Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Animal Tracking: The Appalachian Mountain Lion

That is one BIG padded paw! About the size of a large canine, but without the tell tale claw marks dogs leave behind (a distinct hole over each pad even in shallow dirt because dog, fox and coyote claws are not retractable.) A track without the claw holes is a feline track, and because these tracks were deep in the mud and there were at least several to look at all without canine claw mark --- I believe these are tracks made by the rarely seen, elusive, almost extinct and hotly debated Native Mountain Lion!
Some other signs that a mountain lion passed through by my cabin are during that week these tracks appeared my cat (a domestic cat named Toots) was terrified to go outside at night (and during the day) - I found more tracks down by my garden, all following along the path of the creek downward on the mountain. Also in this area where the tracks were, the deer tracks that normally were all over there disappeared for a time.
People in the appalachian mountains have argued for quite some time whether the Mountain Lion of the area was completely extinct now or whether a few remained well hidden - I have heard stories from a handful of reliable people who have seen the western north carolina mountain lion ( chasing a wolf in the snow in Brevard, through binolculars during a deer hunt in Hot Springs, gracefully hopping a fence at the top of a ridge in Marshall, sitting outside a chicken farm's large coop in Marshall...) --->
As for myself, aside from seeing these amazing tracks pictured here - 5 years ago in Weaverville, NC far back in the woods off Reems Creek Rd. around 3 a.m. I heard the scream of the mountain lion on top the ridge behind the little house I was staying - exactly as people describe it sounded like a woman screaming a blood curdling scream but was unmistakably an animal. It was chill inducing, and made it so I could not fall back to sleep- I knew exactly what it was when I heard it.
Another interesting twist on these tracks, was this was the same place I found what I thought were bobcat tracks... although those were washed away with the rain, a new set of bobcat sized tracks were only 7-10 feet away from these large feline tracks - possibly it could be a cub of the mountain lion and not a bobcat? That would be awesome. :)
What do you think? The "Painter" as the old timers called it was a feared animal, and between people shooting them on sight out of fear and the wiping out of deer at one point led to this now mysterious status for the native puma...
Do you believe they are still here?
After seeing these tracks behind my cabin, I do.
XOXOxox RRrrroar!


Urban Scout said...

Cool website! I can't believe I haven't seen it before! Those tracks are so weird looking. The way the two middle toes are so small, and the over all shape of it seems to morph quite a bit. At first I would think domestic dog... It's hard to tell if there are claw shapes, no claw shapes and if the claws are showing up because it's such deep mud. I believe cougars are in your area though for sure, so it's probably a cougar. Unless there is the possibility for wild dogs. Could be one of those? I've tracked cougar in Pennsylvania before, and they aren't supposed to live there either. Ha! In fact, we even stumbled into its den.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Urban Scout!
I am pretty sure there are very little "claw" shapes if any showing up in this track --- with a canine in this mud there should at least be some claw holes out of the many tracks --- in the photos more then real life there appears to be slight claw like scratches in the front two toes of a few of the tracks - but this leads me to believe it is feline also because their claws are retractable but still exsist - i imagine in mud this deep they may leave a slight scratch. A dog's claw is to solid and not retractable, it should be leaving a deep hole, deep digging mark, and would be four holes - none of the tracks had canine slaw holes, none had four marks...
It is still mysterious though. :)

Could it be a de-clawed dog?
I still lean towards mountain lion mainly cause in person it was very distinctly feline shaped & near bobcat or some kind of small feline tracks.

Stumbled into the den of a cougar?! Dude -- DID you SEE IT??!

Urban Scout said...

Yeah, I concur. I thought about de-clawed dog... but I don't know. It's pretty far out there. I've seen a few foxes that leave barely visible claw marks. And many cougars tracks deep enough to see the claws, so yeah I think you're right. 99.99% sure of cougar. Which is totally awesome!

I was off in the woods with some plant counting people and went off on my own to find a really cool cave that was up this cliff. So I was going to climb the cliff but when I got to the bottom, This hiss/growl came from above in the cave. There was a urine like scent area marked near the entrance. When I called a few people over, we decided it was 1. too big to be a porcupine/raccoon. 2. two strange of a sound to be a bear (not a gruff or huff but a definite hiss/growl). So I thought cougar. So then I started looking for tracks and sure enough, we found some really nice ones, obvious cougar. It was pretty pissed off sounding so we left. Haha. Way out in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania where they have a "shoot, shovel and shut-up" policy with killing cougars. It's very sad. I heart cougars.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

OH Urban Scout, neato story! Thanks for sharing it. :)

Glad you concur on the paw print :)))

PS_--_- OTHER people reading this, go to Urban Scout's website by clicking on his screen name here, he totally rocks.