web analytics

November 18, 2017

On a Quest to film the Neighborhood Mountain Lions

Patience is only one part of the equation to successfully film mountain lions in their natural environment. I’m the first to admit that patience isn’t one of my strongest characteristics. It can take weeks, sometimes months before a big cat cruises in front of a trail camera. The other crucial detail is finding a good location for the camera, an area that’s attractive to pumas. Mountain lions don’t normally saunter over to cameras and take selfies. There has to be a reason for them to be in the area. Food, sex and territorial patrols are high on the list.

A couple of months ago we placed one of the cameras on a game trail facing a popular watering hole. The local wild life and feral cats frequently visited the pool to quench their thirst. Unfortunately, last week, the hot days took their toll—the creek dried up. No longer is it an oasis for the deer, a favorite meal for mountain lions. Although the lens didn’t catch mountain lions or bobcats, it did film the antics of skunks, foxes, possums, deer, raccoons and house cats.

There is lots of talk about local mountain lions

Yesterday we relocated the camera up the road on a friend’s property. Recently, he and his neighbors have seen a number of mountain lions. They’ve observed the big cats crossing roads and hanging out in the woods near their homes. Sadly, many of their pets have disappeared. Most likely, one of the reasons the lions are hanging out in the ‘hood is because the human residents aren’t keeping their dogs and cats safe inside. From the puma’s perspective, it’s easier and safer to catch a cat or dog than a large deer with dangerous hoofs. (Please neighbors, keep your pets inside where they are safe!)

Jinniyha, one of the author’s cats checking out the footage--looking for mountain lions

Jinniyha, one of the author’s cats checking out the footage. Photo by Marilyn Krieger

Mountain lions are hunters and scavengers

Although mountain lions favor deer, they are opportunistic hunters. Being practical opportunists, they don’t limit themselves to venison. Smaller prey including rabbits, raccoons and house pets are sometimes included on the menu. In addition to hunting, the large cats will also scavenge. Fresh road kill is not off limits. It makes sense—hunting takes lots of energy and can be dangerous. Prey, fighting for their lives can severely injure pumas with their hoofs and teeth. Hunting isn’t always easy.

Puma’s don’t eat a whole deer in one sitting. Instead they cache it for future meals, visiting the carcass periodically for a gnosh. Usually the mountain lions cover them with dirt and leaves to make them less obvious to other predators.

It would be ideal if we found a cached carcass to focus the camera on. We didn’t.

Mountain lion enjoying a meal. Photo by Freestock

Mountain lion enjoying a meal. Photo by Freestock

Looking for other evidence of mountain lions

Besides the remains of meals, there are other subtler signs to look for. Lions mark and leave scent for other conspecifics by scraping, urine and feces marking and they score trees and logs. Their paw prints are recognizable by their shape, especially the palm paw pad. The 3 lobes on the bottom part of the pad forms an “m”. And of course, let’s not forget the poop, technically and more politely referred to as “scat“.

Planting the trail camera

After scouting around, we set up the trail camera next to a creek in a deep ravine that is deep in brush. We focused it up a game trail that deer habitually use. Nearby are deeply scored trees and logs that may be announcements that a big cat is periodically patrolling the area.

The trail camera is now located in an area with deep brush. Photo by Marilyn Krieger

The trail camera is now located in an area with deep brush. Photo by Marilyn Krieger

The only thing left to do is wait and practice patience. In 30 days we will visit the camera and see what it has caught.

For lively discussions about cats and behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook.

The Best Way to Capture Wild Cats is with a Trail Camera

One of the many gifts of technology is the trail camera. They make it possible for us to comfortably admire animals without disrupting their lives and impacting the environment. It’s especially sweet when wild cats of all sizes are caught in the lenses, living their lives and engaging in instinctual behaviors.

I love trail cameras—the possibility of capturing the local cougars and bob cats on video has always intrigued me. A few weeks ago an opportunity only a few minutes from my home, presented itself. I couldn’t resist.

After we spotted the gray fox and found what looked like evidence of a mountain lion it was obvious that we had to set up a trail camera.

At first glance, the fox looked stunned, lying motionless in the creek below us. Only his ears moved, tracking every sound and movement. We gave him space until he finally stood up and followed the creek to safety. A short distance from where we initially spotted the fox, the creek pooled—a perfect water source for him and other local fauna during these hot summer days. There are also redwood trees nearby. On inspection, we found that three of them have deep scratches in the bark, starting about 5-6 feet from the ground.  Could these be made by local mountain lions patrolling and marking their territory? We wanted to find out.

