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Finding Mountain Lions

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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Oct 11, 2015 6:24 am

there is from some reports an active mountain lion den above the happy isles trail along the first mile in Yosemite. I've never seen a cat there but as we all know you hardly see them anywhere. I'm sure the cats spent many a lazy summer day looking down upon the hordes of tourists.


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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby maverick » Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:55 am

Maverick

I may have related a story about a ranger being followed by a mountain lion near Elizabeth Pass in cloudy conditions some time ago. A helicopter was not sent though and it is unlikely one would be sent under those conditions.

Mike


It was in Backpacker Magazine years ago Mike, but the story may have be embellished a bit to make it more exciting.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby maverick » Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:58 am

there is from some reports an active mountain lion den above the happy isles trail along the first mile in Yosemite.


That is like leading the prey to the predator.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby rlown » Sun Oct 11, 2015 11:21 am

more info on Mountain Lions Sierra: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/snbs/SheepPredators.html

The article has some nice pics of Mountain Lions...


Predator Monitoring and Management (Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program)

Predator monitoring and management is an integral part of the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program. For Sierra bighorn recovery, the primary focus of predator monitoring and management is mountain lions, but program personnel investigate Sierra bighorn mortalities from all causes and collect data on bobcat and coyote sign in addition to mountain lions. Mountain lions kill bighorn sheep, but may have little or no impact on population trend if predation is infrequent. Some mountain lions learn to specialize on bighorn sheep. Consequently, in some of the small isolated populations of Sierra bighorn that now exist, predation can have a major impact on the growth rate of the population. For this reason, mountain lions are removed if they are considered a significant threat to the recovery of an Sierra bighorn herd unit. The goals, with respect to predators, are to monitor predation risks to Sierra bighorn, provide Sierra bighorn herd units enough protection to ensure recovery, and collect information on the behavioral interactions of Sierra bighorn, deer, and predators to gain a complete understanding of the dynamics in this important ecological community.

Mountain Lion Monitoring

Mountain lions have been intensively monitored on the winter range of the largest Sierra bighorn population unit, Wheeler Ridge, since 1991. In 2000, this effort was expanded to include all of the winter ranges of Sierra bighorn. Over 130 mountain lions have been fitted with radio collars in the eastern Sierra Nevada during this time period. In, collaboration with USDA Wildlife Services, the Sierra bighorn Recovery Program includes two predator control specialists that track mountain lions daily and use their specially trained hounds to capture them. New advances in technology have allowed more intensive monitoring via GPS collars that provide much more accurate data at a much higher frequency than the traditional VHF collars. GPS collars are used to identify clusters of locations that indicate kill sites. Sites can be investigated to determine the prey species. These collars allow the Sierra bighorn program personnel to identify individual mountain lions that pose a threat, quantify predation rates, and determine whether predation limits recovery of Sierra bighorn. Removing lions that are a legitimate threat to the recovery of Sierra bighorn units is the most efficient and effective protection for Sierra bighorn and promotes recovery of an endangered species and the restoration of an ecosystem

About Mountain Lions

Mountain lions go by a number of names and this causes some confusion. The names cougar, puma, panther, and catamount, all refer to the same animal. The scientific name (Puma concolor) reflects the solid tawny color of the mountain lion along its upper body. The belly is white and there are black markings at the base of the whiskers, the back of the ears and the tip of the tail.

The young are born with spots that fade by six months of age. Mountain lions are sexually dimorphic meaning that there is a physical difference between males and females. Adult females in the Recovery Program area average 40 kg. while adult males average 58 kg. Despite this, it can be extremely difficult to tell a male and female apart unless the animals are in hand.

General sign of coyotes and bobcats are noted by predator monitoring personnel on a daily basis. This data collection includes sightings, kills and tracks found while monitoring and tracking mountain lions. Predator monitoring personnel investigate reported mountain lion sightings by the public. Bobcats are very often mistaken for mountain lions, sometimes because people are unaware that there is another cat species besides mountain lions in the area, because they thought bobcats have no tail at all, or because humans can not judge distance well and a bobcat can easily appear the size of a mountain lion if the distance is less than the observer perceives it to be. Bobcats in our Recovery Program area rarely exceed 16 kg., generally have numerous markings about the body, especially on the legs, and have a shortened but distinguishable tail.

Dogs, coyotes, and house cats are also frequently reported as mountain lions. Dog tracks are very often reported as mountain lion tracks. Cat tracks have distinguishing features in the heel pad. The base of the heel pad will have three cleats and the top will be flat. These characteristics occur in the tracks of every member of the cat family. Very rarely a dog may also have a similar track in which case the presence of claw marks, a pointed tip in the heel pad and other factors may eliminate it as a possible cat track. Size is not useful in distinguishing mountain lion tracks from dog tracks. Black mountain lions are infrequently reported but in the history of mountain lion hunting, which includes hundreds of thousands of specimens, dating back for over a century in both North and South America, a black mountain lion has never been definitively observed. The black panthers seen in movies are either black jaguars or black leopards, both species which can commonly produce melanistic offspring.

