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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A mountain lion walks nearby

Our largest cat is known by at least three names: mountain lion, puma, and cougar. In Colorado, people tend to call them mountain lions.

I tracked a mountain lion extensively early this winter before the snow was too deep to inhibit travel in much of our forest. On three occasions that he came through our slice of the forest, he passed close to a large Ponderosa Pine tree. During a snow melt, I discovered a big pile of mountain lion scat at the base of the tree. It seemed an auspicious place to post a wildlife camera.

I've waited for two months with no animals passing this camera. On Sunday afternoon, a mountain lion sauntered through the scene.
The Ponderosa Pine is in the center of the photo. The lion lowered his/her small feline head while passing the tree but didn't directly sniff the pile of scat.
Then, the lion kept walking... I hate seeing the big GPS collar around the lion's neck but it does appear that this lion is getting plenty to eat despite the collar. The collar is for a mountain lion study that's underway in our neck of the woods.
I haven't checked all my cams yet but I suspect that this was the only one that captured photos of the lion. Unfortunately, the snow has melted substantially since the lion walked through. I followed the cat's trajectory and found these tracks. They're obviously too melted to see any details of the paws but the step length was correct for a lion. They were heading downhill toward where the elk herd was grazing that evening.
I believe that I've photographed this lion previously in our neck of the woods. For some reason, she looks like a female to me - but there's no scientific basis for that impression. Female lions have kittens under their care for almost their entire adult lives, except during the short months between sending a litter of kittens off into the big world and giving birth to the next litter.

So, today, I also looked around for tracks of kittens near the big tracks. I did find two sets of bounding tracks but, due to the snow melt, I have no way to know if they were mountain lion kittens or something else entirely. If this lion has kittens, I suspect that I'll see them on a wildlife camera someday.

It was interesting to realize that the Labraduo and I were nearby when this lion passed our trail system. I took the photo below within five minutes of when the lion's photo was taken. I recognize the spot, and we were about a quarter mile from the lion. Thank goodness that lions almost always live invisibly and peaceably among human and dog societies.
This morning, I pedaled and K ran to our exposed plateau just after the sun rose. I took a photo to capture how a golden sunrise reflects on her eyes and fur. Unknowingly, I also captured the tiny shadow of K on her boulder far off to the right in the photo.
Just after the sun rose, my front tire went flat. Since I was so close to home, I decided to head back and change the tire in the warmth of my basement rather than in the 25°F air. But first, one more photo of K in the sunrise light.
Since K had her bone infection and toe amputation, I've had this niggling worry that maybe she didn't really want to go on my bike rides. I thought that it was possible that she secretly preferred to take it easy. Well, my worry was put to rest this morning. As I headed home after only 10 minutes of riding, K refused to go with me! She seemed appalled. Her expression said, "What? That's it?"!

I took her out for some more riding after a fast tire change with the Runner's help. I'm embarrassed to admit that a runner is faster at changing flat tires than I am!

It was warming up fast, and K sated her thirst with cold snow.
She satisfied her hunger with the sparse crop of rose hips still on the bushes. She picks them off the bushes very carefully, avoiding the sharp thorns on the stems.
We had a fun ride in amazingly springlike weather. I know that we are going to have some major snowstorms in the next couple of months but I revel in each of these days so filled with promise of a warm and glorious summer on the horizon.

And, for me, any day that I get wildlife camera photos of a mountain lion is a good one!


  1. Wow, amazing capturing the mountain lion.

    Love the pics of K! Beautiful! Nice snowy mountains too!

  2. The mountain lion photos are beautiful! Would it be possible for a mother to travel through with a kitten and not have the kitten show up on the camera? Do they tend to travel far enough apart for that to happen? Just curiosity on my part while I sit here trying to make my own guesses about the lion's gender!

    K was born to be photographed in early sunlight! She is just so pretty!

