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Staking out cougar kill offers insight to wildlife photographer

A magpie perches on the partially submerged carcass of a white-tailed deer that a cougar had killed and draped over a tree in a stream.  (Jaimie Johnson)
A magpie perches on the partially submerged carcass of a white-tailed deer that a cougar had killed and draped over a tree in a stream. (Jaimie Johnson)

WILDLIFE WATCHING -- Keen wildlife observers come home with a mountain of information, even if they never see the critter.

Here's a recap from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson after he and his wife, Lisa, had close encounters with a family of mountain lions he never saw.

Three days ago, we were hiking off trail when we came upon a large amount of blood on the ground. As we followed the blood, it turned to a large drag trail. We realized that something had killed a whitetail deer and was dragging it. We followed the drag for a few hundred feet before we came upon the whitetail deer draped over a log in the Blackfoot river. Most of the deer was under water, but the shoulder that was above water was partially consumed. As we surveyed the sand along the bank, it was obvious that the killer was a mountain lion. There were lots of lion tracks and two different sizes. We assume it was a mother with last year’s cub or cubs.

We backed off and set up our portable blinds in hopes of catching the lions coming back to feed. We waited until it was almost dark without any luck. When we returned the next day, the entire front of the deer was gone. Again we set up and waited without any luck. When we visited again today, almost all of the deer was gone. We again sat in blinds and waited until dark with no luck. Just a small portion of one hind quarter was left. It will all be gone by morning. The lions must be feeding after dark.

After thinking about it, I believe the lion moved the kill into the water to keep birds and other predators discovering the kill and consuming it quickly. The deer lasted three days under water. Each day it was moved to expose a new portion to eat leaving the remaining meat under the water. I attached one image from the kill, if you squint real hard… you can almost see a lion there feeding…  Believe me, we imagined it over and over again as we sat there all those hours over the last three days…

You win some, you lose some..



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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