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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mountain Lions

Due to a tragedy, talk of mountain lions is reaching a feverish pitch in our neck of the woods. Two family dogs were out in a fenced yard, and one was killed by a mountain lion just 30' from the house within the confines of the fenced area. When the owner came outside, the lion was "caching" the dog's body (covering it with snow or debris to hide it), and the other dog was going berserk close to the lion. The owner heroically saved his second dog, thank goodness. However, it's terrible that even one dog was lost.

Rumor has it that a mountain lion has been killed to prevent any more tragedies. According to the rumor, the lion who killed the dog was wearing a GPS collar, making it possible for the lion to be killed relatively quickly after the tragedy. It is possible that this one mountain lion was solely responsible for the flurry of reports of dogs being attacked by mountain lions. In past similar situations, killing one lion has stopped the attacks.

I am more aware of mountain lions than your average resident. My trail cameras capture mountain lions living like they're supposed to rather than sneaking up close to houses. I captured this pair of photos a few months ago far from any houses. First, a hulking bull elk passed a trail camera.
Then, a mountain lion passed, following in the elk's tracks, just 90 minutes later. I suspected that the lion was following the elk's scent. The mountain lion looks small compared to the elk, doesn't he? Yet, he's an adult lion, fully capable of killing an elk.
Mountain lions hunt by sneaking up on their prey and then pouncing on the oblivious animal. That's why they can kill animals so much bigger than themselves.

Indeed, just last week, a mountain lion killed a young bull elk, with just "spike" antlers, in our neck of the woods. I didn't find the elk carcass until a mountain lion's favorite parts had been devoured so the he had probably abandoned it.

If you've never seen it, a few years ago, I captured footage of a mountain lion at his cache of a deer carcass. You can watch Part 1 and Part 2, if you have never seen them.

I pointed a trail camera at the carcass that I found this week. When I checked it the next day, I found that coyotes fed on the remaining meat and bones all night long. For most of the night, four coyotes surrounded the carcass.
Then, after the coyotes departed in the morning, the ravens arrived, filling their bellies with bits of the carcass (my camera is still monitoring it now to find out who else visits). Based on my past observations, I know that nothing goes to waste when a top predator kills a deer or elk, and many other animals benefit from it. In the past, I've caught photos of other birds (like magpies and jays), foxes, bobcats, and even rodents on the remains of a mountain lion kill.

Because almost all mountain lions stick to their natural prey - deer and elk - we can feel relatively confident that they'll leave us alone while we hike, bike, and play in the forest. There's a good chance that they secretly watch us sometimes, but they let us pass peaceably.

Every now and then, a mountain lion develops a taste for domestic animals, like alpacas, llamas, miniature horses, ponies, and dogs. The attacks end either for seemingly no reason or after a mountain lion caught in an attack is killed.

Tonight, out on our trails, a big storm is starting. The snow was falling as the Duo and I took our evening hike. As we hiked, I was wondering how the wild animals, including the mountain lions, would fare in the storm. I think the Duo was simply wondering if I'd let them play in the beautiful fluffy snowflakes.
I wonder if any feline eyes were on us as we watched the snow fall?
P.S. I just learned that the rumor about officials killing a mountain lion was wrong. In fact, our wildlife officials say that one mountain lion killed another lion in the area where the above-mentioned dog died. Moreover, I learned that a second dog was killed by a lion, within a half mile of the first, a few days ago.


  1. Its very sad about the dog that was killed and the other tramatized from seeing its mate killed. But its also sad that humans have taken land from these wild animals who lived their first.
    Your wisdom is part of your life,,, and you need that wisdom to survive. I imagine you are all watched at some time or other.
    Enjoy the snow dance,, tonight.

  2. I agree with Tweedles - while the death of the dog is sad, killing the lion is equally sad. Nature isn't kind sometimes. We hope that the problem will be solved now.

    Stay safe and warm!

  3. sad for the dog and the lion….and the family…great pictures!

  4. I'm going to have to stop reading your posts in the evenings. They are so filled with excitement that they set my brain into high gear. So sad the lion killed the dog and so sad the lion had to be killed. I hope you are right and this is the only lion guilty of attacking the fenced animals. The photograph of the coyotes is outstanding.

  5. So sad, and frightening for the family, and the other dog.I feel for them all. Love that last photo, it tells a story of wisdom and wise sense as they look out together. Stay safe on your trails, greetings from Jean

  6. Wow, amazing photos. In our neck of the woods, coyotes sometimes get pet cats, and bears get dogs, but thankfully the incidents are relatively rare.

