Yesterday evening, a storm swept into the mountains while the Duo and I hiked. K's UTI already seemed somewhat better, and she enjoyed a mellow hike. She and R posed against the stormy sky.
We headed out for a short mountain bike ride, through about an inch of fresh snow. I tried to upload some photos of the beautiful morning but my internet connection did not cooperate.
However, something very exciting happened during our mountain bike ride. First, we saw a band of about 30 elk, splintered off from the main herd. They watched us pass by without worries. They seem to know that K won't chase them.
After checking out the elk beds, K and I went a little further, and I checked a wildlife camera. I saw a big scrape under the Ponderosa Pine tree where a mountain lion visited 2 weeks ago. I looked at it closely and thought that it might be fresh rather than 2 weeks old but I wasn't certain.
Indeed, when I arrived home and checked the camera's memory card, I discovered that a muscle-bound mountain lion had visited the scent post last night when the snow was flying out of the sky. I'm guessing that he was hunting the elk who were spending the night nearby.
Upon arriving at the scent post, he started to scrape the ground with his hind paws while he stared at my camera which was emitting a muted red infrared light.
the one who visited 2 weeks ago.
I've made a "flipbook" video of his visit to the scent post which you can view here if the embedded video doesn't work for you.
It's an amazing feeling to find a series of photos like those on my wildlife camera for a host of reasons. First, to choose where to put my cameras, I've spent hundreds of hours in the forest, looking for subtle signs of where the wildlife travel and mark their territories. So, when I hit the "jackpot" with photos of an elusive animal, it feels like validation of my ability to read animal signs in the forest. Part of why that makes me happy is that, for every camera placement of mine that is super good, I have at least three that aren't. So, the good ones make me smile!
A second reason why I get so elated by photos like today's is that I have undeniable proof of a huge predator mingling in our trail system. This scent post sits about 50 yards from a "popular" trail (which means that it's used one or two humans a day, on average). This predator moves through the trail system like a ghost, never letting himself be seen by human eyes. My cameras are teaching me that mountain lions pass through our trail system at least once a month because that's about how often I get their photographs. However, I'd bet that they actually visit more frequently but I don't get photographic evidence.
It was truly amazing this morning that I knew for a fact that I stood exactly where the huge lion did, less than 12 hours earlier. It's a powerful feeling - a mixture of awe and fear.
Here's to the Year of the Mountain Lion!