See also, general information about mountain lions at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/lion.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby rlown » Sun Oct 11, 2015 12:02 pm

just found this tidbit of news on yahoo on a feed: http://news.yahoo.com/deaths-california ... 28179.html

Tragedy has struck California’s mountain lions once again, with three deaths in as many weeks highlighting how difficult it is for the big cats to survive in an urban national park.

Three young mountain lions have been found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains over the past few weeks, according to Friday’s press release from the National Park Service. The most recent death was a young female called P-34. She was found dead on Sept. 30. Although she had minor wounds, likely from a fight with another cougar, she appears to have died from ingesting rat poison.

A 2012 study from the National Park Service found that 11 out of 12 mountain lions tested positive for exposure to rat poison, with two dying as a result. The majority of coyotes and bobcats tested were also infected.

What’s rat poison doing in a national park? It likely worked its way up the food chain. When rodents consume the blood-thinning poison set out by humans, they don’t necessarily die right away. Often they first slow down and become easy prey for larger animals, which can then also become sick or die. When the poison doesn’t directly kill the mountain lions, they become more susceptible to diseases such as mange.

RELATED: Everyone Loves Wild Animals in Their Backyard—Until They Don’t

Poison isn’t the only problem for these mountain lions. The Pacific Ocean and roadways have left the big cats boxed into the Santa Monica Mountains, resulting in heightened intraspecies conflict. Last month, the Park Service found two dead three-month-old kittens, P-43 and a previously unknown sibling. Another animal, possibly a mountain lion, killed them. P-34’s sibling P-32 died in August of this year after traversing four highways to get out of the Santa Monica mountains and develop his own range free from other male cats. He was struck and killed by a car when attempting to traverse his fifth freeway.

“If you’re a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains, this is just not an easy place to grow up,” Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist for the National Park Service, said in the release. “From our roads to rat poisons to potentially increased interactions with other mountains lions, it is very difficult for young animals to make it to adulthood, establish their own home range and reproduce.”

Mountain lions are essential to maintaining the ecosystem. The top predators, they feast on herbivores and thereby indirectly influence vegetation growth. They also eat coyotes, helping maintain a balanced ecosystem in California.

Park officials are working on a wildlife crossing for the mountain lions over the 101 freeway. As for ingesting rat poison, the National Park Service advises humans to stop using poisons that contain anticoagulants or find an alternative way to control pests.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby dave54 » Sun Oct 11, 2015 2:13 pm

maverick wrote:Remember reading a story of a SEKI Ranger being stalked by a mountain lion on the top Elizabeth Pass. Visibility was low because of the low clouds, the ranger called for a chopper, which arrived just in time, because the cat was within 20 feet of the ranger, fortunately the sound of the chopper scared off the cat. Later the park bioligist said, that usually lions do not stalk/attack adults, but the cat may have beiieved the ranger was injured due to the red backpack.


The red backpack story is likely untrue. Cats are partially color blind. They can discern some shades of blue and green, but not red.

In thirty plus years in the Forest Service I spotted maybe a half dozen in the wild. No doubt many more were watching me. They are real hard to spot, even when looking right at them. They blend in to their surroundings and remain motionless if they see you looking at them.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby WarrenFork » Sun Oct 11, 2015 4:36 pm

I saw a full grown lion in Tenaya Canyon two years ago in late September in the flattish area where the canyon opens out above Hidden Falls before constricting into the gorge. It was headed into the trees from a sunny spot where it was basking before it sensed my approach. I was starled by how big it was, the tail alone looked two feet long.

East of the Sierra I have glimpsed lions from a farther distance twice, once in the Glass Mountains near the Indiana Summit Natural Area and another time in the hills north of Huntoon Valley just across the Nevada line due east of Mono Lake. Both times I was tagging along with hunters tracking deer. They said it was not the first time they had come across big cats in those parts.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby acorad » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:07 am

Park officials are working on a wildlife crossing for the mountain lions over the 101 freeway.


This planned wildlife crossing is less than 1/4 mile from my house, and it has become quite controversial.

My quick mountain lion story...

I run trails a lot, and my home borders the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area which has many miles of trails.

About 15 years ago I was running with my dog on one of these trails about 1/2 mile from my home when he started acting very strangely - pulling on the leash, whining, trying to get off the trail. Curious, I let him lead, and he led me to the edge of a grassy meadow that was bordered by various shrubs and trees growing next to a seasonal creek.

