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.