We are conducting surveys, monitoring, and research on cougars (puma, mountain lion) on the Ladder Ranch in south-central New Mexico. Here, cougars are of particular interest given their effects on state-endangered desert bighorn sheep and other valuable big game. These projects are also resources for training and education, most notably through the Cougar Field Workshop.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Even though we were not able to collar and keep up with LF6 using GPS technology, she has already shown up in our camera grid and in a few interesting photos from LM3's latest kill site. In the above photo from Camera Grid 03 we can see her eartag. This photo lets us know that LF6 seems to be doing fine after being captured, and represents the first evidence of our newly marked lions from the camera grid.

But the camera grid isn't the only place we've detected LF6 so far. An infrared remote digital camera set on a recent LM3 kill made on 11/17/2009 recorded photos of LF6 sharing the kill with LM3 on the night of 11/19/2009. The below photos show LM3 feeding on what we expect to be a kill he made, and allowing LF6 to feed on his kill as well.

LM3 shows up to the kill first. This evidence as well as GPS locations putting him on this kill since 11/17/2009 lead us to think that he made this kill and is sharing it with LF6 rather than the other way around.
LF6, notice the black and yellow eartag in her left ear, shows up to the kill later in the evening, and there is not yet any evidence that LM3 is still at the kill.

LF6's stomach still looks enlarged, probably indicating that she is still pregnant and has not yet had her litter of kittens since we collared her on 11/10/2009.

Soon after LF6 arrives at the kill, LM3 shows back up in the photos indicating that he remained on the kill and allowed LF6 to join him.

We did not get any photos of LF6 and LM3 feeding at the same time on the kill. However LM3's above posture while LF6 is still feeding on his kill in the background shows that they really are sharing the kill. LM3's tolerance of LF6 may be the result of LM3 being the father of the litter of kittens she is still carrying.

Based on these photos, it seems as if LM3 and LF6 stayed on the kill together for the rest of the night until they left the kill around 4:40 AM and 5:06 AM respectively on the morning of 11/20/2009. This shared kill behavior is very interesting because sharing of kills between male and female mountain lions is something that is thought to be a rare occurrence, only known to happen occasionally during mating. In this case a pregnant female (LF6), who is not in estrus and is unable to mate successfully right now, was found to be sharing a kill made by one of our collared male lions (LM3).


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