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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Top of the food chain

On the night before the snow, I captured this photo of K in the setting sun. I love the winter light, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Also before the storm, I'm afraid that the rabbit who lived in the boulders behind my house became coyote food. Look closely at the lower left corner of the next photo and see the animal clasped in the coyote's jaws. It almost looks like the coyote is posing for his trophy photo.
Despite the successful hunting by the coyote the other day, the rest of the pack has still been hunting by the boulders. Perhaps there are more rabbits living near there. Here's one example photo from after the snow.
Yesterday evening, the storm oozed away from us, leaving magical mountains and valleys. This morning, some clouds still swirled around us as K and I took my Fatback snowbike out for its maiden ride.
We had a beautiful ride through snow and the remaining golden aspen leaves.
After K and I rode to our hearts content, I dropped her off at home and went to check some wildlife cameras. I rode along an animal path, leaving fresh snowbike tracks, almost 4" wide, in the unbroken snow. I decided to do an out-and-back along the path. So, I rode east to west, stopped, and then turned around to retrace my tracks by riding to the east.

On the return part of my ride, I was shocked to see that a mountain lion had walked in my tire tracks in the short 20 minute time since I'd made them. I spotted the tracks and screeched to a halt.
The lion had been walking to the west, so we'd been on a collision course as I rode my return leg to the east. He must have left the path as he heard me approaching. As I worked out this scenario in my head, I rapidly started scanning my surroundings, wondering where the lion was hiding. If I had to place a bet, I'd put a lot of money on the idea that he was watching me right then. He was probably completely stationary so I couldn't spot him.

The tracks weren't huge. I haven't made the exact measurements from my photos yet but I'm guessing that the lion was a subadult or a female. We may see photos of him from my cams tomorrow. Believe me, I didn't hang around to check any cams after seeing his tracks.

As the Runner pointed out, this incident was yet another example of the fact that our mountain lions don't want to eat us. As I pedaled along side the lion tracks, I was forced to focus on my riding, working hard to stay upright in the snow on a rocky trail. If that mountain lion had wanted to make me prey, I was an easy target. But, as usual, the lion held his fire and let me go in peace.

I did wish that I had a body guard with me. K always watches my back in dangerous situations. She's treed a lion in the past... but I'm not sure that I'd want to bet on one fleeing from her again. She's too precious to make that bet.
It's humbling and wonderful to live in an environment where we humans are not at the top of the food chain - rather, the mountain lions occupy that top notch. Today, I had an inkling of how the rabbit felt being stalked by the hungry coyote. It makes the mountains even more magical for me to have tawny ghosts with sharp claws, huge eyes, sensitive ears, and amazing intelligence floating silently among the boulders and trees.


  1. Great picture K. We think we prefer being the king of the food chain, BOL
    Benny & Lily

  2. We had a close encounter with some coyotes this morning that reminded us that we need to keep a better eye on them. A couple of my friends were riding when some coyotes came out after them. This is really unusual, I happened to be driving by and saw them having problems with their horses. On closer inspection, we discovered the coyotes (several of them) were feasting on a fresh kill and my friends had inadvertently gotten too close!


  3. It does look like the coyote is showing off it's prize. Neat and a little scary finding the lion tracks.

  4. I admire you for seeing and respecting what so many people don't--That you are part of the natures circle...

  5. We agree with what Kim says, but we also worry about you, you know that already.

    How we love the first and last photos - simply majestic.

  6. Interesting how snow makes us more aware of what's out there. On any other given day, you might not have known how close yours and the lion's paths had crossed. I suspect there have been plenty of days when you were also that close.

    I'm sure you know about the various cases of lion attacks in Colorado over the years, some of them attacks on adults and not just children. I'm sure you are cautious but as you say, if the lion wanted you, you were an easy target.

    BTW: you are not allowed to call it "winter" light just yet. K is just magnificent in that "autumn" light.

  7. Wow,, what a cool photo of the tire track and the lions foot print.
    We love the autumn photo of the snow and golden trees!

  8. Hi Y'all,

    What beautiful country you live in and how magical the snow makes it.

    The majestic lion would be frightening to meet, even if he did mean you no harm.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

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  10. Reading this gave me chills.
    I could not imagine what you must of been feeling when you saw those tracks!

  11. I cannot get over how fat your coyotes are!!!!!

    Okay that picture of the the fog/clouds is prob one of my favorites!!!! Also I love he one of the back of K!!!! Great photo!!!!

    Glad you made it home without me having to see you on the next edition of When Animals Attack!!!!! =)

    I do understand what you are saying though!!! Completely.

  12. Ah my friend, you just continue to live on the edge....which in a sick way, tickles me to death.

    I love your adventures. I do want you to be careful and cautious but I do enjoy and look forward to your daily posts.

    So sorry about your bunny.

    Berts My Vickie

  13. Holy cow, what a surprise that must have been!

    You be careful out there though. Do you ever carry bear spray at all? ....I know puma attack from behind, but at least it you can manage getting a shot out, your chances are better...


  14. I think we humans like to think we're at the top of the food change..but so many creatures can prove otherwise!

    LOVED the track photos.

  15. OMG watch out for those big kitties so they don't put the bitey on you! It's amazing how close we can all be to danger and not know it!

  16. Marilyn,

    I do carry a grizzly bear can of pepper spray all the time. It does give me a chance... something to do if attacked. Attacks are SO rare, though, that it's highly unlikely that I'll ever use it on a mountain lion.

    Thanks for the comment!


  17. I know you carry pepper spray but I wonder how it would affect a mountain lion! Have you ever used it on an animal? Do you ever get spray back into your own eyes?

    Great photos as always!


    Jo and Stella

  18. It is amazing how everything changes when one's perspective does. Beautiful in a fierce sort of way, both weather and beast.

  19. That last shot, licking the chops, is the perfect ending for this post. Sometimes in my quest to capture wildlife on camera, I forget I could be a meal! Thank you for the timely reminder!

    That golden photo of golden K is just... PURE GOLD!

  20. Love the photos of your beautiful K!! She really is stunning. Enjoyed the post. What a feeling it must be to see tracks like those where you ride and enjoy the great outdoors. It really does put things in perspective.


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