Squirrels on notice!

There are not one, but two mammalian predators looking for the squirrels in my backyard. One of the red foxes stopped by the other day, furtively sneaking along the fence line between backyards, pausing under some evergreens for a look at the bird feeders, and then hiding next to a shed in my neighbor’s yard.

The squirrels were smart enough to avoid this red fox, an infrequent visitor to my backyard this winter.

But the next day, a coyote lingered in the backyard, hunting along the edge between the grass and the forest for unsuspecting squirrels.

This particular coyote had a foxy-looking face, and some reddish fur on its head and ears, so I was confused at first glance. But it was noticeably bigger than a fox.
The head doesn’t look quite right for a coyote, but the body fur is definitely not fox. This animal was also smaller and less husky than the coyote that visited several years ago.
Coyote in the backyard, December 15, 2013. Usually coyotes will displace red foxes from an area, either by intimidation or by attacking and killing them. So I’ll have to see which one sticks around for the rest of the winter.

Cat eyes

It was snowing lightly as I walked around the zoo at Como Park late afternoon yesterday, and it was feeding time for some of the animals.  This cougar was behind two   wire screen fences, so it was impossible to get a clear photo of him (or her).  But the cat was obviously restless, as it was pacing back and forth right along the wire fence, perhaps waiting for its dinner.  It would stop for a second or two and stare into the next pen, where one of the zoo keepers was walking around.  What intrigued me were the expressions in the eyes of the animal as it paced, and stared.  (Try to ignore the wires that obscure the view of this magnificent animal.)

cougar, Felis concolor

Look at the change in the position of eyes and ears in this and the next two photos.

Look at the change in the position of eyes and ears in this and the next two photos.

cougar or puma, Felis concolor

Does the cat look upset about something, like maybe the lack of food?

Does the cat look upset about something, like maybe the lack of food?  Note progressive squinting of the eyes, forward movement of the head level with its body, and backward deflection of ears in the bottom two photos.

I’m glad this fence was here, because this behavior looks like a prelude to attack.  Maybe the cat saw a squirrel in the next enclosure, or maybe it really didn’t like the zookeeper over there, but something was ticking the cat off.

Fun facts about cougars (or pumas, panthers, mountain lions, catamounts)

  • They are the largest North America cat, and the fourth largest cat in the world.  They use their weight to their advantage when attacking prey by knocking them off their feet and then jumping on the neck to sever the animal’s vertebral column.
  • They can jump 18 feet straight up, and 40 feet horizontally on a run.  They can pick up and drag a full-grown elk away from the kill site to hide the carcass from other predators.
  • They can run 40-50 miles per hour, but only for short distances.  They’re world-class sprinters, not marathoners.
  • The species is one of the most adaptable predators on earth.  It lives in almost every habitat throughout North and South America from arctic cold to equatorial hot zones, arid desert to lush forest.  And it eats anything and everything from insects to elk.

Robert Redford wrote the foreward to the seminal volume on Mountain Lions, which is free online, if you care to read more about this interesting cat. Good action and still photos of cougars can be found at: