Wild Photos! cougars acting like a pride of lions

This is rather offbeat, but it does fit in with the “nature” and “puzzling things” portion of WUWT as indicated in the masthead.

These photos were emailed to me by the former Butte County Sheriff, Mick Grey, whom I have coffee with regularly. He’s had to deal with more than a few mountain lions in his career, and he’s never seen anything like this. Neither have I.

Bushnell IR Trail Cam

A woman who lives about 2-3 miles from Lake Oroville (about 25 miles southeast of my location) sent these pictures which were taken just 1 mile from Forbestown. A cow was found killed and the infrared trail cam (seen at left) was put in place to see what was preying on it.

[Correction: It seems both the Sheriff and I have been snookered by the person who emailed him. These photos are from Moses Coulee in central Washington. Thanks to WUWT reader Mark A. Story here:

http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2011/feb/18/cougar-pride-wenatchee-hunter-catches-eight-big/

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014261221_cougars18m.html

My apologies to readers, however, the photos below are legit and still worth a look.]

You can count up to eight cats in one of the pictures. Who’d ever heard of eight cougars at a kill site? They’re starting to act more like a pride of lions than the solitary cougars they normally are.

Pictures follow. Here kitty kitty.

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120 thoughts on “Wild Photos! cougars acting like a pride of lions

  1. Amazing. With current regulations I assume the cougar population is at historic highs there, as in many other areas. But to have that many scavenging a carcass suggests that the supply of deer is declining or other wise unavailable there.

    In any case, this many cougars is plenty for livestock raisers to worry about, particularly if their natural prey is scarce. One got a horse, two llamas, a calf and a dog near our place last year.

    Oh, wait. Silly me. That unusual concentration of cougars must have been caused by AGW. Probably climate refugees or something. They must be going extinct. And they are probably the rare Lake Oroville Cougar, thus requiring a new task force to be established to save them. Like the Sacramento Valley Fox.

  2. I think? it’s obvious she is feeding them, they didn’t drag the cow down in front of the camera.
    Lots of cats though, wow.

    REPLY: As I understand it the cow was killed, they noted it and put out the cam, this is the second night when the cats came back for the spoils. Even eight cats couldn’t drag away a cow, even if they cooperated. – A

  3. A neighbor of mine in Golden, Colorado caught a photo of 5 mountain lions all laying down on a rocky slope at different heights in his back yard. It was scene that might have been filmed in Africa.

  4. it is amazing to realize, that a 150 pound animal can take down a 1000 pound horse! just happened recently in Maple Ridge, just north of Vancouver. I understand they do it by waiting in a tree, and pouncing on the prey’s neck.

  5. Same pictures were in the news up in Washington about 5 days ago. Seems these cougar photos are likely from near Moses Coulee in central Washington on 23 Dec 2010:

    http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2011/feb/18/cougar-pride-wenatchee-hunter-catches-eight-big/

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014261221_cougars18m.html

    REPLY: Well great, I guess the Sheriff and I have been had. It happens. That’s the value of having so many eyes on this blog. Anything that is in error gets pointed out right away. I’ll make a correction. My apologies to readers. – Anthony

  6. We’ve had several cougar sightings within the city limits of Palo Alto over the last 10-15 years. In 2004, one of them was shot from a tree in a neighborhood of central PA, a 100 meters or so from a school. There was the predictable outcry about killing a magnificent animal. I don’t recall any public outcry about endangered children, though.

    Apparently, in 2008, another cougar attacked a man walking in Foothills Park, in the well-forested hills above Palo Alto. The man had a lucky escape.

    It looks to me like the population has reached a ‘tipping point.’ That is, the cougar population has gotten high enough that there’s no longer enough open space left for individual territories. So, they’re forming prides to be more economical with space and kills.

    I’d guess this is a survival strategy from times past when prey populations got too low. We’ve moderns have just never seen it.

    On the other hand, maybe it’s time to lift the state ban on hunting mountain lions.

  7. “Here kitty kitty”

    O.T. comment, apologise:

    I think Steven H. say that to NASA, blasting “messages” to aliens.
    We are in a jungle (Galaxy) and scream: “Here kitty kitty …”

  8. Interesting pictures. However, being from Northern California, it’s a well known fact that the increased sightings of cougars, as well as a plethora of cow deaths recently, is due to man made climate change. Sarc?

  9. This is most interesting. I suspect the pride like activity has something to do with habitat restrictions and concentrations of food sources, i.e. farms; combined with lack of or limited hunting pressures on them.

  10. REPLY: As I understand it the cow was killed, they noted it and put out the cam, this is the second night when the cats came back for the spoils. Even eight cats couldn’t drag away a cow, even if they cooperated. – A
    =====
    OK, now I get it, thanks for the reply.
    Nothing like predatory cats in the grass to awaken the senses!

  11. Wow, that is amazing! Mountain lions are very solitary animals (normally). If they start acting together, that would be bad news.

  12. Is this pride behavior “unprecedented”? Is there proof that in the past cougars never formed prides?

    A few yrears back when the Lorenz paradigm was rejected in biology, and biologists went back and rechecked their field notes they were surprised to discover a whole bunch of self censorship of OBVIOUS behavioral facts they had overlooked inorder to match the current meme of non aggression.

  13. Anthony.
    This is fantastic group of pictures.
    It’s well known that Cougars are solitary creatures, So this gathering is obliviously caused by to much CO2 in the mountain air, sort of like popping the GLOBAL WARMING cork!
    Just one more to add to the AGW list.

  14. Obviously, this would never happen without the pernicious inflewence of AAAGGGWW.

    (They used to eat granola.)

  15. Well, this is good practice for April Fools day, just over a month away.
    Your’e not going to fool me this year Anthony. :-)
    (Your April Fools 2010 article seemed so plausible up till about 95 percent into it).

  16. National Geographic had a special on recently about the first confirmed coyote kill of an adult human….in Atlantic Canada recently

    The mother of the daughter killed was like “I just want to protect wildlife.”

    Yet the proliferation of coyotes and their lack of fear of homo sapiens may have contributed to her daughter’s death (and her daughter was an artist….a nationally recognized folksinger who was just taking a hike in a national park.

    Insanity…on behalf of her mom.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  17. We’ve got cats all over the place in Wallowa County. My older sister insists that I “carry” when I go fishing. She’s probably right. I’m no bigger than a mid-morning snack, just to tied them over till something bigger comes along. But look, there is only so much a belt can carry. And it’s not like they make fishing stuff in mini-me sizes. I take my fishing seriously. If it comes down to the worms or the .357, the worms will win. Are cougars attracted to anise/peanutbutter/krill scent?

  18. That is a beautiful sight. Not real comforting for a jogger or bicycle rider, but sitting here in my freezing Seattle winter wonderland, beautiful. Unless you’ve seen a full grown and healthy cougar in their world you cannot imagine the majesty and terror at once that you sense when in the presence these animals. Here in Washington I don’t fear bears but I do fear and respect cougars. They are very quiet when they’re working.

  19. Pamela, I know you spell your last name with an “a” but do we start calling you “Pamela Grey Poupon” in your snack context? ;-)

  20. Gary Mount says: February 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    “Well, this is good practice for April Fools day, just over a month away.”

    Haven’t you heard? Due to budget cuts its been cancelled!

  21. Sorry for what follows – best say up front!

    I was just thinking about animal behaviour and the marking of territory. And suddenly realised that posting these messages on the forum may be related to that animal territory marking behaviour.

    It is true we see very similar behaviour with marking of graffiti in towns.

    Which may explain the “realclimate” behaviour. They are just showing typical instinctive behaviour when they “smell” another tribe coming onto their territory and so must immediately act to remove the smell by peeing all over it?

  22. Something similar seems to be happening with coyotes.

    Growing up in Saskatchewan, I was somewhat familiar with the behavior of coyotes. Until I was in my early twenties, I had seen coyotes in the wild only once. They were smart and shy of humans.

    More recently, I have heard stories of coyotes in Ontario. They seem pretty brazen and come right into farm yards. They don’t act at all like the ones out west who give human habitation a wide berth. (They’re still plenty smart though.) I have also heard that they are inter-breeding with wolves.

    Critters are smarter than we give them credit for and will adapt to a changing environment.

  23. DeNihilist says:
    February 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm
    it is amazing to realize, that a 150 pound animal can take down a 1000 pound horse!
    ————————
    Much like CO2, in the parts per MILLION, can take down planet earth and every Living being on it. Think about that.

