March 7, 2013

Cougar at Alderleaf

The Alderleaf Wilderness College campus is a wild place.  It has towering conifers, a fast-flowing creek, and several ponds that all serve as home for many different kinds of wildlife.  Some of the animals that visit the property are large carnivores. Of those, the animal that inspires and excites people the most, is the cougar.

The very thought of one being out there in the forest helps all of us tune our eyes, ears and other senses more sharply to our surroundings.  The presence of such a charismatic and elusive cat gives this place a air of unbridled wildness.  All of us who frequent this land have a secret or not so secret desire to see one.

The closest most of us come is to happen upon fresh tracks.

On a morning during the last week of February, I was walking down one of our trails to go monitor the amphibian activity along the creek.  Having walked the same trail the day before, and having done the usual scan for tracks I had seen nothing but the tracks of some students.  But, this second trip down the trail was different.  Something popped out at me in a deeper mud puddle.

The tracks were perfect, and so fresh I started looking around asking myself,"Where is this animal now?  Is it nearby?  Is it watching me now?"  I got very excited at the sight of these lovely tracks.

It so happens that along this same trail, we had a trail camera set up to take photos of the creatures that use them.  Excitedly, I brought the camera into the office to see what we got, and...

Our camera captured the maker of the tracks at around 1 am the night before!  Looking at the morphology of the track, and the images of the animal we are assuming this is a young male.

To learn more about cougar (also called mountain lion) tracks and sign, check out our free article:

We count ourselves lucky to get to share space with this amazing animal.

Keep an eye out for more updates about the goings on at Alderleaf!

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