Grey fox below us in the creek. Photo by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

Grey fox below us in the creek. Photo by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

I did my homework. You can’t just buy a camera, set it up and expect the locals to wander by and perform. It doesn’t work like that—there’s a lot that can go wrong and it can take months until an animal triggers the camera. I contacted the Bay Area Puma Project for guidance and searched the web for tips. Sadly, some of the best sources are pages published by hunters.

Based on my research and tips from BAPP, we decided that the Bushnell Aggressor camera was the best bet. Additionally, I bought a security box, batteries, found a cable and a secure lock—necessities because of the humans who periodically traipse the property.

Learning all about the new camera and taking videos of wild cats. Photo by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

Learning all about the new trail camera. Photo by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

The best locations for trail cameras are spots that aim up game trails. Animals are fast—cameras are slow in comparison. Because it takes a fraction of a second to trigger the camera, when positioned wrong, videos often capture tails and rear ends instead of whole animals.  After a lot of discussion and test pictures we secured the camera to a post, focused up the game trail. It also took in the marked trees and the creek.

Now’s the hard part—waiting.  Ideally, we should wait at least 2-3 weeks before checking trail cameras. I’m impatient, I don’t think I can wait that long…

For lively discussions about cats and cat behavior, please follow The Cat Coach on Facebook!

Find out how to keep cats happy! Check out Marilyn’s book Naughty No More!

Purrs Help Newborn Kittens Survive

04.12.15 Kittens are born blind and deaf. The vibration of their mother’s purr helps guide newborns to their first meals. Purring also helps keep them safe from predators. Because purr vibrations are not as easily detected as meows and other vocalizations, it is harder for predators to find the newborns. Purrs help newborn kittens survive.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook 

Purrs help new borns survive

Purrs help new borns survive. by Fotolia.

 

Litter Box Locations Matter

04.05.15  Litter box locations matter to cats. Cats do not like eliminating in places where they can potentially be cornered or where they feel trapped. Ideal litter box locations have great views—allowing cats to see what is going on around them and to easily escape any potential threat. Cabinets, closets, most bathrooms and behind doors are poor places for litter boxes because they set up situations where cats can be cornered and trapped.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook

Litter box locations matter

Litter box locations matter. Closets and cabinets are poor locations for boxes. by Marilyn Krieger.

The Right Way to Greet Cats

12.28.14  The right way to greet cats. Instead of approaching or cornering the cat, position your index finger about 8” above the ground and point it towards her. She may be as close as a couple of feet from you or across the street. If she wants to socialize, she’ll approach you and touch your finger with her nose. Then she’ll turn her head until your finger is on her cheek. She will probably rub your finger and hand, marking you with pheromones produced by scent glands located on her cheeks. This is your invitation to pet her.

Maulee, the author’s cat, greeting her.

Maulee, the author’s cat, greeting her. by Marilyn Krieger.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook.

Cat Kisses

11.23.14  Cats often show trust, relaxation and affection to their people and other cats through slowly blinking with half closed eyes. This action is referred to as cat kisses. People, mimicking cat kisses can also communicate to felines that they feel relaxed and trusting around them. Depending on the circumstances and the individual cats, their messages of contentment can elicit similar responses from kitties.

Asia, a happy, contented cat

Asia, a happy, contented cat

Cats Show Affection by Head Bunting

11.16.14 One of the many ways that cats show their people affection is by head bunting them—rubbing their foreheads, temples and sides of their heads on their favorite people, cats, dogs and other companions. They leave their scent on whomever they head butt, mingling their scents with their companions. The behavior is a social and comforting behavior, limited only to those the cats have friendly relationships with.

Cats Show People Affection through Their Tails

11.09.14 Cats have many ways of displaying affection towards their favorite people. One of the sweet ways cats show people affection is through their tails. Sometimes cats will slightly raise the fur around the base while quivering the tail tips. Another way they use them to show affection is by wrapping them around the hands, arms and ankles of their favorite people.

 

Cats Use a Variety of Ways to Mark

11.02.14 Cats use a variety of ways to mark territories and objects. Cats, who have not been fixed, typically mark their territories through urine and fecal marking.  Other ways cats show ownership is by scratching objects and by lip/mouth rubbing them.

Cats mark by scratching objects

Cats mark by scratching objects

Why Cats Back Down Trees

10.19.14 Have you wondered why  cats back down trees? Because they have no flexibility in their ankles, their claws always point in one direction. Margays and Snow Leopards have flexible ankles, allowing them to climb down head first.

Cats have to back down trees.

Cats have to back down trees. Photo by by Fotolia.