Author Topic: Lion tracks tell a story  (Read 718 times)

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Offline Okanagan

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Lion tracks tell a story
« on: February 21, 2020, 11:17:48 AM »
But I'm not sure I can read it!

Driving a logging road a few days ago, just before sundown I came on a bunch of cougar tracks in the snow.  Two adult cougars had romped and played early the night before, then a third smaller adult cougar had showed up only an hour before I got there.  The smaller cat had walked all around the area, following and checking out the tracks made by the pair. 

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A large cougar and a medium sized cougar made the first pair.  The big cat had chased the medium one a couple of short dashes, and then they had broken branches off of a dead bush and in two areas had totally tracked and mashed down snow in patches about 6x8 feet.  The snow was too churned up on those patches to decipher anything, though there was no clean mark of rolling in the snow, which I have found where young cougars have played. 

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Broken branches and tromped down snow patches, below.

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The more recent racks were from a cat smaller than either of the other two, and were so fresh that it is possible that I spooked him off of the site.  The small cat's track below.

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Some of the tracks of the large pair were two or three days old, plus I found the shoulder blade of an elk, clean of meat but still fresh, red and not dried out. I think the pair had an elk kill nearby, had stayed at least two days in the area, likely 3 days, and left the night before.

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I have a theory re what the tracks tell but will pause and see what others think.  I tried calling with no luck.  A few more track pics below.

A scuff or place where a cougar raked snow back with his paw.

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A cougar crouched down and left the mark of his foreleg in the pic below, or maybe the lower part of his hind leg.

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Offline nastygunz

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2020, 02:06:38 PM »
Quite interesting,  I always enjoy seeing tracks in the snow and figuring out what various critters are up to.

Offline pitw

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2020, 03:16:18 PM »
I figure it was a couple cats using some of Rem's sex toys and the younger one came along trying to learn how they used them. 
I say what I think not think what I say.

Offline nastygunz

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2020, 07:04:19 PM »
Brilliant!  :innocentwhistle:

Offline Hawks Feather

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2020, 08:19:55 AM »
Thanks for the post.  Always need to see signs of animals that are not in this area. 

Offline JohnP

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2020, 11:36:07 AM »
Nice pictures.  Never had to track or even follow lion track out here.  Wife did find and followed a set of tracks in a dry wash for a few hundred yards then they disapeared into the mountains.  I later went out to look and my findings were a female with a cub.  I have no clue as to what your tracks tell me except maybe the crouching one indicates he thought he heard, seen or smelled a possible target and/or danger.
When they come for mine they better bring theirs

Offline Okanagan

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2020, 01:04:52 PM »
My track interpretation already given showed some of my thoughts/bias on this already.  Like pitw, I think it was a mating pair, the male with larger tracks than the female.  Some of his tracks seemed older than any others so he may have killed an elk and then the female joined him later.  More on that below.

The small cougar that came by later adds a wrinkle.  My guess is that it was a young adult recently kicked out by his mother who was ready to mate again, and he is still following her around.  On other occasions I’ve found tracks of a young adult or big juvenile that followed and shadowed a mature adult pair.   I think that the young one is afraid of the big male with his mother, probably with good reason, but he hangs around for awhile hoping his mother will come back.

Re the female joining the male after the kill, I think that the male called for a female to join him.  We have found deer kills made by a big footed lion where a smaller lion joined him a day or two later, as well as finding kills made by a pair of lions at the same time.  My guess is that if the male is alone and wants company on his kill, he makes some kind of come hither call, or maybe a female just happens by. The biggest lion track we've ever found killed a large buck in a half mile wide basin, and over the next four days, four more cougars entered that basin, at least up on the edge.  That sure seems like he was calling other lions in some way.



Offline Okanagan

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2020, 01:19:00 PM »
Nice pictures.  Never had to track or even follow lion track out here.  Wife did find and followed a set of tracks in a dry wash for a few hundred yards then they disapeared into the mountains.  I later went out to look and my findings were a female with a cub.  I have no clue as to what your tracks tell me except maybe the crouching one indicates he thought he heard, seen or smelled a possible target and/or danger.

Good catch, John!  It barely shows in the photo of where the lion crouched, but the ground breaks off very steeply in the upper left corner of the photo, so that a cat paused or crouched where this one did could peek over the road edge and look down the steep mountainside through the trees.  He followed and often stepped in the same tracks that the larger lions had made the night before, and crouched to peek over the edge in the same spot where one of them peeked over.
 


