We have a lot of large predators living on our mountain. Up to this point, all we had seen of the animal and bird predatory nature were Bobcats; cute not-so-little guys with their ear tufts, Foxes, Raccoons, one Possum, who we've named "Peter Pettigrew", who comes around and tries to score a meal from Bullseye's dish on the porch if we leave it out too late, Coyotes, Great Horned Owls, Eagles, Hawks and Vultures. Today was just a little different. It wasn't really a good day for critters on the mountain. Moe came home with a Black-Headed Grosbeak. We keep telling her "gophers, not birds" but I guess they're not as much fun and certainly less visible.
This evening, Joy was calling for Larry, our big, beautiful Maine Coon boy, to come in for the night. He and his tiny sister, Moe, tend to wander, so they have radio transmitters and we have a directional receiver to track them. Otherwise, a lot of time and energy is lost trekking all over the mountain trying to locate them. Lately, they both have come to recognize the beep of the receiver from way off and come running when they hear it and either of us calling. Get crunchies that way!
Larry came running down from atop Observatory Hill and stopped just inside the gate, repeatedly looking at Joy and then off to his left then back at Joy. She finally went down the hill toward the gate to pick him up. Once about 20 feet from him, that which he was trying to draw Mom's attention to became evident. A deer was laying in the grass about ten feet inside the fence, its head at an upward angle and mid-section... well, let's just leave it that someone had a meal. There's something you don't get to see every day...
I examined the carcass and there was evidence in the fur of a choking hold on the neck and what looked like a large claw pattern on the hind quarters, although there were no skin penetrations in either location. We paid our respects and said a prayer and came back up to the studio. Nothing could be done at this point. It was already past dusk.
We put in a call to Fish and Game to get their advice and, of course, they're out of the office until Monday, so no one will be able come until then. They did ask if any of our guys had any signs of having "investigated". Inspections of all who were outside at the time were negative.
Later, Joy shined my 4-cell Maglite out the bedroom window and saw eyes staring back from behind the Juniper tree, about ten feet closer to the studio from where the deer lay. Looks like (s)he's back for a late night snack.
We watched through binoculars, illuminating the scene with the Maglite. Sitting upright, approximately 3.5 feet in height and I'd estimate 6+ inches between eyes and a 3 foot long tail, this is a full-grown Mountain Lion come to guard its kill. (S)he was a bit wary at first but, seeing as how we weren't making any advances or noise, just laid down and eventually rolled over exposing his/her tummy. Interesting. I expect that there will be less and less of the deer to take away when the time comes.
We watched for a while, fascinated at the thought of it all. I took a couple of test shots with the DSLR but, even at ASA 1600 and a slow shutter speed facilitated by the gryo-stabilizer on the long lens, I couldn't get a good exposure. I wanted to go out from the hot glass studio door to get a better angle but Joy would have none of that. Later, when the lion was no longer visible, I did go out. Cautiously sweeping with the Maglite, I got out under Maxfield, our wonderful large oak, and peered down into the location where the deer lay. The wind had started up with a force and shelter was taken by that time, so no one was to be seen. Going out when (s)he was visible would have been less scary but, whatever.
Needless to say, the kids are NOT going out after dark anymore. It's going to be a pain listening to the petitioning but better that than total silence.
We had heard frequent stories about lions up here and do know that they are around (this is wild country) but, what with the "fish story" nature of a few up here, took it with a grain of salt. Things will have to be different from now on.
It's now 03:32. Roadside just came up and touched me on the elbow to go out.