  7. Sometimes it can be hard to see nature as it evolves. We are so sorry for the dog's family.

    Your Pal
    Murphy & Stanley

  8. Amazing photo of the Coyotes! I have understood that in a wild kill, every morsel gets eaten by some critter and that is a good thing. But to think of a dog being attacked and killed brings tears!

    I loved the picture of the duo watching the storm coming!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  9. Wow. Great post - the photos are thrilling (guess I changed my mind, huh. Well, sort of. The photos of the lions themselves I still find underwhelming compared to the other stuff, like when you show the prey and I make the connection!) and the facts about the forest interesting. It would be so amazing to see the whole food chain eating a carcass.
    Oh, and great Duo photo too! You are probably right about what they are thinking. ;)

  10. You do a masterful job of illustrating the connections of all the players in the ecosystem. There are many benefits to large predators for a healthy environment. But we also are part of the habitat, making our own impact on the community. I hope the mountain lions stay wild and stay out of trouble.
    Loved the shot of the coyotes!

  11. Sad story. Poor dog. We hope that the death of one Mountain Lion will solve the problem.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  12. Sad for all, and hoping for no further deaths of domestic animals or lions.

  13. Animals in the wild have to eat too but we are sad to hear about the dog.
    We love that last shot!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  14. Rumor has it a lion was killed? Any more info on that?

  15. Great pictures. That Elk looks huge.

  16. Oh very sad. I am always amazed that folks think fencing will keep them out. That poor dog.

    Monty and Harlow

  17. i am sorry the mountain lion had to be killed, but certainly understand why it was. and glad they could identify it easily, too. i liked your explanation of what happens to the rest of the carcass after a big kill and the cat eats its fill. great way nature provides all the way down the line.

  18. Sometimes nature is rather brutal in its wild beauty. I guess I'd say, I'd rather see one lion killed that they were certain about with the GPS collar than see a lot lions killed by people as a just in case scenario. Stay warm during your storm!

  19. That's too bad about the dog. But, I have to side with nature on these issues. The animals were there first. People build homes in their territory and then are shocked when stuff like that happens. And a beautiful lion gets killed for it.

  20. Rob and others: I just learned that the rumor about officials killing a mountain lion was wrong. In fact, our wildlife officials say that one mountain lion killed another lion in the area where the above-mentioned dog died. Moreover, I learned that a second dog was killed by a lion, within a half mile of the first, a few days ago.

  21. Yikes, scary when they approach in the confines of a yard. On the other hand, I don't think I would trust leaving my pups unattended in a yard

  22. This is tragic, both for the dog owners and the mountain lions. I hate to see wild animals being punished for being hungry, especially when Mother Nature has not been gracious in doling out diet-nurturing conditions. Many bears suffer in our neck of the woods when we have drought, then they raid yards because they are close by and because there's food.

    My neighbors have two tiny little dogs, and they never let the dogs out unsupervised. If I had pets, I think I'd be the same way. I try to live in peace with the wildlife I so adore.

  23. It's a shame about dogs being killed by lions, and yet it's not the lion's fault -- it's the humans who leave their pets out unsupervised! I know several people who have pets and live in areas where wildlife is known for killing small animals, and they all know better than to let their pets stay outside without a human around to make sure everything's okay. I'm glad the rumor about the lion being killed for killing the dog was just that, a rumor -- if one lion kills another, that's nature's business and I certainly can't object.

    And I love your followup on the elk carcass -- seeing how many other animals benefit from a top predator kill is why it's so important to have a healthy population of top predators. The more man messes with nature, the more harm we do; the best thing we can do is what you do, leave them alone and only observe them unobtrusively!

  24. You have the problems with lion taking our loved ones we have it from wolves. We wanted to hunt some but the nature department said no. So now its complained and taken up again.
    Many of our dogs, hunting dogs and pet dogs have been taken of wolves.

    Link to statistic, be careful some Pictures

  25. I hope everyone is keeping their dogs inside or on leashes to protect them.

  26. It is very interesting to look at all the creatures in your trail cams...but my most favorite is the last one!! I feel so awful for that family...both families who have lost their family pets.

  27. Hi Y'all,

    Oh how sad the dog was killed. It behooves one to stay outside with their dogs. It isn't just wildlife that endanger a dogs life, but other humans have been known to steal or poison unattended pets.

    Unfortunately as humans encroach on territory wildlife inhabit and limits are placed on hunting, wildlife populations increase. In Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, where once a deer sighting was cause for news, bear sightings made the news about a decade ago.

    Y'all stay safe,
    Hawk aka BrownDog


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