Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The sun never rose

A snow storm invaded our air space last night. After the normal sunrise time, shadows still yawned from the edges of our forest. I felt like K and I were out for a night hike!
Soon, a gray light pervaded the forest. K happily frolicked among the trees.
Obviously, her thick coat insulates her well, keeping her body heat from escaping. You can tell because the snow on her fur doesn't melt!
We did some recalls in the quiet of the forest. K dodged trees and ducked under branches to zoom to me.
I love the muffled quiet of the forest in a snow storm. When I called K, I felt like I was yelling in the reading room of the library.

The quiet soothed my brain during my snowbike ride. The only sound was the squeaky cold snow under my tires. Not another soul had ventured out into the storm. Indeed even the animals were holed up. I saw only ermine and squirrel tracks on the otherwise blank slate of snow.
I love my Fatback Snow Bike. Without it, I would have been stuck on my indoor trainer today. Instead, I had a meditative ride through the magical snow storm.

I didn't see any mountain lion tracks today, probably because the snow was flying out of the sky so fast that tracks disappeared in minutes. However, an insightful reader (Jed and Abby in Merryland) asked some questions about mountain lions - their territoriality and reproductive schedule.

I keep seeing the tracks of what I believe to be the same mountain lion continuously doing hunting loops in a much smaller area than I've seen before in my tracking experience. It's probably a female or a subadult male based on the size of the tracks. Females have much smaller territories than males, as shown in the example diagram below.
Dominant males have huge territories, encompassing up to 500 square miles in some terrain. Their territories overlap with the smaller territories of a few females, and these females will probably be their mates.

There's a study of mountain lions going on in our area, as you all saw when a lion wearing a tracking collar passed one of my cameras.
However, nothing has been published from the study so I don't have specific information about the sizes of the home ranges of our cats. Some people speculate that the abundant prey and cat-friendly terrain has led to a much higher density of mountain lions in our area than in most parts of the country. I know that my cameras have picked up photos of at least one huge male lion, at least one mother and almost adult kitten pair, and several different smallish individuals who could be either females or young males. You can find all those photos on my wildlife photo list page.

A female's territory contracts when she has kittens, especially young ones who are not traveling with her yet. My suspicion is that the cat whose tracks I keep seeing in a very small area is a female with kittens. She can't go far because she needs to return to her kittens regularly for nursing. So, she keeps makes small hunting loops through our forest that never take her too far from her young. In more than a decade of exploring our woods, I've never seen similar-looking lion tracks as regularly as this winter. That's why I think that we have an out-of-the-ordinary situation, like a mother lion with kittens stashed around here.

Mountain lions breed all year around. The kittens stay with mom for about 18 months, and after the young disperse, mom breeds again, regardless of the time of year. Mountain lions have mating-induced ovulation, a system that makes sense for solitary animals who encounter others of their species only sporadically. Survival of the kittens is highest when they're born in the spring but a fair number are born in the cold of winter and survive. In fact, in our area, prey may be more plentiful for a mother lion in winter because the more than hundred-strong elk herd spends the winter here. Mountain lions prey on both deer and elk.

A great web page for information about the life cycle of mountain lions can be found here.

I've put all my wildlife cameras on the most regularly used mountain lion route through our forest because I'm hoping to hit the jackpot soon when our lion follows her familiar path through our pine forest. It is, after all, the Year of the Mountain Lion!


  1. Wow! Thanks for all the good information.


  2. Very interesing post - we learned a lot about the mountain lion.

    We had a little snow overnight, a half inch:) Should have known it was coming since the pups did not want to come in AND had their snooters pointed to the skies. Maybe a bigger snowfall over the next day - it sure would make them happy. And like K, the snow all stays on top of their coats.

  3. I love that feeling of walking through a snowfall and feeling like you've been transported to a fairy tale realm. The feeling of serenity is unlike anything else. I love the pictures of the snowy K! She looks even more striking when there aren't any other colors competing with her beauty today!

    That's pretty cool info on the mountain lions! Maybe we'll all get lucky and you'll catch the kitten's maiden voyage into the world. :)

  4. AWESOME shots again!

    I know Ruby's Raiser C shared they had 6" of lovely fluffy snow! She said Kiva thanked Khyra for sending it her way this time!

    Khyra thanks you for more wonderful inFURmation on the 'khytties'

  5. Excellent choice for header pic!!!

    First pic today is also very cool... you two do great work together!!

  6. Wow. fascinating! I have to back track but it looks like K is back to normal and running/riding with you! happy days! :)

    we bought Loki a coat because his fur gets wet fast. but it's not water repellent just for cold. now that i see he likes it, we'll get the water repellent one too!

    k looks GREAT!

  7. Interesting Lion facts, KB. It snowed here all day and more expected. But, very cold, too.

  8. Beautiful K photos! The dusting of snows on her fur...we have such great coats making winter so much fun!
    Fascinating mtn. lion information. We have had a number of local sightings here in our county this last year...roaming territories seem to be shifting.

    Sweet hugs,
    Sierra Rose

  9. A magical mix. Snow, mountain lions and a wintry picture of K.

  10. Those are interesting facts about the mountain lions! Oh, and I LOVEEEE the pictures.


  11. I like your new header! Great pictures, as usual, and such interesting information. Thanks for sharing!

  12. interesting stats on the lion!
    I love your header and the first pic of K is priceless....really beautiful!
    hope your week is peaceful! and you get some pics of the lion!

  13. Those photos of K are absolutely magical, especially the first one!

    We enjoy learning about mountain lions. Thanks!

  14. Your new Header photo looks great! And, I can't wait to see what your trail camera catches.

    Answering a couple of your questions about my blog entries, so this may get long.

    The coyotes around here come in a variety of sizes. A few years ago I saw one that I was absolutely sure was a wolf. I even tried to convince the DEC of that fact. The thing was as big as a German Shepherd. But, later that year, I saw it with its mate, and she was more of the usual coyote size. I understand that coyotes and dogs don't mate, contrary to common belief, so this guy had to have had some wolf in him. Or, he just ate well enough when he was young so that he grew very big.

    And, about the scat. You're right. When I looked again, I could see it was fur. Probably coyote. My pictures can be a little deceiving. I live in suburbia. My house does border on a second growth woods that leads to a large freshwater bay. So I have more critters than normal. The trails where I take a lot of my picture are on a nature preserve in the town. It's a couple of hundred acres, but, it's surrounded by houses. Coyotes I can see tolerating all of the human intrusion, but not bobcats.

    At any rate, I do envy you your mountains and wild things.

  15. Thanks for taking the time to share the mountain lion info. While it all makes sense (as everything in nature seems to), it's pretty amazing to learn about the territorial differences in males and females. I'd be curious to hear about the study in your area. Do you know anything about it - like who is conducting it? Maybe your wildlife camera pics could help?

  16. Love the new header. Such a celebration, and as others have said, that first pic of K is fabulous. Is that the new camera? The mountain lion info is most interesting. Good luck with capturing some interesting cat-filled images!!

  17. I love love love the lion photo! I have yet to run into one in person, although I saw one lurking from the safety of my car once when I first moved up here...


  18. my mind has settled a bit and I came to read some of your words.
    i too love the sound of the quietness of muffled snow..
    there is nothing more peaceful.
    i also love looking at K frolicking in the snow, so free and happy.
    remember i said that i was expecting a miracle? well i still am

  19. do you remember me saying i was face to face to a moutain lion?
    your mountain lion reminded me,,, but mine was fatter and fluffier,, for some reason,
    is there a difference in mountain lion and cougar? everyone around here calls them cougars.


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!