Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mountain Lion in my hiking area

This morning we went out for our exercise (walking the dogs through the foothills) on one of our normal trails and it was obvious that we were the only ones to be out on this trail for days. The snow as fresh and undisturbed. About half way up our trail we came across some fresh tracks that I normally have not seen in this area. They were very fresh (probably early morning) and the paw prints were larger than Bridie's, my golden retriever, whom has huge paws for a dog. The tracks came down an access road and went off into the "forbidden area" (the academy shooting range). They went one way. The dogs picked up the scent and we followed the tracks up the road until they went off west, were they came through some heavy scrub oak. Further up the trail we followed some deer tracks and once again came across these tracks once again.

We followed them up the side of a hill and along a narrow trail I never knew was there.   We finally had to stop following them as they once again came out of very thick scrub oak.   I knew right off they were not bear tracks, I have seen enough of them to know, and they definitely were not dog tracks.  They were mountain lion tracks. You can see the comparison from the picture and the prints.  We were hiking between the posted hunting times at the Academy  (5-7 Dec and 11-13 Dec).  This is a time when they allow hunters to come in and weed out the herds.  Funny thing is we usually see deer tracks, deer droppings, elk, you name it, and usually in abundance.  We came across only two sets of deer tracks.  It could be the cat was keeping them away, or that these "hunters" scare off the herds.    This cat was probably larger than my dog Bridie based on the size of her tracks.  They were one way tracks and we could not follow them into the shooting range area.   In this picture below you can see where we first came across them.  The cat was following the road and went off to the right into the brush.  We looked for signs of snagged fur or something other than the tracks, but this cat seemed to navigate well through the brush as there were no branches broke off or twigs snapped.  Unlike the bear we came across this fall where entire branches were snapped off and you could clearly see the path through the brush.   Finally this is the area where the cat went.  Probably plenty of rabbits or smaller game to chase.  We stay out of here even though the range is miles off on the other side of a ridge, we don't want to loose our hiking privileges.  That is one thing we worry about as access to the Academy is basically open; some idiot wandering off into restricted areas prompting the Academy to close off entire areas. 

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