Violent and Strange Deaths of Collared Cougars Tracked in Montana
Some fascinating, and at times for scientists, disappointing discoveries have been made tracking radio-collared Montana mountain lions.
You might call it a version of Montana Forensic Feline Files. My good friend Brett French, Outdoor Editor of the Billings Gazette, shared with me some interesting data compiled by scientists in Yellowstone National Park, and what they are learning about cougars, including some of the strange ways they die.
Brett used several examples of cause of death, some of which is speculative yet likely, determined by researchers who eventually tracked down the deceased animals via their radioed collars.
There was the adult male lion that took down an elk (coincidentally also radio-collared). The kill was out in an open area, and it was too late for the lion when he finally realized he was surrounded and subsequently killed by the well-known Junction Butte Wolf Pack.
A female mountain lion's death is curious indeed. She appeared to have gotten her right paw stuck between boulders, possibly trying to catch a small animal. That was how scientists found her, with additional evidence that she may have loosened a large boulder during her struggles to get free, which fell on top of her.
Then there's the mystery of Aqua Lion, still waiting to be found. A lion considered to be the dominant male of Yellowstone's Northern Range is believed to have drowned trying to swim across the Yellowstone River. Eerily, that cougar's GPS collar is still sending signals from the bottom of the river.
Just a small sample of how fascinating the marriage of Montana wildlife and high-tech research can be!