Offline FinsnFur

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2020, 06:52:05 PM »
I can read it  :readthis:
It says go the opposite direction and do it swiftly, your being watched. :laf:

Cool pics for sure.
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Offline Okanagan

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2020, 12:51:57 PM »
I can read it  :readthis:
It says go the opposite direction and do it swiftly, your being watched. :laf:

I can't run fast enough anymore to get away from anything!  :whew:

I tried three times to call those lions, once that first evening and twice the next morning.  At sundown the first evening, by the time I sorted out that there were three of them and that one was fresh, light was going fast.  I drove on down the road 300 yards around two bends, parked and hustled back 200 yards on foot toward the tracked up area.  I almost waited till the next morning rather than call then, but a fresh track is too good to pass, even a poor chance. When I came to where I could see back to the tracks, I scrambled ten feet up the bank and scrunched into a dark fir tree with limbs sweeping down to cover me.  I used a Hunt n Carve hare/fawn distress hand call and didn't take time to set out the electronic remote. 

My only hope was that one or more of the lions would respond quickly and come down the road toward me.  The small one with fresh tracks was the likely candidate.

Within 8 minutes it was too dark to read my watch and I quit after 13 minutes.  At the 7 minute mark some animal moved on the steep slope in dark timber above me, downwind.  Small sound but alive, could have been squirrel, coyote, not a deer or elk.

Before sunup the next morning I set up a good ambush 250 yards west of the tracks, on the road.   Below looking east from my stand toward the tracks and elk kill. I sat on the drop off edge of the road in a nest under sweeping limbs of a big fir, with the electronic caller in the ditch across the road from my hide.

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 My plan was to bracket the area, making a call on each side of the big sharp ridge where the tracks were.  The first call was close enough to reach them if they were still on the elk kill.  The second covered the huge basin below and on the other side of the ridge in the direction the tracks seemed headed, in case they had not moved more than a mile or so.

 Steep ground with heavy forest, the road seemed my best option for the first stand.   Stayed 35 minutes with no response other than a raven.  Below pics looking west from the stand from inside my nest and outside. 

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 Drove on past the tracked area a mile and a half eastward on a horseshoe loop around a big basin/canyon that dropped elevation all the way.  The road hooked around a ridge on the other side, at that point 800 feet lower and back within 650 yards across the canyon from the tracked up area.  I hiked down that ridge another 100 yards to a flat spot 25x50 yards, where the sound would carry into a vast timbered basin on both sides below and up to the original tracks.  I alternated prey/fawn distress with Rainshadow cougar whistles.

Now comes my chronic lion jinx.  The sound carried into so big an area that the ambush called for at least an hour on stand.  My wife was in a motel 15 miles away in Forks and check-out time was too near to stay a full hour.  I'd pay for an extra night for a lion, but nearing midday on old tracks, odds of success were low.  I stayed 35 minutes, stood up, took off my camo head cover and gloves, got half of my blind and calling gear packed when a lion started whistling from one edge of the flat.  Caught.  In the open.  We whistled back and forth for 25 minutes but he was suspicious.  I didn't make it by check-out time at the motel and didn't get the cougar either.  The motel waived the extra charge.

Offline JohnP

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2020, 10:08:59 AM »
Sometimes the odds are with us and other times not so much.  Found this lion kill in the Huachuca Mountains behind us, almost in spitting distance.  Sat on it for days and no lion - go figure.  Female with two year old cub, I think.

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When they come for mine they better bring theirs

Offline Okanagan

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Re: Lion tracks tell a story
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2020, 11:00:44 AM »
Great photo capture of lions on a deer kill!  Yep, sometimes they keep coming back to a kill till it is eaten, even when pushed off of it by man, but other times they move on and never come back for no reason we can pattern.

Son and I went out yesterday and hit two different lion tracks on our way home in mid-afternoon, both made the night before.  We hadn't hit a fresh or even a recent lion track all winter, very odd for our area, and then found two in one day plus the three I found last week.

 The first cat yesterday was small and travelling, even loping leisurely at times.  We worked his tracks through patchy snow on three different dead end roads that he crossed or travelled, and gave up on him when he went up into a big canyon system with no roads.  He had two strikes against trying to call him:  many hours old plus he was bee-line travelling.  Travelling cats tend to cover miles quickly, out of earshot.  Hunting cats meander and are likely not far away.

The second lion was bigger and gave us 50 yards of tracks on a dead end road where he had lay down and made a body print in the snow.  Hours old, thick difficult country to call, and he headed into another roadless watershed.  Son had time pressure so we went home.