Chile. Early morning. 
We had walked for hours. Our feet were growing weary and the weight of my camera equipment burdened my legs. We wanted nothing more at the time than to get some cougar pictures, animal photographs or just rest. God seemed to take pity on us and offered us some respite when a male cougar strolled onto the landscape we were surveilling. The burly feline didn’t seem to notice us at first, or perhaps he didn’t care enough to mind us. He was polite enough to let us get close enough and photograph him. I got some decent shots of him, but I wasn’t content with what artwork I had. Once his patience outgrew us, he left. We took that as a cue and started to look for footprints of the mother and cub, who must surely have been around. 

Eye of the Lion

The shrubs and the dried grass surrounding us were no more than three feet tall. Tracking the mother and the cub’s footprints led us to a cluster of dried grass. All of a sudden I felt something staring right at me. I felt a sharp yank as my tracker pulled me by my hood. He pointed towards the clump of grass hurriedly and gestured for me to keep quiet. I had to gather myself but spotted a mountain lion staring right at us through the dried grass. It was only five feet away. 

What I experienced next was certainly a bizarre feeling. I somehow felt calm but ultimately concerned. I stepped backward extremely slowly, then dropped down so that I was level with the mountain lion. Once I had grounded myself and found my focus, I started to take pictures. At that moment I was very happy with the cougar pictures, animal images, and overall experience I had gotten so far.

At first, due to the anxiousness, I could not focus through the dried grass on her face.  I wondered if the cougar pictures, animal photographs, and other wildlife artwork I did were worth being face to face with a cougar. Then I reminded myself that I had a huge camera between us and that nothing would go wrong. After my nerves settled so did the image.

How Climate Change Affects Mountain Lions

Cougar cats everywhere are facing the realities of habitat loss which is resulting in populations decreasing. This can be recounted from as far back as the 1800 and 1900s and people hunted these cats for fear of them picking off livestock. This resulted in them being almost wiped out from the eastern United States. Furthermore, their beautiful pelts made them attractive trophy hunting victims. To top it off, these creatures are now dealing with the impacts of climate change. Because of the rising temperatures leading to hotter summers, their primary prey is affected. Deer are threatened by climate change linked to drought and illness, resulting in fewer healthy prey in smaller habitat ranges. Additionally, cougars are finding it harder and harder to freely roam their territories to find prey without crossing humans. Cougar pictures, animal photography, and conservation as a whole are threatened by global warming.

Characteristics of the cougar

While taking cougar cat pictures, I had no choice but to observe and appreciate their many unique characteristics. They have rounded heads and compact ears that are supported by a strong neck and shoulders. Their jaws are powerful and can exert up to 497.1 Newtons of force. In comparison, the average domestic dog can exert a force of 351.5 Newtons.  This makes cougars excellent and hunting and killing their prey. They also have five claws on its forepaws and four on their hind paws, that help them grab and hold onto large prey.

These cats are typically not classified as “big cats” as they can’t roar. Like their cousin the cheetah, cougars lack the specialized larynx and hyoid apparatus of the family. Instead, they vocalize through low-pitched hisses, growls, and purrs. Oddly enough, they are also infamous for their screams. However, this does not make them any less dangerous. The mountain lion is still a very powerful predator with very strong hind-legs. Cougar cats actually have large paws and proportionally the largest hind legs in the family Felidae. They have this to thank for their great leaping and short sprinting ability.

The coloring of the cougar is a plain tawny brown, like that of the lion. This resemblance is what granted their name “mountain lion.” This most adaptable of felines thrives on its secrecy and incredible hearing. Indeed, its stealth makes it a difficult animal to photograph, but the same qualities lend it a certain mystery and beauty. Luckily for me, my cougar pictures, animal photographs, and other images have gained these characteristics for the better.

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