We have no shortage of lions on our 2000 acres. This and another of the photos were taken with trail cameras placed nearly two miles apart. This is typical.
Archive for the ‘Mountain lions’ Category
This is about as undeniable as a mountain lion gets. My guess is that the track was made in the evening, the day before I found it. The ground was frozen solid when I snapped this photo with my Iphone. An hour later, the morning sun had melted the frozen ground. In just an hour’s time, the track had become disfigured by the water.
Originally I wouldn’t have thought the track was so fresh, but after seeing how the water degraded the track, I was convinced that it was not very old.
When an animal makes a track in mud, the track deepens and enlarges. This is likely a mature mountain lion of average size. My Swiss Army knife is exactly 3 1/2 inches long.
I spotted this track along Arroyo Del Valle near the Del Valle Reservoir dam, just off the hiking trail. This is an area frequented by mountain lions.
Never seen a mountain lion along this trail, but there are other signs of their activity. Last year I found a carcass near the location of the above track. It appeared to be a lion-killed deer carcass.
My dog often sniffs out deer leg bones along the trail and rib bones litter the brush along the creek. Although deer are seldom visible, they can be spotted when disturbed while walking in the brush along the creek where they hide during the day. This is where I occasionally search for Pro V1 golf balls.
Mountain lions are an essential element of California ecosystems. Unfortunately they are not currently managed in any form. Although the most important cougar prey species, blacktail and mule deer, are managed, a failure to manage the main species that eats deer makes deer management less predictable.
Other states have progressive, scientific methods of managing wildlife and consider mountain lions a game animal that is hunted with quotas to make sure numbers of deer, deer hunters and lions is balanced. California is out of touch.
Congratulations to Dan Richards, pictured above with his Idaho mountain lion – which appears to be a huge tom.
Came upon a mountain lion track while hiking near Del Valle Reservoir last week. It had been raining and the ground was nearly saturated, good conditions for seeing tracks.
I was looking at a variety of tracks when I came upon a set of mountain lions prints. I photographed one the clearest tracks with my iPhone camera. Here it is.
The heel pad of a lion appears larger than a coyote or other canine.
Here’s a good example of a coyote track.
The mature coyote track is smaller than the mature lion track. Large domestic dogs often leave tracks as large as lion tracks and sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. In the case of this lion, I would give the ID a high degree of confidence.
This is not a large lion or a small one either. The ground is soft, which is why the track shows at all. On hard ground one seldom spots lion tracks. This lion track was found on a road that also held many deer tracks. Where there are deer, lions will follow.
The pace of work changes when you spend a couple days in the hills. It’s really hard to get in a hurry and there are many distractions. The main event- mending fence. The sub plots – turkeys, wildflowers and other photo ops.
(Click photos to enlarge.)
When you’re working on a project that looks overwhelming, it pays to not get in a hurry – so we didn’t.
The starting point for the fence project was at the top of a very steep drop off into a spot we had to exit the same way we went in. In other words what you carry down, you also carry up unless it’s fence material. A few hours per day is all we could handle on a project like this. A couple hours of hanging on to the side of a cliff while working is enough.
In the mean time distractions were all around us. On the way in I came across a group of four old gobblers that have been a making a living eating grain from horse feed.
Wild flowers were blooming. Johnny-jump-ups, shooting stars and butter cups were everywhere. The yellow and white flowers seem to bloom early while the blue flowers like lupins seem to bloom later on. There’s likely a reason, but I don’t know what it is.
The plant, which most locals call johnny-jump-ups, is also known as wild pansy or yellow pansy. The scientific name is viola pedunculata. It is a host plant for the Callippe Silverspot Butterfly, which is endangered. http://essig.berkeley.edu/endins/callippe.htm
Other early favorites include the shooting star (“mosquito bills” variety). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodecatheon_hendersonii
While checking the spillway on one of our dams, I found a fresh mountain lion scat. The scat, about the size of my labs scat tends to be clay-like and greenish is color when it’s fresh – and if really fresh, extremely stinky.
We also found a few stinkbells in bloom, but they seemed to be a little past their prime.
The scientific name for the stinkbell is fritillaria agrestis.
The scientific name for the buttercup is ranunculus californicus.
With some fence progress and obligations at home, I departed while Rob and Terry continued to work on the fence. On the way home I came upon more turkeys. This time two gobblers were hanging out with three hens. Looks like nesting time is about here, but they were not very active.