The meadow's dried grass was flattened in a very wide area, probably a 1/4 acre or so. And w/in this area my dog found the foreleg of a freshly killed deer. Considering the size of the grass-flattened area, I figured the deer was killed by a pack of coyotes.

Later that day I went to the local National Park Service headquarters and told some rangers what I had seen. They asked "You were at the edge of the meadow next to the trees?" And I said "Yes." They said, "Did you look up?" And I said, "No, why?" And they said, "Because the mountain lion was probably up in a tree right over your head."

They said that after a lion make its kill it takes multiple days to eat all the meat, so it drags the carcass into the brush and then climbs a nearby tree that overlooks it to guard it.

15 years later, and retelling this story still gets my heart working a little faster!

Andy
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Oct 14, 2015 9:16 pm

maverick wrote:
there is from some reports an active mountain lion den above the happy isles trail along the first mile in Yosemite.


That is like leading the prey to the predator.


Since there aren't sightings (they would post a warning notice at the trailhead as usual if there were) and it continues to be true that no one has ever died by predator attack in Yosemite (the only animal caused death is a deer, accidentally killing a toddler in Wawona Meadow), it's hard to consider the millions of tourists that take that trail each year to be prey.

I've also seen fresh tracks in Yosemite. Near Alder Creek Falls I started yelling and singing after realizing I was the only person around and the tracks in the trail were the largest I'd ever seen....
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby sparky » Thu Oct 15, 2015 9:47 pm

A couple years ago while solo and attempting to hike up le conte gully in the valley I came upon a game trail. I quickly recognized mountain lion tracks, and was soon encountering mountain lion poos, some very fresh. I was on edge. Then a pretty strong stench of poo and urine hit me as I was approaching a sort of cave made by some stacked overhanging boulders. I couldn't see inside, and I got the F out of there. I was stymied a few hundred feet above and had to backtrack. I dropped enough elevation to where I knew I was below the rocks to traverse over. I soon came upon some rocks I had to shimmy down. Yes it was the den. The cat I am sure was scared off by my cursing so I just hucked myself into the den of death and again got the F out of there!

My one and only sighting was around 7AM in the Ortega Mountains (Santa Ana mts) on a fire road, one jumped into the road right in front of the car then dashed away.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby gdurkee » Fri Nov 27, 2015 2:50 pm

I've only seen 4, though have run into tracks fairly often. They are really, really hard to see. It's more than likely they've seen you but you not them if you've done any amount of hiking. About 20 years ago, the Round Valley deer herd (north of Bishop and a major source of food a number of mountain lions) crashed and the lions started regularly going higher for bighorn sheep where they're now a routine predator. I've seen tracks at cliff bases at 12,000 feet.

A friend of mine has a great photo of two lions in autumn grass. You can barely see them and wouldn't likely notice them if you're walking by. He almost didn't from about 100 feet away.

I think the ranger/Elizabeth Pass story is a bit garbled in translation. One of the b/c rangers was being followed by a lion in, yes, low visibility, though can't remember the location -- I vaguely remember Evolution Creek. Eventually the lion took off but the ranger was for sure a bit nervous. No helicopter. That's the only incident I know of with a ranger. Also on Evolution Creek, I came on a very fresh (still warm) gut pile and followed the drag/blood trail but never found the kill or the lion.Probably not a great idea... .

It's not uncommon to find their kills along streams and in brush or willow. They'll cover it with dirt or debris, but it's not well buried. You can sometimes recognize a deer kill because the ribs on one side are broken in. The lion will hit the ribs hard to access the stomach and organs. Not sure if they're necessarily nearby or up a tree, but the do come by to feed on that kill.

You definitely want to be careful running or even biking (I think). Something moving away from them fast triggers an attack instinct. Also, just showing your back or bending over can trigger it. I think there have been one or two attacks on kids. Best bet is to stand, make yourself look as big as possible and back of slowly. That what I've heard, anyway. Never had to put it to a test.

Oh. PS: Rat poison. Nasty stuff in the food chain. One huge source are marijuana grow sites which I'd suspect in the Santa Monica area. I'd hope legalization makes this source no longer profitable. It's a huge impact on wildlife at all levels.
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Re: Finding Mountain Lions

Postby oldranger » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:12 pm

George

The Elizabeth Pass incident really did occur as a front country or trailhead ranger returned after a ranger rendezvous at Big Bird lake. There was no helicopter and at some point the mountain lion lost interest. I was at the rendezvous and was heading down Deadman when the event occurred, but didn't learn about it until later in the summer.

Mike
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