A rare conflict was caught on camera inside Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge when five adult coyotes managed to corner two juvenile mountain lions. Lori Iverson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region snapped images of the action as the cougars sought shelter on a wooden fence for well over an hour as the coyotes circled nearby.

Their hiding spot could not be worse. A quiet stream trickled just beneath the fence and the coyotes kept a diligent watch on the grassland in all directions. Eventually, after several small skirmishes, one of the lions decided to risk a chancy escape. Lowering itself in small increments, it was able to reach the ground and dart off, drawing all five coyotes after it.

The other lion stayed on the fence until well after dark. It’s unclear what happened to the cat that made the run for it.

Update: The USFWS Facebook page reports seeing both cougars alive and well after the incident. As for why the young lions weren’t accompanied by their mother, the USFWS speculates that the pair could be orphaned. However, it is also not uncommon for mountain lions to leave their young to roam during the daytime. 

Images from Lori Iverson/USFWS Mountain Prairie on the flickr Creative Commons

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