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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.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Puma invasion

All I can say is, "this is getting crazy". Who wudda thunk you could get two photo sessions with pumas in the same month? Within 250 yards of your house?

So yes, when I viewed the pictures in the ravine this morning -- and found four images of a mountain lion -- well, the endorphins kicked in.

But let me give you the background. Last week on this day I smeared a dab of castoreum (beaver scent) into the moss, and then crushed a fresh sprig of cat mint into it. Five days passed, and the mice danced nightly for the camera (23 of 35 frames--yawn). Yesterday at 4:16PM the puma found the lure.

Her visit was brief. Twenty-six seconds later the camera snapped the last picture as she descended the leaning trunk.

When I got home (sweating like a little pig) my wife was gardening. "Four more pictures of a mountain lion." I announced casually. (That got her attention).

"What?" she said, as she stood up and turned to me.

"Just another four pictures of mountain lion", I repeated with a touch of ho-hum boredom. "Yeah, she climbed the tree to get at the cat mint."

[A little background -- earlier in the week, after I groused that we had the wrong kind of cat mint for camera trapping, my dear wife went to the nursery and bought me a pot of "catNIP mint" (Nepeta cataria). We have a couple patches of the less-effective "catmint" (Nepeta musinii) in the garden.]

"Well, I'm having second thoughts about that mint growing around here."

She explained at lunch that she didn't want mountain lions rolling around in catmint around the house. I tried reasoning with her--"I mean what's worse, a little crushed catmint? Or a bear that uses the hot tub?"

Now for photo analysis. My initial take on the photos was: "Damn, the camera was too close and too low." (I moved it away from the tree for the next episode.) At home, viewing the puma pictures on screen, I noticed that though she was a bit modest, she revealed enough to inform us of her sex. And in one shot I detect a wee bit of paunch -- indicating the wear and tear of motherhood. Then I noticed the divit missing from the left ear. I checked my photo of the statuesque puma that posed last December, but couldn't really see a notch in her ear. (If you want to see previous pictures go to the index and follow the puma thread.) Conclusion: we have here a primiparous puma (i.e., she's given birth once already) with a distinguishing mark (a notched ear).

I am not turning up my nose to pumas, but now I have more pictures of them than bobcats. Are the big cats preying on the smaller ones?

Predators are known to do that, you know. Well, when we have enough catnip mint growing around the place, I can do an intensive survey.


Anonymous said...

Have You Made Out You Will??

Camera Trap Codger said...

Not lately. Do you think I should? I mean, like. . .I wear camo! Aren't I protected in camo? LOL, LOL

Jace Stansbury said...

Wow.....I never thought of using catnip as an attractant and I own a cat! I'll definitely be trying this out on the local bobcats to see if I get their attention.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Good luck, Jace. I'll be able to report soon if it works on bobcats here. I have three camera sets at the moment with castoreum and catmint lures.

Anonymous said...

The photo


has a partially-transparent foot!??