with only the tips of the snow covered trees catching the sun.

  7. Gorgeous always :)

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  8. Your photos are absolutely stunning! I would love to take a walk with you and your duo any day because I love looking at wildlife and you sure have plenty to get me occupied for a long, long time! What a beautiful area you live in! I am sure all of your followers (including me) are envious of your surroundings!

  9. What I think is that your walks get more beautiful and more amazing every single day. Glad you chose the Mountain Lion for this year, because just looking at a picture of them gives a thrill, not to mention thinking of them prowling around your neighborhood.

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  10. I love how you're able to think so critically about the lion signs you find in the forest to understand what the lions are doing, their sex, etc. Very cool!

    And, I think that might be your best lion picture to date. I, like you, wish there wasn't a radio collar on his neck, but it's still very magical.

    (Me? I got excited when three deer trotted out in to the road on my way home! All of us city-slickers slowed our speed considerably to watch them as they meandered back in to the forest).

  11. I love the picture of K with snow on her face! I imagine she just loves being in the snow!


  12. We've been having trouble with cold paws here lately with the extreme cold. Sometimes, even the few moments outside to potty in the dog pen ends up with someone holding up a cold paw or limping.

    Ginko even got sort of stuck in the upper pasture one cold morning because he was so cold that he didn't want to move.

    I might have to get them some boots, if this keeps up.

    Congrats on the mtn lion pic. Very cool!

  13. Very special post with the mountain lion, snow covered K and that blue, blue sky.

  14. The mountain lion picture gave me the chills!
    Congratulations on capturing her on camera!

  15. I am with Jen - that mountain lion gave me the chills. Beautiful and scary at the same time!

    Your pal, Pip

  16. beautiful photos. love the one with K's snowy face

  17. So great to see you all out together. That's fantastic. Mountain lion picture is great! Have you ever see one in person out on your walks/rides? I think I would be terrified to do all of the exploring you do. LOL But I love reading of your adventures!

  18. Hi Y'all!

    K is so photogenic! Love the masthead!

    We had a storm here too, but since we escaped snow to come the the's ICE.

    What a fantastic photo of the lion! I enjoyed the link to their life cycle. For those readers who didn't follow it, you gave a "short sweet and complete" explanation.

    Thanks for stoppin' by to visit.
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  19. What a majestic animal in the snow! And I am referring to K - the mountain lion isn't bad either (grins).

    What a fantastic picture of the lion.

  20. You means to tell me it WARMED up
    to 0F!!!!!!!!! I would so not function where you lives...especially if I had to wears boots. I would be glad to come fur a visit but not live. Mum would gladly live theres though (weird).
    Dat mountain lion is skeery but beautifuls!


  21. What a fantastic photo catch!

    It is so beautiful but so cold...and snowy!

    It is great to see K out and enjoying life so much. You are a perfect team.

  22. 24 Paws of Love: I have seen mountain lions in person but, in all cases except three, the lion fled incredibly fast as soon as I saw him. In one of the other cases, I saw a lion from my car - now, that was very cool. He looked me in the eyes and the end of his tail started twitching. Then, he hopped a guard rail and was gone. The other cases were a little more scary. One time, K and I saw one while mountain biking, and K treed him! I left the scene asap... I was scared but I've been told that I shouldn't have been. As long as the lion is far up the tree (i.e., can't jump down on you), you're pretty safe in that situation. The third was a lion watching us from the edge of our clearing (a decade ago) when one of our dogs was very elderly and walking on leash. That was when I started *always* carrying a big can of pepper spray when outdoors. That lion just watched... he didn't overtly threaten us.

    I think that most lions try very hard to avoid people. I spend a ton of time in the woods and I've seen lions with my own eyes fewer than 15 times. I feel certain that hidden lions have seen me more often than that.

  23. Once again, your chilling stories, too riveting for me to pull my eyes away, are destined to give me the 'ole nightmare. maybe i need to go read a silly R story to change my line of thought! ;)

    seriously tho... the mt. lion. yikes! gorgeous but scary!

  24. Congrats on your first lion photo!! How exciting!

  25. Your sunrise, your trees,, your snow,, and all this beauty is so much to look at.
    The mountain lion,,,, oh my gosh,,, I know they watch me too,,just like they watch you.
    K in her glory,,, makes my heart sing.
    I am so happy for you that you have this glorious world,,,to breathe the air,,, and enjoy..

  26. Indeed we live in a wonderful world! I'm jealous because you get to get out in it more than me!!! But I did get to bike in the snow on Saturday, and I loved every minute of it. You've captured the essence of my joy with pictures from your corner of the world. That lion photo is asbolutely awesome!

  27. Beautiful pictures! Can I use on my post here - I linked to your site. Thanks, Karen Moon

  28. someone is trying to steal credit for your photo.


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