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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.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Cougar on a Kill


Last year, a week before Christmas I stumbled into a black-tailed buck's carcass on a deer trail below the house. It caught me completely off guard. My plan that afternoon was to set a camera at a wood rat's nest. That idea was now null and void. This was a rare opportunity to camera trap a cougar on its kill. 

The carcass was fresh. The kill had probably taken place at dawn, giving the cat enough time to pluck the rib cage, and snack on the haunch and foreleg. The light of day and sounds of the awakening community nearby probably curtailed the meal.  

I prepared a sapling of bay laurel to stake the camera while Fred sniffed around the carcass. I was plagued with all kinds of "what if's". Like what if it drags the carcass away? (You're out of luck) What if it feeds with its back to the camera?  (You're out of luck again) What if it doesn't  come back? (Then you're really out of luck).

With the camera staked next to the deer trail, I lashed the LED to a stout manzanita near by. The camera's walk test showed that the flood light was working. The sun was setting. I didn't want to give kitty a surprise. So we packed and headed up the hill to home.

Here's what the camera recorded.


A Cougar on its Kill from Chris Wemmer on Vimeo.


See a higher definition version  here

10 comments:

john said...

What a golden opportunity. Fascinating video.

Woody Meristem said...

Great catch; the subject makes up for the lighting. Thanks for posting the video Chris.

Carl said...

Way Cool...

PBurns said...

Love this! Miss your blog posts which are always THE BEST!

Rick said...

Thanks for sharing this with us.

JK said...

That LED light doesn't seem to bother it much at all. Excited to see more videos with this rig.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks folks -- no, the light did not seem to attract much notice from the cat, unlike the bears which come around and check them out.

Chas Clifton said...

Glad to see you blogging again, and kitties are always interesting to watch!

KB Bear said...

I got a similar opportunity on almost exactly the same date (a cow elk was killed by a mountain lion near my house). Most of our bears were in hibernation. Do you know if it's common that a bear can take control of a carcass from a cougar? I'm surprised by that.

Camera Trap Codger said...

KB Bear -- I have read that some mountain lions take one large meal and move on, which leaves the carcass for scavengers. Both the lion and bear seemed uneasy or perhaps just highly vigilant. I'd say that a large male black bear can be a formidable adversary of a mountain lion, esp a smaller female lion.