Hearing a lot of mountain lion chatter lately. Since I used to chase them around a little, I will offer some tidbits. A lion track shows four toes equally spaced and usually does not show claws. The print looks round. Coyote, dog and wolf tracks show the two middle toes closer together and you can see an “X” in the space between toes and pad. If the lion print measures 4″ or more in diameter, good chance it’s a mature tom. I used to measure a track with the fletching on my arrows which is four inches. If the print is smaller than 4” it is probably a female or young tom. If your thumb fits inside of one toe print, it’s probably a mature tom. If you find a lion track in a certain spot, keep going back and checking because it will eventually cross there again. A mountain lion will cover a kill with brush, leaf litter, pine needles, duff, sticks, etc. and return to the kill to feed. A female mountain lion with kittens will kill a deer a week to survive and feed her young. Female mountain lions are only in heat a week or two to breed…I guess that’s true for all cats. The rest of the time, if a tom comes across a female with kittens, he will often fight the female and try to kill the kittens. Most mature mountain lions will show scars on their face or ears from fighting…just like alley cats. You can see a scar over the right eye of the tomcat in the photo. He weighed 145 pounds. I killed him with a recurve bow and a homemade cedar arrow in the Tobacco Roots, and he is listed in the Pope & Young Record Book.

Mtn. lion track…four toes evenly spaced, no “X”
Wolf track, two middle toes together with claws, “X” in middle.

When there is a mountain lion sighting in and around towns, subdivisions, golf courses, etc., it is usually a young tom that has been kicked out by his mother and is somewhat lost, trying to find a new range…trying to fit in…or hunting new territory to survive. Sometimes it’s a young female. Mountain lions prefer deer 80%, but they will kill elk, sheep, calves, even porcupines.

Because of the onrush of people moving, building and settling into our valley, human/mountain lion conflicts are inevitable. If you build a house in lion habitat you will bump into one. They are hunting deer, making babies, raising young. This is their normal routine…they are not invaders, they are survivors. An excellent book has been written on this topic: