BBC Wildlife Camera-trap Photo of the Year 2012 Winners Announced

BBC 2012 Camera Trap Contest

As many of you know, I love to take pictures with digital SLR camera traps. I am still learning a ton about it and people are always getting new and exciting pictures. So I wanted to point out that the BBC released the winners for this years camera trap competition. There are amazing pictures in their gallery — I would highly recommend checking them out!

Two of my images made it as well, both as commended wildlife portraits. The Genet from Yemen.

Sebastian-Kennerknecht-Gennet-Yemen

Small-spotted Genet (Genetta genetta) at night, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

and our local Bobcat from Aptos.

Sebastian-Kennerknecht-Bobcat-Aptos

Bobcat (Lynx rufus) in forest, Aptos, Monterey Bay, California

As you can see, the other people in the group are amazing camera trappers, it is an honor to be commended and have my photos displayed alongside theirs.

Ps: My personal favorite is the snow leopard (what can I say, I am a sucker for cats!)

New Digital SLR Camera Trap Pics

It’s been too long since I have posted some digital SLR camera trap shots so I figured I’d get my butt moving and show you what has been walking through the woods as of late.

I have had the first picture in my mind for years, I wanted to get a deer jumping over a big log. I set the camera up over a year ago but kept only getting deer butts instead of them jumping at the camera. Patience finally paid off as this buck jumped our way.

1Sebastian Kennerknecht-Mule Buck Jumping over log-IMG_83533

Mule Deer buck jumping over log, Santa Cruz, California

Some animals prefer to take the easier way apparently:

1Sebastian Kennerknecht - Juvenile Bobcat on Log-IMG_84569

Juvenile Bobcat on log at night, Santa Cruz, California

A little bit further down the path I set up another camera trap set-up. The first thing to come by was the ever reliable Mule Deer (or Black-tailed Deer, which ever name you prefer):

1Sebastian Kennerknecht - Mule Deer in Forest-IMG_84644

Mule Deer buck in forest, Santa Cruz, California

…and then, my first Coyote image using camera traps. I know, I know, for my fellow camera trappers this is not a big deal, but when you can add another species to your camera trapping list you are jumping up and down, running down the street (it leads to some awkward and perplexed stares from the neighbors).

1Sebastian Kennerknecht - Coyote in Forest-IMG_84641

Coyote in forest, Santa Cruz, California

That’s it for now, but hopefully more coming soon!

Aptos Pumas Mating Pair

Like most other felines, pumas live a rather solitary life. The only prolonged periods of time multiple animals spend time together is the 15 month period (on average) cubs spend with their mother.Though undoubtedly there are instances where cougars run into each other (like at a kill, for example when these two females with cubs met) but those encounters seem to be avoided by communication through various olfactory, visual, and auditory signs. Those same signs however can also be clues left by a female to signal a male she is sexually receptive. Researchers believe that urine marks and vocalizing are the primary ways a female advertises her ‘availability’. This vocalization is what is referred to as caterwauling and it is quite an impressive sound. Have a listen:

Audio of Female Cougar in Heat

That would get my attention as well, though I wouldn’t want to necessarily go towards the sound.

Female mountain lions have an estrus of four to twelve days with an average of seven to eight days (data from captive studies). This is a rather short period of time for a male to find a female when you occupy as large of home ranges as they do, so it makes sense to create an obvious ‘hey, I am right here!’ kind of signal. Once they do find each other a breeding pair will stay together for one to sixteen days with one to four days being most typical. After the business is done the male will leave again (I know, I know, typical male behavior….).

So, is this meet up of two mountain lions a mating pair in the pictures below. The mountain lion front and center is our resident female, Artemis (named so after the Greek goddess of the hunt, based on her forehead mark resembling Artemis’s bow — can you tell my girlfriend came up with that one??) but if you look carefully on the right there is another puma, a rather large puma, sitting off to the side.

Mountain Lions in Aptos, California Taken: July 13th, 2011 @ 5:34pm

Mountain Lions in Aptos, California Taken: July 13th, 2011 @ 5:34pm

Mountain Lion Pair in Aptos, California

Mountain Lion Pair in Aptos, California

Mountain Lion Pair in Aptos, California

Mountain Lion Pair in Aptos, California

Is it a male? What do you think? If it is indeed a male and breeding was successful then we may have kittens starting around about October 15th of this year….time will tell!

Bibliography:

Ross, P.I. and M.G. Jalkotzy. 1992. Characteristics of a hunted population of cougars in southwestern Alberta. Journal of Wildlife Managment. 56:417-426

Mehrer, C.F. 1975. Some aspects of reproduction in captive mountain lions Felis concolor, bobcats Lynx rufus, and lynx Lynx canadensis. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Dakote, Grand Forks.

