Mountain Lions Are Back – Yes, at Least Two!

   Posted by: BJ Johnson in cats, wildlife

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.

Here are a couple of links to information on these wonderful creatures in our midst:
The Mountain Lion Foundation
California Department of Fish and Game

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8 Responses to Mountain Lions Are Back – Yes, at Least Two!



    I have just found your blog and find the mixture of hard science and artistic perspective both captivating and motivating.

    I've always been interested in space and space exploration but my first love has always been music. I bristle when I hear people always trying to classify somebody as a scientist or an artist.

    I will return to check out more of your blog in the future.



    May 8, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, being pigeonholed has always been a problem. Speaking of pigeons, I checked out your site, and found your bird deterrent article quite interesting. We have a problem with pigeons taking over the feeders and driving away the smaller birds. Any thoughts?

    May 9, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Super post, Need to mark it on Digg

    May 13, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Hi BJ,

    Sorry, I thought I had subscribed to get follow up posts emailed but I see I'm mistaken.

    If you're looking to exclude a bird from your yard the solution is usually somewhere between what you feed and how you feed it.

    Having said that, I know that pigeons are a real problem because I think they eat almost everything.

    Still, I used to have mourning doves doing the same thing and what I had to do was take down-at least temporarily-any platform or open feeders. I've replaced my hopper feeder with one of those squirrel-proof feeders that have the weight sensitive perch on it. They're not very expensive and can be set to just the right weight to close the seed port when the pigeons park their fat asses on it.

    Takes a little experimenting but it's not hard to do at all.

    If you need more detail just respond here and I'll promise to check back more often.


    May 15, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Don't have a comment eMail sub on this blog yet. I'm researching some but they are buggy or old and aren't tested on this version. I'm running a few older plugs but trying to get more of them updated and keep only current ones active for stability.

    What I'm thinking of doing on the pigeon front is making a "Pinhead" (Clive Barker's "Hellraiser") deterrent. We have some really nice wood rustic feeders that hang from the porch or tree in the rock garden and don't want to give those up. If I can devise a method of making it difficult for the pigeons to land on the already narrow tray around the sides, and still let smaller birds in, and not alter the appearance too much, (big list) that would be best.

    They have a hard time hanging on as it is, so it may not take too much of a modification to make that number too big.

    I don't get why they don't go for the seed that is on the ground, like a pigeon should!

    May 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm


    Do you have a bunch of stuff on this blog that won't work with the latest WP version? Upgrading is really a snap and the newest version is SO much better.

    Pigeons-I know my mourning doves were willing to nearly hang by their beaks to get on my hopper feeder.

    What I was suggesting is a temporary measure. My birdfeeding approach is anything but static. I'll make short term adjustments to discourage certain species.

    Right now, I've been putting my squirrel proof feeder out in early evening because I've had a bunch of the house finches with the eye disease they spread. My cardinals, chickadees and titmice know the drill and it doesn't phase them. The finches are already thinning out after only 4 days.


    May 17, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Everything works. Just may not be working as well as it could with the new code. I’m already at the latest version. It arrived, oh, about 20 minutes after I got the first install done.

    These are Band-tailed. I really don’t like denying the guys food, as they are very determined and vigilant about when the feeder arrives, so must be hungry. Still, they’d eat us out of feed in a few days’ time. We have to bring the feeder into the glass hot shop at night or they’d empty it by the time we get up.

    So the finches only feed during the morning/daytime, not at evening time?

    May 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm


    I must have misunderstood. I thougt you said you were holding off upgrading for some reason. No problem.

    You won't kill any birds I promise. They are very resourceful which is at the heart of my plan. It sounds like you need to either adjust what you feed, when you feed or how you feed. Something's got to give to get those numbers down. Otherwise, you can't change what's going on out there.

    The cart is before the horse. They're eating all that because they can. Not because you've forced them to rely on you. That's a myth.

    In my case, the sick finches hang around all day but realize they need to go elsewhere for their daily fix which gets them looking around for other sources. This increases the chance they'll be elsewhere when it comes out in the evening.

    The other birds just utilize other sources but know to return every evening like clockwork. That's why I say different things work for different birds.


    May 19, 2009 at 8:33 am
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