  24. Rather large kitty kats right? kitty kats can have large litters. It may not be unsual for cougars to have the odd large litter. Just because we’ve never observed large litters before doesn’t mean it don’t exist.
    May even be a couple of generations of mamma and the kids.

    Or maybe it was the X class flare frigging with the kitties minds lol

  25. I see a lot of mountain lion tracks where I hike off trail. The damn things make me nervous.

    I usually have a gun, knife, spear or whatever with me – but that won’t do much good if they ambush you.

  26. Nik says:
    February 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I agree with Nik. Rather like the recent “discovery” of tigers living above a particular altitude, was it in Brunei? can’t recall right now, but it was “thought/believed” impossible until actually photographed live! (As said before, no body apologised or owned up to being wrong about it). I know folk lore is a powerful thing, just like tales of wolves hunting & killing humans, as I understand it they would only ever do that when really hungry, not as a norm. Is this a scientific self-censorship type of thing where arrogance & presumption takes precedence? Anyway, the photos are stunning & magnificent, these creatures are truly beautiful. We in the PDREU/EUSR have nothing like it, but I would raise the question about conservation in general regarding our declining [sparrow] population & the protection of Sparrow-Hawks……………….”How many sparrows does it take to feed a breeding Sparrow-hawk population?” Over here the poor old farmer gets falsely accused for all those pesticides he sprays indiscriminately (allegedly). The RSPB et al can’t wait to jump on modern farming methods, you know the ones that keep us all fed, whilst the organic farmers can farm at will because it is fashionable. Note I used the word “methods” as opposed to the word “practices”, as used by the anti-moderns, why do they love to use words that can make something sound dirty &/or unsavoury?

  27. There are too many coyotes in South Colorado. They try to steal chickens from our neighbors, and they killed off a dozen or so half-wild cats that lived around our house and protected us from the field mice.

    My son shot one of the coyotes but they rarely show up in the daytime. Usually they come at night, making a lot of noise far away but then sneaking silently very close, right to the front door — and you know about it only because dogs suddenly start barking and nervously running around.

    There is a mountain lion nearby, too. She lives down the creek but keeps away from people and houses. Good strategy, because if it ever comes near, I am not going to apply for license before I shoot it. I am afraid of cougars and bears roaming around. They are smart and ruthless predators, and they will eat you if they can.

  28. P.S. to commieBob:

    Coyotes cannot interbreed with wolves. Coyotes and wolves have different number of chromosome pairs.

    As I mentioned above, when hungry, coyotes don’t give us “a wide berth” at all. They sneak right under our veranda at night, in search for cats and anything else edible. I see them sometimes, when I work at night and come out on veranda to smoke my pipe. They can move without making any sound, and they come in pairs: one flushes the prey (for example, a kitten from under the woodpile), the other stands by and catches it.

    Wolves and dogs have the same number of chromosomes. Which proves that dogs are domesticated wolves.

  29. Pamela Gray says:
    February 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    “My older sister insists that I “carry” when I go fishing. She’s probably right.”

    No “probably” about it.

    “But look, there is only so much a belt can carry.”

    Try a shoulder holster.

    “If it comes down to the worms or the .357, the worms will win.”

    A .357 is a heavy weapon and unless you want to stop a charging bear it’s overkill. It’s too large for small hands too. A lightweight wheel gun I like is a 5-shot .38 Smith & Wesson “Chief’s Special”. Standard model weighs 19 ounces and the airweight model weighs 15.

    http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=202935414#PIC

    It can be safely used with “+P” (high pressure) ammunition for irregular use and standard rounds for frequent use (self-defense vs. target practice). The +P rounds pack almost as much punch as a standard .357 round. The difference is .357 revolvers can handle a lot hotter load than a standard .357 and do it all day long at the practice range. The reason they can do that is they have about twice the amount of steel in their construction and feel like you’re carrying a brick after a short time.

    Are cougars attracted to anise/peanutbutter/krill scent?

  30. @Pamela

    That said (about the handgun) what I’d most recommend is a dog. Most cats will avoid tangling with a large breed dog in the first place and can’t sneak up on them like they can sneak up on you. For personal protection a livestock guard dog (LGD) is a good bet as they were bred over thousands of years for the express purpose of keeping predators and prey separated. LGDs are strong willed independent animals so get a book on training them and follow the instructions to the letter. If you do that you’ll have a loyal obedient able guardian devoted to your safety.

    http://www.lgd.org/

    The Anatolian on the left in the picture with the horse is a dead ringer for one of mine. That particular breed is ancient and dates back as far as 6,000 years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatolian_Shepherd_Dog

    Mine’s gentle as a lamb with small non-threatening animals. One night I found him crying by his water dish outside the back door. There was a big toad soaking in it and he didn’t know what to do about it. I told him the toad was our friend who eats mosquitos for us. From that day on he would sit patiently by his water bowl guarding the toad until it was finished with his nightly soaking. The toad became pretty tame too and would lean his head into my finger to get a cheek rub. It’s amazing how, under the right circumstances, all sorts of different animals can become friends with each other.

  31. I have read of growing numbers of Elk Moose and deer in usa being found with CWD.
    so, if theyre slow and feeble I would have thought cougars etc would be feeding well on them?
    It will also be interesting to see the cougars eating such be tested for catching the CWD themselves as it appears to be able to cross species. Hnters eating rare meat from reporets, inc family members have caught a human variant of it.
    Patricia Doyle, seems to be well informed on it. search her name she has a site

  32. Coyotes and wolves have interbreed. It is why eastern coyotes are larger. They are a hybrid. Coyotes breed with wolves in Michigan/great lakes region and migrated east breeding with the already existing coyote populations in western new York and Pennsylvania.

  33. Mountain biking in the Cleveland National Forest in Orange County, CA has it’s cougar risks as well. I started carrying a small, gasoline-wetted cloth tied to my hydration pack, on the basis that “reliable” sources said that cougars stayed away from the smell. I was thinking that they usually attack from downwind so they might be hesitant to go for something not exactly smelling like goodness.

    Two years later in the canyon on the return potion of my ride, there were two attacks, one fatal. Gives a guy goosebumps.

  34. @ Alex Feht

    You are absolutely incorrect when you state coyotes and wolves cannot interbreed. You would also be incorrect if you assumed the same thing about dogs and coyotes as well. For your reading pleasure:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coywolf

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coydog

    Now, I’ve never seen a Coywolf, but I’ve definitely seen a Coydog. Used to have one running around in the woods behind my house in Indiana.

    One interesting thing about Coyotes, and I suspect that it’s probably the same with cougars, they are naturally solitary animals until small game (rabbits, squirrels, foxes, raccoons, cats, etc…) are in short supply. Then their survival instinct takes over and they pack together. The best indication that coyotes are over-populated is when you start coming along deer kill sites where the carcass has been picked clean in a short amount of time.

  35. Pamela Gray says:
    February 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    We’ve got cats all over the place in Wallowa County. My older sister insists that I “carry” when I go fishing. She’s probably right. … Are cougars attracted to anise/peanutbutter/krill scent?

    Good idea, except that your cougar will likely bite your neck breaking it before you can pull out the gun.

    The official word in New Hampshire used to be that there are no cougars in the state. Then a Fish and Game officer saw one. Now the official word is that the only cougars in NH are escaped/discarded pets! (Hey, I think they stole that line from Nova Scotia.) The general belief is that Fish & Game doesn’t have the money or interest to spend on research, hiker education, farmer compensation, etc.

    At our property at Mt. Cardigan, locals say there are at least two – one tawny and one dark but most sightings are just glimpses of the cat moving away.

    My wife and nephew saw the tawny cat on our property, so she insisted on a small .38 special with laser sight for Christmas. Two part encounter – first on trail looking up at a ledge, second on the ledge looking down at the cat investigating the first siting spot. Me? I generally hike the area with our smallish dog….

    We have a critter cam. I didn’t have a chance last year, but this spring I’ll set it up near a rocky overlook with a canvas bag filled with catnip for bait. I’ll transport the bag in a heavy plastic pouch. Or put it on the dog.

  36. What a sight! Been around cougars off and on since my early twenties and stilll intrigued by them. They are funny about dogs, sometimes one beagle can run them up a tree and other times they will kill and eat a big dog. Down in central california there is a guy named Jeff Davis who used to be and might still be a government cat man, he has many amazing pictures and could tell you much about cat behavior if you can get him to talk. His wife says she thinks he would eat a lion turd if it would make him a better tracker!

