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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Big Mama and the runt

Before checking the cams today I took a circuitous route to look for nest cavities of owls. I crossed three steep drainages into new territory, made a new "puma set" with the Furfindr, GPS'd the location, did a little trail maintenance with the chain saw, and followed the tributary down to its confluence with the other two. There I found myself in terra cognita. I climbed the slope to a deer trail and in a few minutes found myself at the familiar "patch cam", the camera trap aimed at the scent patch.

I wasn't expecting anything new, so I checked the data first and found that 32 images were taken during the past two weeks. I clicked through the pictures . . . robins, woodrat, squirrel, spotted and striped skunks, deer, and WOW -- a puma perfectly centered in the frame!

The cat showed up with its cub four days ago (January 19) and visited the site three times that night.

The castoreum and catnip held their interest long enough to get 15 photos between 6:40 and 11:28PM. Here she is rubbing the patch.

Until now I have gotten photos of only one svelte female puma, on two occasions accompanied by a large cub. I haven't encountered her since last summer. The female you see here is different. She's a big mama and she lacks the svelte female's notched ear.

The cub is a runt, definitely smaller than that of the svelte female last year. At this latitude pumas breed year round, so it could have been born later in the season.

All the same, Big Mama looks well fed, and her cub looks bony. Look at the hip bones from this rear angle. Makes you wonder if the kid has worms, or if its mother shares her kills.

Last week a starving immature puma was caught in Bidwell Park about 16 miles down the canyon from here.


Neil said...

Amazing shots!

A Local Naturalist said...

Well that is stunning. I was thrilled by an earlier Spotted Skunk photo (and the one of your buddy on his moped), but wow.

Thanks for all the work it takes to get these startling shots.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This is so exciting to see. Thank you for sharing these amazing photos. Did you hear that "they" shot a mountion lion in Los Gatos a few days ago? It was in a backyard. "They" said it isn't reliable enough to dart them. It makes me wonder: How is it with all the technology we humans have come up with, we don't have a reliable darting method or drug for animals and must kill them instead? Pretty sad.

Owlman said...

There are reliable dart guns and drugs which are capable of knocking down a puma. However there are few people involved with animal control problems that have the expertise or training required to do it safely.

Camera Trap Codger said...

I just read the articles about the young puma shot in Los Gatos. Haven't found follow-up information about body condition and wounds. Dispersing (transient) pumas can get into fights with resident adults. They settle where they don't get beat-up. Maybe this was the situation -- a young cat trying to avoid trouble with bigger resident cats. F&G took the expeditious route. If the cat kills a person, there's a big brouhahah with some crying for hunting seasons and eradication, and others mourning the cat.

Back to the photos. All I can say is its always a thrill to get mountain lion pictures.