Thursday, July 12, 2007
Unexpected lady with a scar
Sometimes you get "species y", when you are targeting "species x".
I haven't seen a ringtail since the winter, but when I found this outcrop on a very steep slope I heard a voice saying, "Bassariscus astutus . . . Bassariscus astutus" (That's the scientific name for the ringtail). It's that time of year when little ringtails should be accompanying their moms, just like spotted skunklets. That's what I was hoping for.
Even though I used castoreum and cooked egg yolk, the ringtails didn't show, but there were plenty of shots of wood rats, deer mice, Steller jays and spotted skunks. And I got two pictures of this puma. She came on July 4th at 8:03 AM.
The camera was too close for a full length body shot, but this is the sharpest puma shot I have taken. You can count her whiskers.
What? You say you can't count her whiskers? Well, tell me this. Do you see a dark marking on the inside of the hind leg, just below the belly? I think it's a battle scar, a scrape that is almost healed. If I am right, my next guess is that it was inflicted by a struggling black-tailed deer.
Okay, I can hear the comments ("Where does he comes up with that crap?")
Well, let me ask you this. Have you ever tried to wrestle an adult deer to the ground?
My colleague Jim Dietz and I used to take turns wrestling white-tailed deer caught in a clover trap. This wasn't for recreation or exercise. We were capturing, marking and releasing deer so we could estimate population size.
We didn't have a collapsible clover trap that allowed us to topple the deer. Ours had a rigid frame, so we had to go into the trap WITH the deer.
This required the psychological preparation and concentration that you see in bronco riders before the gate swings open.
You pull your cap down to your ears, punch yourself, and blink hard. Then you take a deep breath ("the signal"), and your buddy pulls the door up so you can dive into the trap and get beat up.
The proper technique was to kind of mount the deer very quickly and bear down with your weight, so it collapsed beneath you with its hind legs extended. Then your buddy joined you, and threw a bag over the deer's head, which had a calming effect. We restrained them only briefly to take a few measurements. Then we pulled an identification collar over their necks. and released them. It was over.
The mental preparation didn't seem to make much difference, because the bedlam in the trap was in high-speed animation. You never forget the piston-power of those hindlegs. They tear your jeans, hoof-strafe your body, and kick the snot out of you. Though we were relatively young, neither of us ever cried, "Crikey mate! I wish I could do THAT again!"
With practice the puma dispatches the black-tailed deer and only gets a little roughed up. But every now and then it probably takes a hoof to the body, and that's what I think happened to this lady cat.