    It's funny you mentioned the pictures of Bunny and Morgan running and how different they are. Morgan has an absolutely beautiful flying foxtrot. It looks like she's not even touching the ground, but it's not like the Greyhounds move for sure! Bunny was at school with me today and my teaching partner brought her miniature poodle in. We were comparing and contrasting the differences and likenesses between them. One boy noted that Bunny didn't walk like the poodle and I had to look and take note. He was definitely right!

  3. Showing that I know absolutely nothing about biking, you don't carry a spare tire with you, I would assume. Would that mean that you would have patching material and a bike pump in that backpack of yours?

    It's good, I think that this happened, and you got a clear indication that K is all better, and is leading the life she loves. I know you will worry about her forever, but, maybe, now your worry will be a little less.

    There is just something about a mountain lion, to me. They are the epitome of feline grace and beauty. I had to laugh at the contrast between the cat you blogged about and the mini-lions on my blog today. They're so similar, yet so different.

    I tried to get a video today of the squirrels here. They were going bonkers with a combination of good weather crazies and hormones. I figured you'd get a kick out of it. Unfortunately, every time I picked up the camera and focused it on the outside, the little stinkers decided that it was time to eat again. I'll keep trying.

    Good grief, I'm wordy today.

  4. Great catch of the lion in that photo. It would be great to see some little ones too.

    I laughed at your comment about the tire changing and the Runner. I have been at my son-in-law to come over and pump up the little ones bikes because I cannot seem to manage a bike pump for the life of me. I can't even imagine changing a tire:)

  5. Amazing pictures today! :)

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  6. Excellent mountain lion sightings! Isn't it amazing to know they wander the land and some of the same paths as you. I'm glad you pointed out K's tiny shadow. Very cool, and I might have missed it. I'm glad you all got to enjoy some springlike weather.

  7. Beautiful Mt. Lion pix!!! Your photos are too gorgeous to be true - can't believe that the lion is able to function with that huge collar. All K and R photos are so pretty - the picture of K eating the hip is amazing!
    Sammie, Avalon and Ozzie

  8. That is are not afraid they will attack?
    Benny & Lily

  9. Glad you're having "spring like" weather!!

  10. The mountain lion is gorgeous. I hope you get some photos of kittens,, wouldn't that be fun?

  11. I really want a wildlife camera - I've seen a mountain lion during some of my rides. I may need to have you send a picture of lion poop so I can identify it! I wouldn't know if I was sitting the camera near a lion trail or a house cat trail!


  12. K, KB and R
    Sorry I haven't been around in awhile. I do miss your wildlife adventures. Despite the mountain lion taking the starring role for today's post, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the shadow shot one. That was too cool.

  13. I'm happy to hear you say that K has decided how she wants things! I love it when dogs make up their minds!


    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  14. I guess if he has a monitor that their numbers are limited. Hundreds rather than thousands ?

  15. Here kitteh kitteh...hehehe...Okay, maybe not.
    Nows, I wanna knows...if da kitteh has a tracking collar on then are da other kittehs conscious of it or does they just ignore if they see it on a kitteh?


  16. That is just great to get a mountain lion! I can't wait to see the kittens! Beautiful pictures!!! Lots of love, Debbie and Holly

  17. Wow-what a beautiful lion. I agree-it's sad to see those collars on them. I hope they at least find something useful during the study!

  18. Great Mountain Lion pictures! I really like your trail cameras. Do you have to worry about people finding them and taking them?

  19. What a great capture. The mountain lion is a beautiful cat; hope to see more of her and her family.

    K is amazing. I hope she has made her intentions clear and put your concerns to rest.

  20. Now that's a capture...a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Now K don't eat all the some for me! wink wink!

  21. Hi Y'all,

    Been a busy couple days here!

    Y'all had quite a day! Love the lion. I too thought it was the same one you caught earlier on a camera.

    Spring can't come soon enough, no matter where in the country you're located.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  22. Those mountain lion pics are great. Daytime pics are rare, right? Poor K must've been so discouraged with no immediate ride. The deflation is almost palpable when I have a morning at home and don't take the girls out immediately.
    There's no shame in changing a tire slower. I bet he can't ride as fast as you can ;)


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