Went to check the deer today and it was dragged into the rock-walled area under the big pine and next to the perimeter fence. That's why I couldn't readily identify it last night when I went out and peered down from the glass studio to see if anyone was around. More of it has been eaten or carried off, so it is now evident that we're not going to call Fish and Game right away. This is a natural occurrence in the wilderness. We may be in a partially settled area but not really as far as the wildlife are concerned. They were here long before we arrived and this is their territory. We are only borrowing it. If we further impose upon them with our need for disposing of distasteful things, like a deer carcass, we will rob them of a much needed food supply. There could be cubs that need food.
The lions have been forced to come closer to us. The Ventana Wilderness, their preferred habitat just across the valley to the South, was ravaged by a two month long wildfire this past Summer that threatened to destroy our home, too. This drove their prey out in all directions to save themselves. During these past months we have seen increased wildlife population of this area, and it has been really fun having these visitors. We do as much as we can to foster their new homes. Along with them come their check and balance.
Turkey Vultures arrived today. They patrol this mountainous area regularly, sailing overhead back and forth in a search pattern sniffing the breeze. They've found what they are looking for and came swooping down quite close as we walked the property; less than ten feet away. They pretty much don't pay attention to us at all as they go about their search. You could easily hear their wings in the wind as they went past and maneuvered as we walked the property. These are Eagle-sized birds, quite impressive. I have some images of a pair sitting atop a power pole just across our road, wings outstretched in the Sun like Cormorants drying their feathers. They dwarf the insulators and transformer.
I took Moe's Black-Headed Grosbeak that she brought to Mom and Dad yesterday down to the deer for an added appetizer for anyone who might like it. Better to continue the circle of life than to have died in vain.
This evening, I went out through the glass studio and shone the Maglite down into the property toward the rock wall. There she is! Eyes gleaming in the light, resting under the Juniper like last night, but there are three pairs. Two are over at the deer while the one stands watch. I came back in and told Joy: "they're baaaack". She was surprised and excited at the news of more than one. We got both pairs of glasses and went quietly back out.
By this time, the one standing guard was sitting up, having been alerted to our presence. From this angle, she could be fully seen; almost side-on to us facing North. She would look around at us when the light first shone but after that returned to scanning the darkness. Absolutely majestic.
Couldn't see the others, as an Almond tree was between. Only their eyes gleaming in the beam gave away their presence. Eyes are closer-set than Mom's, so they're cubs. COOL!
Joy has also been writing about our experiences. She checked just now and they appear to have gone off to their shelter for the night. We figure that it is very close by. Don't want to commute very far to the restaurant. We have no idea where it may be but are very cautious when venturing out of the studio, even in daylight. One false move that seems a threat or happen to have your back turned and you're the next meal.
An interesting factoid on the probability from the Mountain Lion Foundation that I'd just as soon not test or press:
Encounters with cougars are rare and the risk of injury or death from an attack is infinitely small. In fact, your chances of being attacked or killed by a domestic dog are much, much greater. DFG statistics show that, in the last 20 years, hunting accidents killed more than 85 Californians and injured 700. In the last 100 years, only 14 fatal cougar attacks occurred on the entire North American continent. In that time, more than 15,000 people were killed by lightning; 4,000 by bees; 10,000 by deer; 1,300 by rattlesnakes. Yosemite National Park has cougars plus 3 million visitors a year. There has never been an attack in the park’s history. More visitors have died from rockslides. On the list of daily "dangers" faced by Californians, cougars are but a footnote.
If the weather cooperates, I may try to set up the studio tripod for tomorrow evening to get a longer exposure. The tripod is big and would make too much commotion working with it if they are already here. Wish I could have had it ready tonight; the sight was so beautiful. It'll just remain in my memory—at least until I paint it.