Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Always Put Collars on Your Kitties

Before letting your cats roam, it's always best to make sure they're wearing their ID collars.

Because you just never know where they might pop up.  :)

Such as in this little grove of high-meadow aspens in the eastern Sierra Nevada:

upper valley

Where I had set my trusty and fast Reconyx:

Reconyx in aspen grove at edge of sub-alpine meadow

The first collared kitty to the scene arrived on July 21st, at 4:49am:

Mountain lion slinking into small clearing in aspens

Nice looking collar



Pausing for a little log sniffing and marking


Shake, shake

And off to the next episode

Being a Reconyx trail camera, the quality is obviously not great. But... it is amazingly fast - taking photos once per second - which can make for fun flipbook-style videos:

Full 30 shots caught of b&w collared cat as it checked out the clearing and log

8 days later, at 6:43pm, another cougar strutted in from the meadow. At first, seeing the collar, I thought it was the same lion. But, the faces and collars are quite different.

Collared cougar #2 comes into the clearing - note the torn up nose and right ear

Sniffing the scent marks left by previous visitors, such as b&w cat

The collar is reversed from b&w cat, which has the bulkier battery pack (?) on the right of the flatter, square box (holding electronics/antenna?)

Them some serious shoulders

That collar is looking a little beat. Is that a USB connector?

And off color cat goes...

Day kitty didn't hang about for as many frames, but here's the flipbook vid of its pass through:

12 still flipbook vid of the collared color cat exploring scene

Come to find out, the collars are likely part of the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program, being managed by Cal Fish & Game. Limiting predation while the herds are trying to get established is typically an important part of these kinds of re-population programs.

In fact, I've heard from local biologists that it'll be surprising if I get many pumas w/o collars. That sounds like a challenge... :)

Also, 2 kitties 8 days apart on the same spot is generally no coincidence, of course. Cougars don't casually cross each others ranges, so we can speculate that it's likely these 2 are related, such as sisters, or one is a female and one is a male, and this is a territory overlap.

My gut leans towards the latter - with the stocky, split-nose color cat being the male.

Whaddya think?



  1. 1. super super awesome
    2. I like your guess. "She" looks light and lean, "he" looks mean and tough! =) Not a lion expert at all, but I like your guess.

    Cherchez la femme, such a popular source of motivation. =)


  2. Very cool.

    I don't have much experience with cougars (we don't really get many in the east, unfortunately) I'm not very good at determining gender by physical appearance.

    My gut tells me that you're gut is right. That second one has that sort of hulking look that a bigger animal (i.e., a male) would have compared to the first one.

    What spectacular finds!

  3. Great photos!

    I have a spot where I've captured photos of at least 4 different cougars this summer. I've had more photo captures than 4 but I'm being conservative about the number of individuals. Only one of the 4 leaves scrapes so I assume that he's the dominant male. All of them except one were collared (the dominant male is not collared) so I'm assuming that they are resident cougars and not ones passing through as they disperse.

    Do you know of any good papers showing home ranges of cougars in an area? I'd love to see an example of how much overlap there is but it's hard to find in the literature.

  4. These are incredible sequences. It must be amazing to share the landscape with these cats...the feral house cats around here don't instill the same awe.

  5. Nice cat catches, KB. I wrote a post, Puma Tales, a time back that has a variety of mountain lion factoids and references on home range size and movement patterns that you may find useful.

    Generally, there is little/no overlap between territory holding males, but males will overlap with several territory holding females. And, related females are usually cool with some overlap between their territories.

    Another option to consider - cougar kids hang with mom for almost 2 years, so perhaps you're seeing some near full size siblings out roaming with and w/o mom in her territory.

  6. Thank you for the Puma Tales reference.


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