web analytics

Tag Archive | "mountain lions"

Porcupine and Cougar


Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Two North American porcupines in a tree in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Wikipedia user Mattnad.

Two North American porcupines in a tree in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Wikipedia user Mattnad.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

When working as a ranger at Bryce Canyon National Parks, I conducted field research on the mountain lions (cougars) in the park. During the summer months, the highest plateaus in North America were home to the lions, porcupines, and me. At 9000 feet elevation, I found tracks in one of the few areas with a surface water pond on limestone bedrock. It was a rare drinking hole for deer, lions, and other wildlife.

During the seven years I worked there, I never heard of unattended cows being taken by a lion in the national forest where ranchers grazed cows in summer. Come fall the ranchers drove cows to 6000 feet elevation. Deep snow, lack of food, and excessive cold would leave cows high, dry, and dead in winter on plateau tops.

South from the park’s Yovimpa Point one can see 80 air miles across a near wilderness to the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park. One paved road crosses the south expanse and unpaved trails zigzag the terrain. It is precarious and unknown whether a vehicle other than those with four-wheel drive and high clearance will safely succeed.

Lions follow deer south into the wilderness, or they move east off the Paunsegunt Plateau or neighboring Aquarius Plateau (10,000 feet) into Tropic Valley. Lions have legal protection but poaching occurs by ranchers who think laws do not apply to them. Lions heading east have a better chance of being poached but those heading south have better poaching avoidance. Energy companies desired to strip mine coal to the south of the park for more than 50 years instead of developing alternative energy sources. Coal proposals have been blocked but renewed pressure to strip mine is expected. Coal strip mines could eliminate lions from Bryce Canyon.

Life is difficult for predators in nature niches where they need adequate food, accessible water in an arid landscape, and places to hide. People have fears that have some justification but dangers from predators are unlikely compared to other health threats. Driving, falling from a ladder, and other threats are more likely.

Lions have few threats from animals except people but starvation and dehydration are dangerous. Ranch water impoundments can be valuable but bring lions close to people. They tend to seek water in night stillness.

While tracking a lion, I found scat and broke it apart to discover what it had been eating. Porcupine quills were present. Literature reports lions prey on porcupines and I had found physical evidence. They avoid quills by eating from the belly where no quills are present. First the lion must kill the porcupine while trying to avoid being struck by a tail swing or quills raised high on the back. Quills cannot be thrown but they dislodge easily.

Porcupines move slowly but their armor helps protects them. When quills enter skin, mouth, or tongue, the quills puff up like a balloon because air sealed inside cannot escape. Pressure from the quill’s squeezed end in the skin causes quill swelling. The sharp end that entered the skin is covered with scales like shingles on a roof that face away from the quill point. Those scales prevent easy removal because the shingles hold it fast.

To remove quills, clip them to release air pressure and pull with pliers. Do not try this with a lion because you might not survive. Pets do not seem to learn to avoid porcupines. Every dog in our family has gotten quills at least once. Ody Brook, who the sanctuary is named after, bit one in our yard one night in Bemidji, Minnesota. I did not notice until he came into the house. It is important to remove them soon. The delay allowed quills to work deep and were difficult to remove. One in his gum worked too deep to remove. One year later, I noticed something sticking out of his eyelid. A close look revealed it was the gum quill emerging. I pulled it despite Ody’s objection. That story ended well without it entering his eyeball.

I read some quills migrated into a lion’s heart and were deemed a likely cause for its death. Porcupines are moving south as forests reclaim this region. One has been seen at Ody Brook and some are resident at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. More than one has been killed on Red Pine Drive. Walk the forests at HCNC with attention to the conifers or aspens where you might see the dark lump of a porcupine.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

Posted in Featured, Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (0)

DNR showcases cougars in two new displays 


Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Confirmed reports reach 31 in Michigan

Two cougar mounts recently provided to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have attracted a lot of attention in Luce County this summer.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars—also called mountain lions—were once the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere, but have been eliminated from about two-thirds of their historic range.

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains, and forests. They were native to Michigan but were extirpated from the state around the turn of the 20th century.

These big, long-tailed cats typically hunt at night, generally weigh between 90 and 180 pounds, and measure five to six feet from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.

One of the DNR’s two cougar mounts is on display at the “Fact Shack” at the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is situated off M-123, about 25 miles north of Newberry.

 Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.


Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.

“The cougar was donated by the GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway and was a captive animal that died of natural causes,” said Theresa Neal, park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls. “The display features information about cougars in Michigan, an actual cougar track cast and information on how the DNR handles reports and sightings of cougars.”

The second cougar mount can be seen at the DNR’s Newberry customer service center, located off M-123, just south of Newberry. This glass-encased cat was received by the DNR at the close of a cougar poaching case in Schoolcraft County.

During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

“The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp,” said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. “The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects.”

Hammill said the suspects returned home to Bay City with the cougar, intending to mount the animal.

“Before this took place, three suspects were identified, interviewed and ultimately arrested and the cougar was recovered,” Hammill said. “The suspects involved were all convicted, served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs, and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.”

Hammill said that as a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.

In August, the cougar mount was displayed at the DNR’s Pocket Park during the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba. Following the fair, the cougar was exhibited at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, before returning to the Newberry DNR customer service center earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.

“Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division’s cougar team,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.

The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail camera image in Dickinson County.

“This situation is not unique to Michigan but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States,” Swanson said.

All of Michigan’s DNR-verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region’s 15 counties have had reports.

Marquette County has led the confirmed cougar reports with six; Menominee County has had four; Houghton, Delta and Mackinac counties have had three each, while Baraga, Chippewa, Luce, Schoolcraft and Ontonagon counties have each had two and Keweenaw and Dickinson have had one each.

Of those confirmed reports, 21 involved photos, eight were tracks, one was video and scat and the remaining confirmed report was that of the cougar poached near Seney in Schoolcraft County in 2013.

To learn more about cougars in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cougars.

Information about Tahquamenon Falls State Park, including maps and the nature program schedule, can be found at www.michigan.gov/tfallseducation.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)


advert
Kent Theatre
Advertising Rates Brochure
Ensley Team Five Star Realty

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!