  37. My dad and I came across what was probably one of the last few mountain lions in NW Louisiana back in the early ’80′s (I was about 8). We were quail hunting when dad’s pointer locked up and was quivering, which was very odd because this dog believed he was 10′ tall and bulletproof! Dad gave the order to flush, the dog flinched to follow orders, froze again, and then gave Dad a look that said all of, “heck no, what’s in there will eat ME!” Dad moved ahead of the dog to flush what he assumed would be a covey and out of the brush went the lion, thankfully the other way!
    He didn’t shoot, but I still want to believe that had it attacked, that nearly an ounce of lead at 3′ would have had a chance at stopping the cat.

    I still look for big cat tracks in all my time in the woods of NW La. but still haven’t come across anything but ‘yote and bob’ tracks. They did kill one inside Bossier City, and it proved out to be wild and not an escaped pet. Yet, as the prior comment lamented, if they show back up and start threatening…. the cat will suffer the consequences.

  38. That handgun will do you a lot of good when it leaps from a tree and rips your neck out.

    I’m glad however, that we live in a world where wild creatures still exist. Wilderness is much more real when the presence of cougars reminds you that humans aren’t always in control. Hmmm sort of like climate……

  39. Oh, the Bossier City kill was about two years ago. Also, at one of the plants I worked at in East Texas, we had what I would guess at being a young male mtn lion show itself to a employee. The employee wasn’t sure what he’d seen, but after I’d questioned him thoroughly about what the critter looked like, I’m certain he did see a mountain lion. A few days later, another employees sister saw two near Marshall, TX meandering down the road.

    They are repopulating old habitats. I think we’ll probably see mostly young males at first, but the females will start moving east as well. We’ve plenty of wild pig and deer to feed them too.

  40. Just a few comments.
    1. An averaged sized cow will produce around 500- 600 pounds of hamburger. That would feed many people today.
    2.Just the cow at todays prices of $.60 a pound live weight is worth $720 for a 1200 pound cow.
    3. Where is her calf?
    4. The question. Do we want life destroying,food destroying ,people killing animals around or not? I vote for fewer cougars

  41. I walk the same river side trails my grandmother did when she went fishing. There were cougars back then too. She carried a whistle and brought along our big as a pony old black lab with us. That old dog snacked on badgers and had shredded ears to prove it.

    I have not taken my Jake with me because he would grab my fishing pole away and try to catch a fish for himself. He is also not exactly up on the rules of quiet fishing. I even have to tie him up when I’m target shooting because he thinks chasing bullets is great fun. That said, I have no doubt he would try his darndest to take on a cougar. He’s part blue healer cattle dog, part short-haired boarder collie out of a working dog family from Elgin. He is built solid as a rock and was the Alpha male pup of the litter. They had to separate the litter because he tried to get rid of the weaker ones.

    By the way, I know why my .357 is heavy. That’s why I bought it. It packs a satisfying blam, blam, sits by my bed, and makes my front door hallway a pretty formidable place to be if you haven’t been invited. But you’re right. It is not exactly a quick draw gun for walking along a trail.

    Here in Oregon, you can shoot a cougar without a tag if you are legally hunting for something else. And no one will come after you if you shoot one that is on your property.

    If you have neither gun nor dog, when out in the woods, know the trail well, carry a high quality whistle around your neck, and turn around and look behind you every few yards. If you think you are being stalked, make a ton of noise, face the animal, throw whatever you can at it, make yourself look bigger (IE raise your arms up high, raise a big branch up high), and DO NOT RUN.

    I’m still mulling over the idea of fishing with another person. That’s my me-time and I hold it jealously.

  42. Correction: It seems both the Sheriff and I have been snookered

    It’s fortunate you have a network that can catch these things. Most people don’t have that when they are in error. And being in error happens more often than we want to admit.

  43. On January 20th, at 0700, I was headed home with the morning papers and saw motion by the roadside ahead and pulled over to let whatever it was croos the road. Expecting turkeys, I was surprised to see a cat emerge. Quickly running through pattern recognition, it was too tall for a bobcat, couldn’t be a lynx, head shape was wrong, it was a cougar. Not just a cougar though, it was the first of four to cross right in front of my pickup, ~10 yards ahead. As the forth entered the woods, I pulled up to their entrance therein, stopping to observe the last cat stop 15 feet away to look back at me. The DOW was interested as the cats don’t usually group together.
    I had cougars kill a deer in a draw about 25 yards from our front door in ’09, left about 400 sq ft. of red snow, one -half of a crushed thigh bone, and a scrap of hide. Everything else was eaten on site or carried off.
    We go hiking almost everyday. Have never seen a cougar while out, probably because we have a wolf for a pet and she goes with.

  44. My brother is a member of community watch of a small satellite town near Ottawa, Canada. A few years ago they had to hire a trapper to rid them of a pack of coyotes that were preying on family pets. The final straw was a leashed lap dog that was attacked while being walked… one coyote faced down the owner while others dragged the pet away. A bloody collar was all that was found.

    The trapping was successful but no one walks their animals alone any more.

  45. Alexander Feht says:
    February 24, 2011 at 2:50 am
    P.S. to commieBob:

    Coyotes cannot interbreed with wolves. Coyotes and wolves have different number of chromosome pairs.

    Coyotes do interbreed with wolves and dogs, genetic evidence indicates that eastern coyotes have some wolf genes.
    The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago, and all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridize freely (barring size or behavioral constraints) and produce fertile offspring. You’re perhaps thinking of foxes which do have a different chromosome number?

    http://wooferhouse.net/Links/MolecularEvolutionOfTheDogFamily/MolecularEvolutionOfTheDogFamily.htm

  46. I was going to make a tasteless joke about older women going after young men but thought better about it and decided instead to go hunting. Anybody seen any older women on the prowl lately?

  47. Alexander Feht says:
    February 24, 2011 at 2:50 am

    P.S. to commieBob:

    Coyotes cannot interbreed with wolves. Coyotes and wolves have different number of chromosome pairs.

    There seems to be evidence that they do interbreed. I can’t argue the evidence because that’s not my field. Here’s a link to a convincing sounding story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32976657/ns/technology_and_science-science/

    The study, outlined in the latest issue of Royal Society Biology Letters, reveals that some of the largest specimens were indeed coyote and wolf hybrids.

    Where I was raised, the coyotes really did not come anywhere near human habitation. After I moved to Ontario, I initially disbelieved stories about the Ontario coyotes because they really did not behave like the ones I was used to. The local terrain probably has a lot to do with it. In southern Ontario, even if you live in the country, you can usually throw a stone (I exaggerate slightly) and hit your neighbor. Coyotes probably have a hard time avoiding human habitation. In southwest Saskatchewan, the nearest neighbor is sometimes ten or more miles away (it’s ranch land not farming country). Human habitation makes up a very very small percentage of the total available land. The coyotes have an easy time avoiding people.

  48. “The Beast in The Garden” by David Baron is an excellent book about cougars repopulating suburban areas. It reads like crime novel.

  49. I have a co-worker who’s a big deer hunter. He’ll usually set up several of those automatic trail cameras on his hunting club property before season just to see where they’re likely to be moving. A year or two ago he caught some shots with at least 6 cougars that were visible in camera range. I didn’t think there were that many in Alabama, but they seem to be making a comeback.

    I have seen coyotes in town pretty often. I was at a friend’s farm just after sundown last week and heard a pack of them just in the woods. Fortunately, they have a couple of Great Pyrenees dogs that keep order on the farm. ;)

  50. Nice photos, but I don’t think this is unusual or puzzling at all. If this was the second night the carcass was out, they all knew where the food was and probably waited very close to claim the carcass. I don’t think these photos support pack activity at all, but they certainly indicate the size of the local population.

    According to cougarfund.org, 2-3 cougar cubs are raised for 18-24 months and the mothers are pregnant or raising their cubs 76% of their lives. As noted in the story, we might only be looking at two related mothers and their current/recent offspring trying to pick up a free meal. Not surprising that a closely related family might all be sharing the meal and tolerant of each other’s presence.

    Notice the time stamp of 4:50 p.m. Sunset at 4:01 means they got there fast or were already waiting nearby. In a period of 24-36 hours, I would bet that at LEAST two mothers/cubs could find a tasty carcass within a their hunting ranges.

  51. May be an excellent barometer for how much improved the environment is. We may not be aware that this type of cat normally likes group activity as there was never enough prey to support large groups in our relatively recent past?