Rabb, G.B. 1959. Reproductive and vocal behavior in captive mountain lions.

Seidensticker, J.C., M.G. Hornocker, W.V. Wiles, and J.P. Messick. 1973. Mountain Lion social organization in the Idaho Primitive Area. Wildlife Monogram 35: 1-60

Audio Courtesy of Felidae Conservation Fund.

Identifying Puma Gender by Genital Spots

How do you identify the gender of a puma? This is one of those cases where I realize how little I know and how little experience I have in regards to Mountain Lions. I am sure an experienced puma biologists could look at the picture below and say, duh, that’s a male, or duh, that’s a female…well even after doing some more research I once again have no clue.

Mountain Lion Rear View

Mountain Lion Rear View

Mountain Lion Rear View Close Up

Mountain Lion Rear View Close Up

From Ken Logan and Linda Sweanor’s 2001 “Determining the Sex of Treed Cougars“:

“Male adult and subadult cats have a conspicuous black spot of hair, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter surrounding the opening to the penis sheath behind the hind legs and about 4 inches (10 cm) below the anus. The anus is usually hidden by the base of the tail. In between the anus and black spot is the scrotum, which is covered with light to dark brown hair and will usually appear as another dark spot.”

“Female adult and subadult cats do not have this conspicuous black spot of hair. The area is entirely covered in white hair. The anus is directly below the base of the tail and the vulva is directly underneath the anus. Both the anus and the vulva will usually be hidden by the base of the tail.”

So my guess would be female, but then there is that little amount of dark hair just to the left of the tail, but is that too close to the anus. What do you think?

Note: This image was taken two weeks (almost down to the minute) after the second image from the Aptos Mountain Lion Characters Post

Aptos Mountain Lion Characters

As many of you have noticed I am completely and utterly fascinated by mountain lions, pumas, cougars, catamounts, or what ever you like to call them (did the webpage url and logo give that away???). It has always been my fascination getting pictures of them and seeing them in the wild. Though i have been able to get images, I have never seen one in nature (how is that possible you ask — camera traps!).

As anyone with any obsession, I can’t get enough information about them. Absolutely everything interests me about them including home range size, territoriality, density, prey species, den sites, when cubs leave their mother’s home range, and the list just keeps going on. I am telling you this as a forewarning for future posts under the Project Puma heading that will have anything and everything to do with mountain lions whether that is information or pictures just in case there is someone else as interested in this beautiful cat as I am.

This post is also supposed to serve as an introduction to the cat(s) of the area I camera trap in Aptos near Santa Cruz in the Monterey Bay area. As of right now there are two camera traps out there and I have gotten mountain lion pictures on three different occasions. I am not completely sure whether it is the same cat or different cats so I figured I’d ask you guys. Here are the three pictures followed by close-ups in the same order.

Juvenile Mountain Lion Walking at Night

Taken on June 8th, 2010 at 4:35am

Taken December 25, 2010 at 9:31pm

Taken December 25, 2010 at 9:31pm

Taken March 5th, 2011 at 6:32am

Taken March 5th, 2011 at 6:32am

Juvenile Mountain Lion at Night-Sebastian Kennerknecht - Close-upMountain Lion at Night-Sebastian Kennerknecht-Close upMountain Lion walking over log close up-Sebastian Kennerknecht

Is it all the same cat, I really don’t know. In other cat species researchers use the spotting pattern which is unique to each cat to identify them. For Puma concolor (the scientific name of the mountain lion meaning cat of one color) this isn’t really an option. What I was looking at is the black marking around the mouth, the black whisker markings, and the shape of the ears. Nothing leads me to say that its the same cat or different cats (in the second image, that is a tick in the ear, sadly not something to identify the cat by) — do you see something I am not? One thing for sure is that the second cat is much bulkier than the first, but the images were also captured months apart.

An interesting thing to note are the few faint slightly darker spots on the back leg of the first image, which could give us some clues of its age. Puma kittens are completely spotted loosing these marks as they become older. By ten months, the markings are difficult to see except on the hindquarters. The eyes turn from a light blue as kittens to yellow brown as adults (this change is complete by sixteen months). Young pumas are independent around 15 months (with a range of 10 to 18 months) leaving their mother’s territory and searching for their own. Based on the fact that I had not captured an image of a puma before this individual (for a period of 8 months) and its morphology it leads me to believe that this must be a juvenile looking for its own territory. If the second and third image are of the same cat, then I am glad to know its doing well in its new home!