The above photo was taken in California by Irv Nilsen, who then sent it in to the office at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The image is rare depiction of a mountain lion claiming a dead deer, although it is not known if the deer had been killed by the cougar or met an untimely end in traffic. According to park rangers, Nilsen found the two on a remote stretch of the Mulholland Highway. The cat has been identified as P-23, a young female that recently left her mother. If you look closely you can see the collar around her neck.
Mountain lions are the largest wild cats in North America and they have appetites to match their size. The Billings Gazette reports that a recent study conducted by Kyle Knopff shows that these large predators may eat more than scientists previously thought. Mountain lions can in fact boast a diet similar to very successful wolves.
“We had one male cougar kill 18 moose in less than a year,” Knopff said.
Curiously, the study states that males often hunt larger animals at the expense of having fewer kills. Females make up for smaller prey with greater quantity, and mothers with cubs will kill more deer. Using Canadian data, the researchers found that mountain lions killed an average of .8 ungulates—deer, elk, or related animals—a day. That adds up to about 18 pounds of meat per day.
“I think our study showed they are very efficient predators,” Knopff said.
After her unexpected photography session, P-23 dragged the deer into the dense cover of the trees to feed. The image was a hit on the park’s Facebook, where internet-goers chimed in on nature at work. Others were more concerned with the danger these big cats may pose.
Image courtesy Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area