  52. Slightly OT but still on the subject of animal behaviour. I life in what has been called the Raccoon Capital of the World – ie Toronto. Raccoons are apparently evolving to thwart every obstacle we try to put between them and garbage, assisted by their opposable thumbs. The link here is from the Toronto Star (apologies to those familiar with the objectionable nature of this paper):

    http://www.thestar.com/news/article/936548–documentary-reveals-the-secret-lives-of-toronto-s-raccoons

    The documentary airs tonight.

  53. When I was young and reading comic books (late 40s-early 50s), a coyote was something found in SW USA. I’d never heard of them in Canada until around 1970 when one was shot on Mt. Royal in the middle of Montreal. They’ve been steadily moving eastward and are now well established in the Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). Not sure about Newfoundland.
    A naturalist says that they are here to stay because killing one or more just increases the size of the next litters.
    Our coyotes are noticeably bigger than the SW variety. Either natural selection or interbreeding has increased their size as they moved eastward.
    I have seen a couple of them in and near Saint John, and we heard a few howling one night from our then-apartment then on the western edge of the city. We had a visitor from Japan with us at the time and she was quite terrified…..

    As for cougar attacks, I read of a man who was attacked by a montain lion somewhere in western Canada. He was a woodsman and carried a sheath knife with which he killed his attacker. (Our gun laws in Canada prohibit the carrying of handguns, which makes for problems like what we have read about here.)

    Full marks to WUWT for carrying this story. It is about nature, and that fits in with the ambit of the site, so no excuses need be made. The many stories in the Comments were interestng to read.

    IanM

  54. Pamela Gray asks: “Are cougars attracted to anise/peanutbutter/krill scent?”

    Krill? Perhaps. Above all, the scent of blood draws them. Capiche?

    Ric Werme says: “I’ll transport the [bait] bag in a heavy plastic pouch. Or put it on the dog.”

    Pragmatist!

    Magnus says: “…CO2, in the parts per MILLION, can take down planet earth and every Living being on it. Think about that.”

    Prove it.

    commieBob says: “…coyotes in Ontario..come right into farm yards. They don’t act at all like the ones out west who give human habitation a wide berth.”

    I saw a coyote cross the main road in downtown Ojai (CA) once. They seem to be getting way too accustomed to civilization. Yes, downtown Ojai is sort of an oxymoron, but the point is, he waited and crossed with the green light.

  55. Well pretty cool, if you ask me. I see all these freaked out stories of cougars seen in Palo Alto; and everybody goes ape.

    I don’t know why humans feel the need to walk around town with some pooch on a string as if they are chic; so if they want to go out in the wilds and troll for cougars; or coyotes for that matter, using their live bait; that’s fine by me.

    I used to have a group of coyotes come and meet me at my front gate, in the morning, and make like they wanted to run in and grab my boxer. But my dog wasn’t out on the end of a dog-fishing line, so they thought better of it.

    Seems like dog owners don’t have front lawns at their house; so they have to take their mutt out to do its thing on the neighbor’s front lawn. So having some cougars around would be a good thing.

  56. Incidently, I seen reports by wildlife biologists to the effect that Cougars control their breeding to match the available food supplies. So if you put food out for animals you get more animals.
    They also say, that as a result of that behavior, in order to make a dent in cougar numbers, you would have to in one season kill 1/3 of all the animals in a particular rane; so a little “culling” simply doesn’t work

    Just stay out of their environment and you won’t have any problems; you can always go to the gym and do your nature walks on a treadmill just like guinea pigs do. And if you put a little rat dog in your purse and go to a bar with it, pretty soon we will have cougars, and coyotes in the bars too.

  57. I do not think they are travelling in a pack just the smell of blood will draw them in for miles around. Notice in the pictures that most of them are standing back waiting thier turn on the kill, and one swatting at the other to get at the kill. Cougars are a killer but will scavenge at an opurtunity, when one is hungry anything will do.

  58. I stay corrected regarding wolves and coyotes interbreeding.

    A book that I’ve read long ago in Russia misled me into thinking that wolves and coyotes have different number of chromosomes. Perhaps, the science was “settled” differently when this book was published.

  59. Methinks some skullduggery is at foot! Seems strange that the “pride” appears focused away from the “kill” (we mostly see backs) I could be wrong, but I wonder if these are not a series of photos shot at the local zoo and several layers photoshopped together??? I would certainly like to see a photo of the scene showing placement of the game camera in relation to the kill, etc. Looks a bit like the dead walrus pics of a few months back! — i.e. “out of context”

    I’ve hunted puma (mostly with a camera) for much of my six decades, and finding even two identifiable cat footprints in the same area in the wild is extremely rare! Even mated pairs seldom occupy the same hunting area!

    I blame George Bush!

  60. I know nothing of the mating habits of cougars, but, rather than a hunting pride, could this just be a gathering of males around a female in heat who downed the cow?

    I have seen around 10 domestic toms clustered together around a female, “waiting their turn”, as it were.

  61. Alexander already commented on his previous post as to inbreeding between wolves and coyotes, but since I had already searched for the article below-here is is. Appears the coyotes migrating into the New England area took a Canadian route resulting in wolve interactions and became larger than their southwestern USA forebearers. While the article speaks of the current Ohio coyote immigrants as being still smaller, we have seen both versions here in SE Ohio over the last 2-3 years.
    Incidentally, for Joe, there are substantiated reports of a breeding pair of cougars in the Muskingham area of Ohio since 2008.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/02/17/for_coyotes_at_least_study_finds_new_englanders_a_special_breed/

  62. bud says:
    February 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    “could this just be a gathering of males around a female in heat”

    It is almost certainly two family groups or some similar combination of females with young.

  63. Phil. says:
    February 24, 2011 at 8:37 am

    “Coyotes do interbreed with wolves and dogs, genetic evidence indicates that eastern coyotes have some wolf genes.”

    Correct. But that reflects the fact that coyotes are not a native species of the east but only spread there recently. The key point is that wolves and dogs are the same species, different subspecies. So when you say “The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago” you are confusing things. Fossil evidence of domestic dogs is much more recent – 15,000 BP – but DNA evidence suggests domestication much earlier. Moreover, people kept domesticating wolves throughout history; the ‘dogs’ of the historic plains peoples were wolf-dogs.

    The so-called ‘Red Wolf’ of the eastern U.S. is another very mixed up story.

    The leading researcher on this is Robert K. Wayne and two key papers you can find via google are ‘Molecular evolution of the dog family’ and ‘Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog’ (I have them on paper so, sorry, no links handy).

    Alexander Feht says:
    February 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    “Still, I believe it has been shown by genetic analysis that domesticated dogs are descendants of the Middle Eastern subspecies of wolves, not of the jackals?”

    Right you are Alexander, except that there were multiple and ongoing domestications,
    not just in the ME. The earliest dogs which can be distinguished by fossils actually come from China. Before agriculture created needs for specialized dogs, the best dog was just a wolf so those earlier dogs had no obvious physical differences.

    Anyhow, please check out those two papers I noted and it will all make sense.

  64. A lot of posts here, including the most recent, keep referring to the supposed “killed cow.” Folks, if you read either of the articles linked, which give the REAL story, there was no killed cow. The great cougar congregation was just that, not scrapping over a cow they’d killed or anything along those lines. I have to say that while I don’t always click thru story links, in this case I’m a bit amazed that so many folks apparently haven’t, considering that Anthony struck out the ‘killed cow’ story as discovered to be false, and provided links to the actual story, the details of which weren’t in Anthony’s write-up.

    So. No human livestock killed by cougars. No great cougar congregation dividing the spoils (forgive the pun!). Just a great cougar congregation, reason/cause unknown, but thankfully caught on camera because it’s pretty darned impressive to see!

    As to the reticence of SW coyotes…. Several years ago, traveling out to the Yucca Mountain high level nuke waste repository, out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, we saw a coyote that was crossing the road. As soon as it saw our car it stopped and watched our car without the least sign of concern. I was told that folks used to feed them on the way to or from work, until the coyotes got aggressive – and it got dangerous for both employee’s and the coyotes. I’ve no idea if that was true, but it’s what I was told. Anyhow, folks said that the one we saw (still many miles from the work site), was probably looking at our car very wishfully, hoping for a handout – which fit its demeanor as best I could tell anyhow (one always has to have the ‘does it have rabies if it’s acting unafraid’ thought cross the mind, however). It was also a good bit larger and taller than I’d expected, but I was told it was typical for this area. On other trips out in the SW desert I’ve seen a few other coyotes too, but they were further off, too far for me to get a mental size comparison with the wishful roadside one…. and these ignored the car entirely even when I slowed to watch them go about their way for a few minutes, but then iirc they weren’t along the way to Yucca Mt. either and so probably had no previous food handout training to affect their behavior.

    Meanwhile, in town (Las Vegas, where houses and buildings are all on postage stamp sized lots, walls all of 4 to 6 ft. apart, and because it’s surrounded by gov. lands, goes from dense population to rank desert without anything like the typical population dispersion/tail-off you get around most cities), there was a known coyote living on an undeveloped bit of land surrounded by houses and some of the few remaining horse farms with a few acres each – e.g., very developed area. The coyote had killed several dogs that lived in the area, and I was warned that I probably wanted to be certain that my mutt, who loved following/leading anywhere I rode, was NOT allowed to go if I was heading in that direction. My pup was incredibly athletic, tough, but all of 25 lbs – even so she’d tangled with a coon larger than she was (in Iowa) and miraculously came away without a scratch – then she stayed a few feet back from it but continued the chase…. and later I know of at least one extremely large ground hog that she killed in Virginia – plus the quite large rabid coon that she finally tackled when it went in the horse’s run in shed/barn after she’d been trying to chase it off for some time to protect me and my animals… not to mention that she loved to aggravate horses until they’d chase her (1200 lbs vs. 25 is quite a sight. Scared me to death but while I broke her of messing with anyone else’s horses, I never could get her to leave my own alone!!). Anyhow, even so I sure wouldn’t have wanted her to tangle with a coyote, especially if it managed to take her by surprise from the scrub as this one was known to do – and by then she had really gotten up there age wise too, in her mid-teens and a bit arthritic and she was a little bitty thing, after all.

    In Las Vegas they’ve also either captured or killed several mountain lions that have come right into town – iirc, those were during years where there’d been bad droughts and they were likely driven into town because of scarce game/water in the desert – but one never knows, wildlife has proven very very capable of becoming accustomed to even dense human populations, suburban and rural areas, and taking up residence or hunting/visiting – often for quite some time before people even become aware of it.

    Great story Anthony, particularly considering the correction & real story! Frankly all sorts of “known” things about various animals and their behavior keep being overturned. It wasn’t that long ago where it was “KNOWN BEYOND DOUBT” that ONLY humans used tools, and that was what separated us from the animals. What a joke considering what is now known!! Or ‘no animals have a sense or recognition of self, their responses are all instinctual,’ Or ‘fish don’t feel pain.’ Or any number of other things we humans were so certain of that have been turned upside down.

    So…..It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the solitary nature of cougars turns out to be just another ‘known’ that is overturned before long – or if it is just closely related females with their nearly grown most recent cubs. Either way, great story!

  65. I wish I had commented on this thread yesterday but I had a bad flue and was in bed. The subject is one that I am a bit familiar with.

    First on C. lupus x latrans: it does happen but is really pretty rare. Most reports, even in the literature, are erroneous. The confusion comes mostly from a misunderstanding of the relationship of what some are referring to as C.lycaon, the Eastern timber wolf, with C.lupus, the Grey wolf. It looks as if C. lycaon and C.rufus, the red wolf, are the same species that is more closely related the C. latrans then either is to C. lupus.

    Here is a pretty good study on the subject, there are others but I am not on my home system so do not have access to links:

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/1383781

    The larger size of the eastern coyote populations is probably the result of phenotype variation due to the different environment. All of the northern subspecies of latrans are larger then their southern relatives, just as the southern subspecies of lupus are smaller then their northern relatives. Coyotes are very adaptable and quite variable even within a population.

    As for puma exhibiting the behavior seen here, it has been suspected. Daughters will stay with their mothers for years and even when not hanging out, will often have overlapping ranges. Unfortunately, science knows a lot more about lions and tigers then about North American felines such as puma and jaguars. For some reason, unless the species can be used as political leverage, no money is spent on its research. OTH, the resent availability of automatic inferred cameras, has given science a window of things that have previously been hidden. As someone with a keen interest in carnivore biology, it is really an exciting time.

  66. Cougars have also been spotted several times in Iowa in the last few years. Mostly in the western part of the State. All unconfirmed until last year, when a hunter shot/killed one that was resting in a tree in central Iowa.

  67. Al Gored
    February 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Good stuff! Robert Waynes papers are a must read. I am trying to find links to them, and one by the insufferable David Mesh.

    I disagree with the non-nativity of the coyote in the east. They probably ranged there before the grey wolf displaced them when the came to this continent. C.latrans is a lot older then C.lupus. Xiaoming Wang has a great paper on North American canine evolution. I have a pdf, but can’t seem to find a link.

    Of the four ssp. of lupus thought to be the origin of the dog, two are now in a bit of a mess. The Indian sub-populations of C.l.pallipes and chanco might constitute a species separate from C.lupus. This sort of makes sence.

  68. Al Gored says:
    February 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm
    Phil. says:
    February 24, 2011 at 8:37 am

    “Coyotes do interbreed with wolves and dogs, genetic evidence indicates that eastern coyotes have some wolf genes.”

    Correct. But that reflects the fact that coyotes are not a native species of the east but only spread there recently. The key point is that wolves and dogs are the same species, different subspecies. So when you say “The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago” you are confusing things. Fossil evidence of domestic dogs is much more recent – 15,000 BP – but DNA evidence suggests domestication much earlier. Moreover, people kept domesticating wolves throughout history; the ‘dogs’ of the historic plains peoples were wolf-dogs.

    The so-called ‘Red Wolf’ of the eastern U.S. is another very mixed up story.

    The leading researcher on this is Robert K. Wayne and two key papers you can find via google are ‘Molecular evolution of the dog family’ and ‘Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog’ (I have them on paper so, sorry, no links handy).

    The reference I cited was by Wayne:

    http://wooferhouse.net/Links/MolecularEvolutionOfTheDogFamily/MolecularEvolutionOfTheDogFamily.htm

  69. Nice story. It is interesting to read posts from enthusiasts and observers of US carnivores. It does seem as though, as a PP pointed out, there is a lot more to learn about them. I take it that means the science is not settled? These biologists really need to lift their game – climate science was settled in a couple of decades, and this lot have been fiddle-arsing around for hundreds of years now. :)

    Anyway, interesting as they are in the abstract, carnivores are not my preferred neighbours. The well meaning re-introduction and protection of these around the world is starting to cause problems, such as urban foxes in the UK attacking pets and even people (small ones like children and babies being preferred). We have similar problems developing in northern Australia, with (protected) crocodiles getting bigger, bolder and more numerous. Shooting the odd ‘rogue’ does not begin to deal with the problem that is brewing there – a 14 year old kid was lost swimming in a waterhole only last week. I mean completely lost, as in no part of him has been found, or is expected to be.

    Medium to large carnivores are fantastic in animal parks and on TV. People who have to live close to them tend to have a different perspective.

  70. In his post Alexander Feht said:
    February 24, 2011 at 2:50 am
    P.S. to commieBob: Coyotes cannot interbreed with wolves. Coyotes and wolves have different number of chromosome pairs.
    ======================
    Then I guess this quote from Wikipedia on coyote-Wolf hybrids is in error?
    “The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago, and all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridize freely (barring size or behavioral constraints) and produce fertile offspring. The side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal both have 74 chromosomes. Other members of the Canidae family, which diverged seven to ten million years ago, are less closely related to and cannot hybridize with the wolf-like canids; the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, the fennec fox has 64 chromosomes, and the African wild dog has 78 chromosomes.” See the entry at Canid Hybrids.

  71. Phil. says:
    February 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks Phil. Now we all have a handy link to that paper, including me, as I just had it in paper form.

    But, to repeat, when you say ““The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal diverged relatively recently, around three to four million years ago” you are confusing things.”

    But I think I see where this came from. That whole group, which includes all those species and subspecies, did diverge from the ‘fox’ line about that long ago. But I read your comment as meaning the species and subspecies that you mentioned diverged from each other that long ago. In that case I am confusing things, about what you meant, and sorry for that.

    That said, isn’t it amazing that dogs, from poodles to Great Danes, are actually all recent descendants of gray wolves?

