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More Cougars with some Wolves thrown in

I’ve said it before and I’ll write it again:  animals present themselves to you, not the other way around.  And for the last six months, cougars are what have been presenting themselves to me to learn about.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve seen that cougars have been constantly coming into my awareness now since the winter.  Last winter I tracked a cougar in the snows and found over 5 of her kill sites.  Then the last several weeks I found some cougar scat on the edge of the little forest by me.  A week later I found a fairly fresh kill site, just 25 feet from my trail camera.  Too bad cougars don’t use trails.  The kill site was just off-camera by a little bit.

Last week I hiked up a drainage located  within a smallish draw.  I climbed high, then worked my way horizontally around the draw, finally descending via a creek with snow-melt in it.  As I was climbing to the ridgeline that was a rocky crescent, I pushed aside some brush and saw a large cave rock shelter.

Koda guards a cougar densite

Koda was ever anxious to run right in and stick his nose inside.  I called him off.  There might be something dangerous inside.

After determining all was quiet, I went to investigate.  This had been a cougar den, and one used this year.  I could tell from the smelly scat at the entrance.  The sticks and duff had all been pushed consciously to the front, and at the farthest rear of the cave was a neat round bed.  This was really exciting.

Den site of a cougar. Duff in front.  Bed at back end (where it’s dark in photo)

I began pushing farther uphill towards the rocks, looking out for sign of kills along the way.  Sure enough, there was a lot of evidence of deer predation here.

Rocky ridge I hiked to.

One thing I pondered was the lack of water.  A small creek was running several drainages over with snowmelt, but all the other drainages were bone-dry.  The canid dens I’ve seen are all close to a water source.  I thought about cougars in the Southwest, a super-dry area, and wondered about their use of water, especially with kittens.

Eventually I worked my way over to the drainage with water.

Drainage with some water I followed and found lion tracks

Coming round a curve, I found a large cougar print in the mud.  I understand that instead of following trails, like bears or wolves, cougars like to follow drainages.  I wished I could have taken a cast of that.

I followed the drainage down until I came to a downed large tree .  I went one way and Koda went around the tree on the opposite side. Above the creek,  I was following a deer trail now and called the dog back to me.  As he came across the creek, I noticed something move behind a tree about 25 feet ahead on the trail.  It was grey.  I peered to get a better look and there was the  yearling wolf I’d caught on the trail camera just days before.

This curious yearling wolf was watching me from behind a tree.  

She’d been curious, watching me.  When she noticed I’d seen her, she bolted.  I called the dog, who luckily was behind me, to a ‘heel’ and we moved ahead until we had a view of the hillside meadows.  There was her collared mom.  I kept the dog beside me, tried to take some photos while I walked out of the area, all the while we kept our eyes on each other.  She’d move a bit away, then stop and eye me.

Female collared wolf.  She’d move uphill, then stop to see where I was

I thought about how curious wolves are, and how these wolves, though cautious, are fairly used to people.  Most of the time I see wolves around here, they prance ahead, then stop to watch; easy targets once hunting season on wolves will begin next fall.  I fear these two wolves won’t live to see another spring.

I was still stoked from that morning for several days.  What a lot of wonderful wildlife adventures.  Then just a few days later, I walked at dusk to the mailbox.  Cougar prints crossed the driveway, still damp from recent rains.  Now I had my casts!  A perfect week and a lot of cougar lessons besides.

Cast of cougar prints–right side is rear on top, front on bottom. Cougar was going at a fast trot. Left print is a direct register

 

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2 Responses

  1. WOW! How nice! Great experience and wonderful casts. I wouldn’t know a couger den if I saw one.

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  2. […] working on my bowl for several hours, I took a hike up nearby Margarite draw.  Last year I found a cougar den up there and I wanted to see if there had been any occupation this year.  As I hiked higher and higher […]

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