Mug shots — take 2

Birds and mammals seem to sense when you’re staring at them, willing them to stare back so you can get a great portrait with the glowing eyes looking right out of the frame.  It’s hard to achieve though, and mammals in particular resist eye contact, as that often is interpreted as a threat to them.  This is where telephoto magnification is essential, but even when I am quite a distance away, mammals just as often turn away as I raise the lens to focus.  Obviously their eyesight is a lot better than mine.

Common Loon-

A Common Loon emerged from a dive right in front of me providing a unique close-up of the detail in its feathers.

female Pileated Woodpecker

This female Pileated Woodpecker was so busy drilling into the tree, she didn’t notice (?) me walking closer to get my best shot.

european forest buffalo (wisent)-

A European forest buffalo (wisent) intent on eating and with no interest whatsoever in raising its head to make eye contact. I can see that they have long golden eyelashes though…


Young Javelina crossing the road in front of our car near Portal, Arizona. Hairy beasts with long snouts, beady eyes, and stubby legs, not at all related to pigs (which evolved in Eurasia), but convergent in looks and habits.

mule deer-

Mule deer look like White-tailed deer (a different species) but have enormous ears, darker (blackish) tails, and darker gray fur. Usually found only in western North America plains, deserts, mountains, grasslands, etc.  Deer don’t see as well in the daytime as some more diurnal animals, and they often stare motionless for a few moments before bounding away or turning their back on the camera.

white-tailed buck-antler growth

Antler growth begins in the spring in White-tailed bucks. This looks like the start of what will grow into a large rack, and I wonder if this guy is the same animal as the one in the next photo.  I kept waiting for this guy to turn around and face me, but no…all I got was a side view.

white-tailed buck-antlers-

I’m behind a glass door and across two backyards from big buck, but he raises his head to look toward me when I tap on the window.

mexican wolf-at the Sonora desert museum, Tucson

A Mexican Wolf just barely raised its glance toward observers as it strolled through its pen in the Sonora desert museum in Tucson.  This is a subspecies of the Gray Wolf, but is on the verge of extinction in its native habitats in the southwestern U.S. and northwestern most Mexico due to loss of open hunting areas and predator removal.  Their fur coat has accents of black and white on the back and their under hair is yellower than that of the Gray Wolf.

mountain lion-

Big cats overheat quickly in the desert sun, as this one did pacing in its pen at the Sonora desert museum. Back in its cooler cave, panting, the puma/cougar/mountain lion finally raised its head and looked in my direction. Pumas are usually found in the mountains, but will venture into grasslands and even more arid desert habitat if there is sufficient game.

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:

Animal faces

I have always wondered whether zoo animals are as frustrated with their confinement as we would be if we were stuck in a small room.  The Minnesota Zoo does have spacious, well landscaped enclosures for many of their exhibits, but still, this is what you see.

Northern White-cheeked Gibbon stares back at onlookers.

Puma or Cougar or Mountain Lion or Catamount or Panther resting in the shade.

Snow Monkey or Japanese Macaque contemplating its next meal.

Female White-cheeked Gibbon munches thoughtfully on a stem (or perhaps she is cleaning her teeth).

Asian Wild Dog or Dhole resting on a slab of granite.

A Fisher (large member of the weasel family) peers down at the bottom of his enclosure.

Canada Lynx stares off into space.

A 6 foot Komodo Dragon doesn’t appear too threatening.

Do they seem a bit glassy-eyed and ho-hum about their zoo life?