  72. DesertYote says:
    February 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm
    Al Gored
    February 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    “Good stuff! Robert Waynes papers are a must read. I am trying to find links to them, and one by the insufferable David Mesh.”

    I’m sure you can google them but Phil has just provided a handy link to one of them.

    I think you must mean David Mech. He has had a long career. What do you find “insufferable” about him? He did some outstanding work but I have some real problems with some of his recent pronouncements, now that wolf conservation has become so rabidly politicized.

    “I disagree with the non-nativity of the coyote in the east. They probably ranged there before the grey wolf displaced them when the came to this continent.”

    That’s a good point. Since they were here far longer. I wasn’t thinking that far back. Maybe they were a more forest adapted species that long ago? But based on the historical record and the habitat it is clear they were not present in the east during any recent period.

    And what really confuses things is ‘dogs’ which virtually all people had. I’m convinced that is what makes the red wolf so confusing. When early smallpox (ca. 1550-1600)wiped out millions of Native North Americans, what became of their dogs?

    I have many, many questions about the supposed subspecies of wolves in North America, for many reasons. (And everything that was ever classified by Merriam. You know about him?) And now they are trying to invent utterly absurd ones, like the alleged ‘rain forest’ subspecies on the BC coast, for purely political purposes. Requires a high level of denial or ignorance about both history and wolf behavior to suggest that.

    Anyhow, glad you are as interested in these things as I am. The more you look into this stuff, the more interesting it becomes.
    in the eastern US people is another mysteryC.latrans is a lot older then C.lupus. Xiaoming Wang has a great paper on North American canine evolution. I have a pdf, but can’t seem to find a link.

    Of the four ssp. of lupus thought to be the origin of the dog, two are now in a bit of a mess. The Indian sub-populations of C.l.pallipes and chanco might constitute a species separate from C.lupus. This sort of makes sence.

  73. DesertYote – Sorry, I forgot to delete some stuff at the bottom of my last post… it should end at “becomes.”

  74. Smokey,

    Just checked that link. That story has been brewing for a few years – quietly for obvious reasons. And they have been doing it quietly too as ‘tests.’ No doubt that the Barred Owl has rapidly expanded its population and does compete with their cousins but not so simple to fix. If they do eliminate BOs from an area, more will just move in. And in the meantime, because of habitat fragmentation in the Pacific NW, there are now more Great-horned Owls in what was once mostly Spotted owl habitat, and they prey on Spotted Owls. So, guess they’ll have to kill them too. So, to supposedly save the SO, they have killed the logging industry and will kill two other owl species. Not sure if they’ve figured out that they will need to kill Pine Martens too yet…

    Back to BOs. Definitely not an AGW poster child. After getting as far west as BC by the 1940s, they have spread south. Didn’t they get the memo?

  75. The pride gathering is fairly common behavior in the cats. At the zoo in Green Bay they have a whole cougar area and the cats get along fine with some handling.

    We have a rapidly growing cougar population in WI, and especially in the northern forests where I live. The DNR is in denial, but I have seen 3 so far, including one near where I work on a whitewater river. That one was black, and I found it’s scat every morning most of the summer before actually seeing it. Apparently according to the experts, not only do we not have cougars here, melanism is out of the question. Three other locals have seen it too, including a hunting guide and the local cop.

    Walking down to the river alone in dense wild country that I KNOW has a full sized 50+kg cougar that is regularly within a mile is not one of the favorite parts of my work. I always make a little noise, keep my eyes peeled sharp, including up, and wear non-natural colors like blue or red. If that doesn’t work out, there is always my little .32 auto with hot loads..

    Cougars are a testament to evolution and quite possibly the ultimate predator. They can jump 20′ up and 40′ horizontal, and drag a full sized deer up into a tree. Their senses are amazingly keen. It is unlikely that you will see them coming in an attack.

    Being quarry of a 50-75kg cougar is not beautiful or majestic, especially with the deer getting scarce. The settlers killed them off for a reason, and it took 100 years and a bounty. They are not easy to hunt. Seeing them in large numbers is not good.

  76. Al Gored says:
    February 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    “I’m sure you can google them but Phil has just provided a handy link to one of them.”

    Thanks Phil! I’ve still got a touch of the flu and gave up on trying to google … just to much noise to find the signal. Try looking for any paper by Xiaoming Wang, that is the Chinese version of John Smith!

    “I think you must mean David Mech. He has had a long career. What do you find “insufferable” about him? He did some outstanding work but I have some real problems with some of his recent pronouncements, now that wolf conservation has become so rabidly politicized.”

    You nailed it.

    “And what really confuses things is ‘dogs’ which virtually all people had. I’m convinced that is what makes the red wolf so confusing. When early smallpox (ca. 1550-1600)wiped out millions of Native North Americans, what became of their dogs?”

    Speaking of native American dogs, ever hear of the Carolina Dog?

    “I have many, many questions about the supposed subspecies of wolves in North America, for many reasons. (And everything that was ever classified by Merriam. You know about him?) And now they are trying to invent utterly absurd ones, like the alleged ‘rain forest’ subspecies on the BC coast, for purely political purposes. Requires a high level of denial or ignorance about both history and wolf behavior to suggest that.”

    You got that right. Does the concept of sub-species even make sense in an animal that can travel 500 KM in a week or that all of these subspecies would have evolved in a mere 15K years? The greenies want to turn every so called sub-population into a subspecies. It is really irritating.

  77. Re: coyotes, jackals, wolves, and dogs.

    There is a widespread confusion about what, exactly, is called “jackal.” One of four species of “jackal” (actually, a subspecies of the wolf) has the same amount of chromosomes as dogs, while three of the four species (true jackals) don’t. This confusion, and the fact that coyotes behave very much like jackals, led me to think that North American coyotes are akin to the true jackals that cannot interbreed with dogs.

    The New World Encyclopedia gives this description of jackals (emphasis is mine):

    “Jackal is the common name for Old World, coyote-like mammals in any of three species in the genus Canis of the family Canidae: Canis aureus (golden jackal), Canis adustus (side-striped jackal), and Canis mesomelas (black-backed jackal). These small to medium-sized canids, with long legs and curved canine teeth, are found in Africa, Asia, and southeastern Europe. The name jackal sometimes also is applied to a fourth canid species, Canis simensis, which may be known as the red jackal, Abyssinian wolf, red fox, or Ethiopian snub nosed raven. However, this species generally is considered closer to the wolf (also a member of the Canis genus) and is not considered in this article.

    Thus, true jackals don’t interbreed with wolves. Calling the Abyssinian wolf a “jackal” muddies the waters. (Russians are familiar only with the “Turkmen jackal,” which is a Central Asian variety of the Abyssinian wolf; there are reports that in the 1970s it was successfully crossed with dogs, including Siberian huskies.)

  78. In the vein of the wolf discussions, anyone not familiar with them may be quite surprised and intrigued by the very beautiful but unusual looking maned wolf of South America. They’re apparently alone in their genus, and are the tallest of all the wolves, standing on average about 3 ft. at the shoulder and yet only averaging about 50 lbs. This link doesn’t have the best photos, but is what I’ve got handy and you can find other photos of them fairly easily: http://animaldiscovery-chanel.blogspot.com/2010/12/maned-wolf-conservation-in-africa.html With just a quick search I wasn’t able to find any supposed hybrids involving them.

    While you’re at that site also check out the link on the righthand side of the page to the raccoon dog (or search them out otherwise).

    Anyone not already familiar with the story will also be astounded by a breeding program from the 50′s that occurred in Russia, at a fox fur farm. Within only 10 generations, selecting only for non-aggressive behavior, the foxes began acting like dogs, playful, extremely friendly and unafraid of humans (without being handled!), barking and wagging tails – and the most amazing, coat color changed and white patches appeared (piebald pattern), again, similar to dogs, ears got floppier, tail carriage changed to curl up over the back, they remained more puppish/playful, etc. It will blow your minds, particularly for these traits to be brought out where they hadn’t seemed to exist in the species before (makes ya think of the massive variation we have in our dogs, no?). I’m sorry I don’t have a good link handy, but its pretty easy to find info searching for phrases such as ‘russian fox farm experiment’ – the researcher was a Dr. Belyaev. There is info on them at: http://cbsu.tc.cornell.edu/ccgr/behaviour/History.htm including short videos of the ‘domesticated foxes’ verses the wild/farmed foxes and how they each responded to identical ‘testing’ for just how aggressive they are or aren’t (e.g., the breeding selection criteria).

    Fox species are pretty amazing in terms of their variety in shapes and sizes around the world – from the tiny highly social fennec fox that weighs all of between about 1.5–3.5 lb and is supposedly a good if very rambunctious pet (fennec youngster playing w/ owner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pdENboAxpc), all the way up to 17 lb red foxes. The little fennec’s put Yoda to shame – they’re nothing but a pair of massive ears (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsgEtNeJ-Ps&NR=1&feature=fvwp) and typically a ball of energy compared to either dogs or cats!

  79. This has been an educational lesson to me. As a farmer I picked up of the fact the cow that died was an economic loss to society and the owner. I have seen in an earlier post there was not a cow involved after all. But all the following discussion centered on cougars,coyotes and how interesting wildlife is. I’ve learned that the posters here are so used to going to the store and simply getting what they need that the problems involved in delivering food to them are a very minor part of their lives.
    Oh well . I guess farmvill is more real to people than real agriculture and that is scarry>

  80. Rational Debate says: February 25, 2011 at 5:25 am
    tail carriage changed to curl up over the back, they remained more puppish/playful, etc.

    I had read of that experiment before, and the curling tail is a dead give away in domesticated vs. non-domesticated canines. Our little (70 lbs) arctic wolf never curls her tail unless she wants to play.

  81. Alexander Feht
    February 25, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Re: coyotes, jackals, wolves, and dogs.

    In case you are interested, C.latrans (yote) and C.aureus (golden jackal) are thought to be sister taxon, diverging only a litle over 1 million years ago.

  82. *****
    Al Gored says:
    February 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    No doubt that the Barred Owl has rapidly expanded its population and does compete with their cousins but not so simple to fix.
    *****

    Here in the Appalachian forests, there are (at least) two large birds that have defied human-caused changes and flourished — the Barred owl & the Pileated woodpecker. Both are very elusive to see, but are easily detected by their calls. Besides the usual who cooks for you? call, the BO also has a neck-hair-raising “bark” that sounds like something out of a horror movie.

    Even Great Blue herons have returned — there’s one that commonly patrols & feeds out of my border stream, even in the winter. I’ve seen the smaller Green heron here in the summer. And I’m 200 miles from the Atlantic.

  83. Well, if this is the direction of cougar social development, carrying a handgun, shotgun or bolt-action in the bush won’t cut it anymore. Well need Uzis, or at least an AK-47.

    It’s an interesting development. Up to now, all accounts of North American puma behavior suggest that mature toms don’t tolerate anything but breeding females in their territory, and will kill any juveniles they can catch.

    If this documentation is genuine, it suggests to me that such an accumulation of juveniles have aggregated in the less desirable terrain avoided by the big toms that they have become something of an extended family, hunting together, as sibling juveniles do.

  84. DesertYote says:
    February 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    “Speaking of native American dogs, ever hear of the Carolina Dog?”

    Sure have. Are you familiar with the book ‘A History of Dogs in the Early Americas’ by Marion Schwarz (Yale University Press)?

    And I see you definitely get the problem of inventing ‘subspecies’ or ‘distinct geographic populations.’ When they can, and can get it listed as Threatened or worse, some research team has a new franchise and jobs for years, decades, or for life. Plus use it as leverage for other land use agendas. Bit of a conflict of interest there to put it mildly. It is now so bad that the DNA evidence they use has also become… ah… dubious is a nice word.

  85. beng says:
    February 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

    “Here in the Appalachian forests, there are (at least) two large birds that have defied human-caused changes and flourished — the Barred owl & the Pileated woodpecker. Both are very elusive to see, but are easily detected by their calls. Besides the usual who cooks for you? call, the BO also has a neck-hair-raising “bark” that sounds like something out of a horror movie.”

    We are lucky enough to have Barred Owls nest in a huge cottonwood less than 100 m from our house which they have used every year for the past 9 years. So we get to hear them almost year round, and during the courtship period in particular they do all sorts of wierd and wonderful calls. We get to see them a lot too because during nesting season the male tends to roost in exactly the same one or two spots every day and as long as you don’t stop and stare at them they become oblivious to you walking by ( that works for a lot of things; the ‘stare’ is what predators do). As a bonus they also hunt right around our house when feeding young, sometimes even picking off mice under our bird feeder.

  86. re post: beng says: February 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Besides the usual who cooks for you? call, the BO also has a neck-hair-raising “bark” that sounds like something out of a horror movie.

    Is THAT what makes that horror movie screech?? When I first moved to Va countryside not far from major metro area, at night there was an absolute hair raising horror movie scream/screech call that I’d hear periodically – amazingly loud too. I had no idea if it was an owl or maybe a fox/coyote or gawd knows what. With a little digging around/researching, I finally decided that there must be a screech owl in the woods behind the house.

    There happened to be a few small (very cute) feral cats that hung around a neighbor’s place, and I started finding a few 4 to 6 month old kittens freshly decapitated, no head readily found either, laying in my drive (long gravel drive, some trees lining it but fields on both sides, woods a few hundred feet further on)…. I have to say finding them like that got rather creepy to say the least. Then I found the skeleton of a kitten hung over the top of a 6ft fence post and was certain at that point that it had to be a predator bird of some sort that was responsible. Not too much later I saw a very large owl, once, almost invisible in some of the cedar trees right by where those kittens had turned up. So I hit the Audubon bird book and I’m virtually certain that it was a Barred owl and that it was the culprit behind the decapitations.

    I had NO idea that it might also have been the source of those really knarly screeches too. I got to be sort of fond of the occasional horror screeches once I was used to them, but at first they were a bit unnerving, and I’m not easily bothered by things that way. Regardless, whatever was making those calls really ought to star in horror movie sound tracks.

  87. Rational Debate says:
    February 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I’m not sure what else you have around there but it would almost certainly not be a Barred Owl killing kittens. They are not that aggressive and prey on smaller things. The Great Horned owl is the only one likely to kill kittens, or small cats, skunks, etc. But that still would not explain the decapitated corpses. That must be something else.

    Since I have seen house cats decapitate weasels and leave them, I wonder if that could just be some big nasty feral tom cat doing that? As for the skeleton left hanging, that’s a mystery as any predatory bird big enough to kill it and get it there wouldn’t likely just leave it there. Sounds more like what some kid would do.

    Or… given the whole picture… maybe you are living on top of an ‘old Indian burial ground’… or aliens are doing experiments… or… who knows… very cat-astrophic!

    Just guessing…Almost no chance th

  88. My bad – just pulled the Audubon out again and I was mistaken about which owl I’d seen – Barred sounded familiar so I was thinking that was what it was, but I was recalling the wrong name – it was a great horned owl, not the barred. So maybe the horror movie screeching I was hearing was a screech owl after all… I’d love to konw for sure, but who knows, could have been almost anything back there and I don’t know the difference in their calls.

    It seems the great horned owls are known for often decapitating prey before working on the body – or according to this google books bit, if food is plentiful, decapitating then eating just the brain and then just discarding the body. This kill (although it’s not a cat) looks just like what I found left of the kittens, except the kittens didn’t’ appear to have been eaten on otherwise, just no heads. The great horned owls are apparently noted for even killing full sized adult cats sometimes. That google bit even mentions one being seen taking a bobcat, which is hard to imagine!

    As to the skeleton on the post – it had no flesh left on it at all, and there were bird droppings on the post too. I assumed that the bird took it there as a fairly safe place to eat it, then left the skeleton once it’d eaten everything else…. These kittens were still pretty little (even the adults were surprisingly small), and an owl or hawk that hunts rabbits or the like wouldn’t have had any problem with the size of these kittens, they probably weren’t more than 2 to 4 lbs I’d guess.

    On another occasion I ran into a large barn owl early one morning on my way out to feeding the horses while it was still dark (and drizzing too). Was VERY surprised to head to the gate next to the run-in shed/barn and there just a few feet from me was this guy sitting on the fence post, in the rain no less. Even more surprised when he let me slowly work my way up to within just a few feet of him and stand there watching him for quite awhile. It seemed odd that he’d let me get so close, but he was cool as a cucumber and didn’t seem to mind one bit.

    Regardless, as Al Gored noted, finding a few kittens like this was both gross, and cat-astrophic. I felt horrible for the kittens, whatever was going on. I initially wondered if humans were involved too, but it didn’t seem to fit especially over time and as nothing else odd happened. Once I saw the owl and read up on them a little that seemed by far the most likely explanation. Then I felt even worse about all of the wild cats a year or so later when I had animal control come and get them after having the rabid skunk episode at my place. There was a rabies epidemic at the time and it didn’t seem reasonable to take the risk particularly as the house they hung around had a three or four year old child living there. I wish there had been some way to get them vaccinated and leave them be otherwise, but there wasn’t anyone I could find who would do that at the time.