It’s a little early in the nesting season and the turkeys were not in full breeding mode. The gobblers were more interested in eating than strutting for the hens.
Last spring I came across a nice buck while turkey hunting. Although his antlers were undeveloped, the size of the base of his antlers indicated that he’d be a shooter. I looked for him during the rifle season last summer and didn’t find him.
Rob found him a couple weeks ago.
Unfortunately a lion found him first. (click to enlarge photo.)
It’s tough to grow bucks to a ripe old age when the lion density is high. And, that’s what ours is, very high. This buck must have met his demise about the start of the new year. His antlers had many things in common with the other set of antlers in the photo, which belonged to a different lion-killed buck. (See “The Lion and the Buck.”).
Both are larger than average for mature bucks on our property. Both are not quite at the point of being old – they’re maybe three and a half. Both have four points on at least one side and their dimensions are nearly identical. Both were killed by mountain lions. We would like to grow older bucks, but they just don’t live to a very old age in mountain lion country.
Mountain lions are fully protected in California, a status shared by only a few other species.
Spent Friday night and Saturday morning at the ranch. It was hot and the deer didn’t seem very active, but I was distracted watching poachers and wondering if they were heading our way.
Decided to make a brief still hunt and came upon a fairly fresh set of deer bones. Another mountain lion kill.
No deer photos on the trail camera. Wondering why. Got some good photos of juvenile red legged frogs.
Fired my .300 WSM and got it sighted in perfect for the upcoming D6 trip.
When you think you have control over a population of animals on your property, you’re heading for disappointment. Nature is designed to end surplus and if you don’t step in when a surplus is available, something else will.
We found this out a few years ago when we had a rather unusal buck on our property. He was so unusual that we named him the high-horn buck. High-horn, lasted a few years and when we finally decided he was about large enough to shoot, he dissapeared. We believe he wandered onto the neighboring property, or maybe somebody decided to poach him. We’ll never know for sure.
Last summer we had two nice bucks hanging around and we could probably killed the largest of the two if we chose to, but we elected to pass and now the two bucks are just one. The largest has vanished and we believe a lion got him. Our deer numbers are down significantly – just when we thought we had a bunch of deer, numbers have dwindled.
When a lion is working the area deer become less visible. Some have been killed, other have moved to nearby neighborhoods and the remaining deer are quite reclusive and nervous.
Now that the second large buck is living alone, he may be vulnerable to a lion attack like his buddy. He’s a nice buck, but there’s nothing about him to entice us to shoot him this early in the season. We may have regrets before the season is out.
As we walked the perimeter of one of our ponds, photographing frogs and salamanders, we came upon the bones of a small buck Rob had seen at the pond a couple weeks ago.
It’s just a fact that you can’t stockpile deer, especially when (in California) you have no legal way to manage lions to increase deer numbers.
Posted in animal tracks, Archery hunting, black bears, blacktail deer, Deer hunting, horse pack trip, hunting public areas, Mountain lions, mule deer, tagged Hunting with Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, Pack in deer hunt on August 22, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Fernando was one of our two packers.
This Cooper’s hawk landed about fifty yards away while Wes and I alternated glassing and nodding. Shortly thereafter, a cinnamon colored bear walked up to within 20 yards of us before attempting to leap out of his hide.
On the second day of hunting, this three point buck appeared in the willows below us. We’d seen him on day one as well.
Then we saw him again on day three, but at about 150 yards. Apparently he’d seen us as well.
His partner was a four-point buck (in the lead), but was more camera shy. Like many bucks, he was better at keeping his head down. As you can see fairly well, this buck has blacktail characteristics.
We have noted that some deer in this area look like blacktails and others more like mule deer. There is a species called the California mule deer and these deer would most likely fall into that taxonomy.
According to biologists I’ve discussed this with, the California mule deer is not a cross between blacktails and mule deer, it is a species that evolved in this habitat. Could be.
We saw these bucks every day of the hunt.
The most prevalent creature on the ridge was the Clark’s nutcracker. While watching one of these birds from about 20 feet away through his binoculars, Rob observed one of them regurgitating pine nuts and storing them in a slot in a pine tree.
After a few hours of watching deer in the morning, a three-point buck with a nice spread bedded in these willows. Wes decided to sit on him and see if he’d make a mistake.
There his is. Wes sat next to that large rock for several hours waiting for the buck to show himself, but he didn’t.
One exciting moment occurred on the last hunt day when Wes jumped a mountain lion that took off at full speed until reaching a place to hide behind a large rock.