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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Elk and Mountain Lions

Our normal "changing of the guard" in wildlife is underway. In the fall, the elk herd arrives, and eats the dry grass from the meadows around us. The elk herd is obvious. What is less obvious is the predators that lurk in the forests around the herd.
For the past couple of years, the herd has been arriving in small fragments much earlier than in past years. When they arrive, they're still in the tail end of the rutting season. The bulls act defensive about "their" cows and bugle occasionally.
On the day that I took these photos, about a week ago, the entire herd was together for the first time. We estimated about 90 elk were hanging out in one 100 acre meadow.
The biggest bull still seemed quite interested in the tail-ends of the cows.
The younger bulls were sneaking around the edges of the herd, avoiding the big guy.
The younger bulls sparred with each other, perhaps preparing for a future year when they could be the Kings. In the next photo, two sets of bulls are sparring - the very young ones in the foreground and two slightly bigger ones in the background.
It was clearly a practice sparring session. When one stumbled, the other waited for him to right himself.

With the arrival of the elk, more mountain lions prowl in our area. These photos were taken on the same day as the elk photos, but they were deep in the forest where the snow doesn't melt quickly. A mother mountain lion (far right) and her almost full-grown kitten (left) passed my trail camera.
This photo gives you a vision of how big the kitten is. I bet that he'll be striking out on his own before too long. Notice that mom is lingering, waiting for him.
Then, the kitten started acting goofy, lying on the ground and rubbing his ears. In the next photo, you can see that he has an ear tag in his right ear for an ongoing study in our area. However, I believe that this is the same pair as I posted about back in July, when this kitten had a transmitter and antenna attached to his left ear. Back then, he was rubbing his left ear obsessively, apparently trying to get rid of the transmitter.

It appears to me that he succeeded. There is no green transmitter and no antenna that I can see. Moreover, the tip of his left ear looks droopier than mountain lion ears usually look.
His rubbing still appeared to be focused on his left ear, either out of habit or because he hurt the ear when he ripped out the transmitter.
He kept at it for what seemed like a long time. Mom didn't reappear on camera.
He looked up a few times, letting me confirm that there was no transmitter in his left ear. I also liked seeing his handsome face.
I also thought that his left ear looked a little odd... but it's hard to be sure.
Finally, he shook as he stood up.
And, he was on his way, following his mother. This all took place about a half mile from where I captured photos of the pair in July.
In this session, the kitten had spent about 4 minutes fussing with his ear. Although I know that valuable information is being gained from the study, I have to wonder how much time and energy the kitten has spent rubbing his ear. So, from the point of view of the impact on each individual lion, I have some worries about the study.

I hope that you're having a fabulous Saturday!


  1. Thanks for sharing your piece of our world. The pictures you get with your trail cameras are amazing. I too feel bad for the lion kitten fussing with his ear.


  2. i agree - doesn't sound like that transmitter was at all comfortable for the kitten - nor did it last! and seems to have left behind scar tissue or an obsession the kitten may never get over. beautiful animals, all the way through. the elk herd is amazing!

  3. I guess the study is a double edge sword . . . . . . may help the population in the long run, but may be a real pain for the individual cats. If we humans could just leave nature alone . . . . .

  4. I, too, do not like transmitters or ear tags, but for research maybe they are needed, In your last photo, two together, and the huge rocky outline is just like a dog pointing its nose into the wind. Take care on those areas with lions round, and the elk are magnificent, and all in your "own backyard". Greetings from Jean.

  5. Hi Y'all!

    Oh that ear does look almost like an ear when a domestic cat has been in a fight. Wonder if the ear got infected...

    I'm with you about banding and attaching transmitters. While I understand the knowledge scientists gain about the animals movements, I sometimes think the people who design these id and tracking devices do not have any real knowledge of the unintended consequences to the animal.

    We don't get many geese this far south, but we do see a number of them in winter and early spring, especially if the winter to the north is a severe one. Often some are banded. I photograph them and post some of the photos on my blog. They no longer band geese on their legs but with a WIDE band around their necks. Often the bands look too tight and appear to cut into their necks when they try to graze or even just preening or swimming.

    BrownDog's Human

  6. I will join those of you who dislike banding of any kind on wild animals. I often wonder if it affects their hearing or balance.

    The elk are beautiful and I can imagine its wonderful to have them back!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  7. I love seeing these glimpses into your wild world!

  8. Add me to the 'non-fan-club' of the ear tags, but am glad that this little one is safe!

  9. These photos are fascinating!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy and Stanley

  10. You have taken beautiful animals photos.
    Have a nice sunday! RW & SK

  11. Those big cats are just magnificent. And that last shot of the pups is like they have their own super hero light in the sky.

  12. I did have a good Saturday. Now, thanks to you I've had an even better Saturday. Enjoyed it.

  13. We hope the kittie's ear feels better soon. That last picture is just magnificent, KB!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  14. It was interesting to see the different animals in your world, and to think about the impact scientific research has on the animals. Thanks for sharing.

  15. You capture nature so beautifully and in so much detail.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  16. I always wonder about transmitters and all that junk they put on wildlife. It seems it would be better to just leave them alone. Maybe they could gather data through observation instead. Like your cameras.

  17. Do you have a contact for the folks doing the study? Maybe you could send them your photos and your concerns.

  18. Fantastic Pictures of the lion. Its very exciting. The tags must be there if they are in a research Project.
    THe last Picture of the duo is awsome!
    Hugs from us in Sweden!

  19. I can appreciate why scientists tag animals to track them, but there are ways to tag that are FAR less obtrusive than the antenna this poor kitten had on his ear. I hope he didn't do himself damage removing it, but it appears that it still bothers him months later. That's just wrong.

    I really hope the folks who are doing this mountain lion study see your photos and realize how intrusive they're being on the animals they're trying to learn about. And that they then go back to the drawing board and figure out a better place to put an antenna if they feel they must have one!

  20. Great shots of the mountain lions.

  21. Have you ever run into a mountain lion?

  22. Such beuty you captured!
    Maybe the cougar is scratching her ear,

  23. Love the elk photos! That last photo of Shyla and R is stunning! Regarding the mountain lion kitten, it breaks my heart every time you post about this pair. Studies that harm or interfere with the natural behaviors of the study subjects are just wrong! IMHO, the end does NOT justify the means.

    Susan and Wrigs

  24. It's really too bad that here it is, 2013 and they haven't come up with something to track animals that isn't so bulky and isn't such a burden to the wild animals these researchers are supposedly helping.

    Beautiful pics as always!


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