  89. Pamela Gray says:
    We’ve got cats all over the place in Wallowa County. My older sister insists that I “carry” when I go fishing. She’s probably right. … Are cougars attracted to anise/peanutbutter/krill scent?
    Ric Werme says:
    Good idea, except that your cougar will likely bite your neck breaking it before you can pull out the gun.
    Pamela Gray says:
    If you have neither gun nor dog, when out in the woods, know the trail well, carry a high quality whistle around your neck, and turn around and look behind you every few yards.
    ===============================
    I read somewhere that tigers, like cougars, attack from the back.
    And that people who share their territory with tigers wear a mask on the back of their heads with big eyes.
    Supposedly it stops the tiger from attacking.
    Has this been tried with mountain lions?
    If it works, at least confusing the mountain lion and slowing it down, it might save lives.

  90. otropogo says: February 25, 2011 at 11:11 am
    [...]
    If this documentation is genuine, it suggests to me that such an accumulation of juveniles have aggregated in the less desirable terrain avoided by the big toms that they have become something of an extended family, hunting together, as sibling juveniles do.

    That would be a reasonable assumption. However, the four I saw, live in an area with a lot of deer, elk, wild turkeys, rabbits, mink, etc. There is a lot of wild food, which is probably why they haven’t gone after the horses and cows people keep around here. Lack of food does not seem to be the cause for their banding together.

  91. *****
    Rational Debate says:
    February 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    re post: beng says: February 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Besides the usual who cooks for you? call, the BO also has a neck-hair-raising “bark” that sounds like something out of a horror movie.

    Is THAT what makes that horror movie screech??
    *****

    I’m not sure I ever heard a Screech owl.

    I could have described the Barred owl “bark” better — it’s a series of ascending barks in quick succession like — “ack…ack…Ack…ACk…ACK…ACKACK!!!. Nothing at all like a “hoot” sound.

    One spring in the mornings I also heard an odd, soft, descending, high-pitched “whistle” that I never heard before. After a few days, I took the binoculars out to pinpoint it up in the trees — and it was a Barred owl. Totally unexpected. In fact, there were 4 or 5 of them right nearby calling. They only did this for a week or two, so I figured it was their mating calls.

    One Barred owl would hang around the house in trees even in the day, sometimes only 10 ft up. I approached it right underneath quite a few times, and it never seemed to mind — just stared calmly back. It got agitated when it saw my cat, tho.

  92. Rational Debate says:
    February 26, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Screech owls don’t make sounds that would usually qualify for your ‘Hollywood’ soundtrack. They are too small, so not too impressive volume wise, and not all that wierd sounding. So I would bet what you are hearing are Barred Owls. Along with the usual ‘who-cooks-for-you’ and the call that ‘beng’ just described, they also do single hoots and a variety of other wierd calls including, mostly near their nesting trees, what I call ‘monkey chatter’ which kind of sounds like a crazed chimp, or two going back and forth.

    Another possibility is a Long-eared Owl, which I’m sure you have around there but are extremely secretive and easy to never see. They also produce some very wierd calls.

    But I still have extreme doubts about GHOs doing in those kittens. I didn’t bother to check what wiki says but the scenario you decribe with them eating heads is typically just when prey – like snowshoe hares or voles – is hyperabundant. And I doubt kittens are. And those heads were missing, not pecked open, and the rest of the body (meat) was just left? Hmmm.

    But if you have tons of feral cats around, they are definitely competing with owls for food so maybe this is war! ;-)

    All those cats must be rather hard on the local small bird population too.

    beng says:
    February 26, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Barred Owls call at all times of the day, more on cloudy days in daylight.

    Having 5 in one area suggests a family group more than a mating season gathering – unless the population there is insanely high. The juveniles make a high pitched hissing call, which could be interpreted as a whistling call, which is a ‘begging’ and contact call directed to their parents. They keep this up for a few weeks max after leaving the nest. That could be what you heard.

    Anyhow, if you want to know what kind of owls you have in your area, the simplest thing to do is spend time outside at night in early spring when they call the most (Feb-Apr depending on where you are) or, if you want to speed things up, get a tape of their calls and use that… many will respond to taped calls. But just don’t use tapes too much in the same place as it throws them off and wastes their energy.

    And those tapes are great for learning the typical territorial owl calls too, though they rarely include the wierd ones we are discussing here.

  93. Rational Debate says:
    February 26, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Just checked your photo and source. It is a good article on the GHO. That decapitated prey looks like an Arctic Fox to me, which fits the prey hyper-abundance scenario, as they get abundant when some of their – and GHO – subarctic prey pops reach their cyclic peak. But whatever it is I see another part of it has been ripped open, unlike the kittens. Still wonder if some big tom isn’t doing that…

  94. *****
    Al Gored says:
    February 26, 2011 at 11:13 am

    beng says:
    February 26, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Barred Owls call at all times of the day, more on cloudy days in daylight.

    Having 5 in one area suggests a family group more than a mating season gathering – unless the population there is insanely high. The juveniles make a high pitched hissing call, which could be interpreted as a whistling call, which is a ‘begging’ and contact call directed to their parents. They keep this up for a few weeks max after leaving the nest. That could be what you heard.
    *****

    You’re right, it was a soft, distorted, rough “whistle” — hissing would be a better description. And your crazed “monkey chatter” description is better than mine, too. ACK!! ACK!!

    When I was at that house, a Pileated woodpecker took a liking to chopping on the main bay-window frame at first morning light, eventually chopping it to shreds. The whole window had to be replaced. I guessed it was the “reflection” thing where the male sees a competitor in the window & attacks in agitation. Seen the same thing happen w/other birds. A Pileated is a dead-ringer for Woody woodpecker w/the same maniacal behavior. ha-Ha-HA-HA!-ha. hahahahahahaha.

  95. otropogo says: February 25, 2011 at 11:11 am
    [...]
    If this documentation is genuine, it suggests to me that such an accumulation of juveniles have aggregated in the less desirable terrain avoided by the big toms that they have become something of an extended family, hunting together, as sibling juveniles do.

    Steve Keohane says:
    February 26, 2011 at 5:48 am

    “That would be a reasonable assumption. However, the four I saw, live in an area with a lot of deer, elk, wild turkeys, rabbits, mink, etc. There is a lot of wild food…”

    I’m assuming the big toms like to avoid human contact, as well as feline, and that it’s a major delimiting factor of their territories. Here, in the Southern Rocky Mt. Trench, the village of Invermere has had cougars roaming the streets most years, although there’s no shortage of deer out in the surrounding area. They’ve killed everything from cats and dogs to sheep right by residences in fairly densely occupied areas.

    I’ve seen cat tracks close to town most years, but in a quarter century of roaming the backcountry, I’ve only seen one cougar in the wild – and that was on a fairly remote logging road some 20 miles from the nearest village.

    As hunting in the area has declined with increasing public antipathy, growing red tape, and higher costs (the young find getting started far too costly, and the rules too complicated, while the old hunters are retiring from the field), mule deer have taken up residence in the developed areas of the valley. These fourth, fifth, or more- generation urban deer are about as easy prey as an adult cougar could ask for (other than human children), and yet they remain untouched as far as anyone knows.

    To me this supports the idea that an adult cougar’s primary concern is to avoid proximity to human settlements (although this doesn’t mean they won’t stalk a human of any size in their territory – I know several local hunters who’ve had close calls). The juvenile’s prime concern, OTOH, is to avoid contact with an adult tom, and that might bring them into the developed areas. Once there, the combination of abundant food and the proximity of other juveniles could conceivably socialize them into a co-operative hunting group.

    Lots of speculation based on little evidence, admittedly. But strange predatory behavior is popping up elsewhere, most notably fatal attacks on humans by coyotes (two that killed a small woman hiker in Nova Scotia) and a lone wolf (who killed a healthy young man in Ontario).

  96. I believe the 8 mountain lion photo is a faked. It appears pieced together. One lion appears in the exact same position and same pose in two pictures with the others moved around. One source says this is near Brady, Texas, one says Lake Oroville, Ca and one say Washington. Multiple locations seems to be a common tactic used in Internet fakes.

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