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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Elk Predator

In NE Oregon, elk cows often return to the same birthing grounds year after year. Once they go into labor, they separate from the herd and seek quiet isolation. When the calf is born, it is not unusual for the cow to leave the calf unattended for small stretches of time.

elk herd
elk cows at a traditional birthing ground in ne oregon

Predators know this, and bears and cougars will often spend their time methodically searching for hidden elk calves – an easy meal. For such a large animal, elk calves can hide extremely well. I once spent hours searching for a calf that I spied with my binoculars bedding down at 75 yards. I had no luck.

elk calf hiding in grass

Nonetheless, an arch predator like a mountain lion has far better senses than me. And they will find the easy kill. The calf below was found and killed by a cougar, and then covered for later feeding. The photo shows the cougar uncovering the calf. Note the scars on the face of the wild cat. Life has not been easy, and the calf was likely a rare break in the animal's hunting life – where it did not have to risk injury to secure food...

cougar and elk calf
wild mountain lion uncovering elk calf cache


Kyle Strauss said...

Wow! Great shots, is the shot of the cougar with elk calf from the Zumwalt?

OregonWild said...

Hi Kyle

The cougar was photographed near La Grande, Oregon – in region not too far from Zumwalt. Thanks for the nice comment.


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Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer