Friday, February 12, 2016

Livestock Predator Identification -- Mountain Lions & Bobcats

This is Livestock Predator Identification, Part Two -- Mountain Lions and Bobcats. As with Part One on Bears, this is just a fairly brief description of how to identify what sort of predator attacked and/or killed your livestock. I really hope the information below helps you.

As with all Livestock Predators:
    Height: 2 – 3 ft. (Adult, At Shoulder)
    Lifespan: 8 – 13 years (In the wild)
    Weight: Male: 120 – 220 lbs (Adult), Female: 64 – 140 lbs (Adult)

  • Mountain Lions are solitary cats, with the exception of one to six day associations during mating periods and contact between females and their young.
  • In general predators are rarely observed. Because of this, the accurate assessment of losses to specific predators often requires careful investigative work.
  • One's first move to determine what it was that attacked and/or killed your livestock, one must determine the cause of death by checking for signs on the animal and around the kill site.
  • Check for the size and location of tooth/talon marks will often indicate the species causing predation or at least eliminate certain species from suspicion. 
  • Typically, hair/feathers will obscure the attack site. Some say that ideally, the victim may need to be skinned in order to investigate the attack site properly. 
  • When investigating a kill, always consider the time of day the predator attack occurred. 
  • Extensive bleeding usually is characteristic of predators. 
  • Where external bleeding is not apparent, the hide can be removed from the carcass, particularly around the neck, throat, and head, and the area checked for tooth holes, subcutaneous hemorrhage, and tissue damage. 
  • Hemorrhage occurs only if skin and tissue damage occurs while the animal is alive. Animals that die from causes other than predation normally do not show external or subcutaneous bleeding, although bloody fluids may be lost from body openings. 
  • Livestock losses are easiest to evaluate if examinations are conducted when the carcass is still fresh. 
  • Animals may not always be killed by a throat attack, but may be pulled down from the side or rear. 
  • Blood is often on the sides, hind legs, and tail areas. 
  • Calves can have their tails chewed off and the nose may have tooth marks or be completely chewed by the predator when the tongue is eaten.
  • Tracks and droppings alone are evidence that a particular predator is in the area and when combined with other characteristics of depredation -- it can help determine what predator is causing the problem.

Mountain Lions -- Signs of this Predator:
  • Prey on deer, elk, and domestic stock, particularly horses, sheep, goats, cattle, rodents and other small mammals, when available. 
  • Can kill large numbers of animals in one night, eg. a lone lion attacked a herd of ewes and killed 192 in one night. However, 5 to 10 sheep killed in a single night is more typical. 
  • Mountain lions, having relatively short, powerful jaws, kill with bites inflicted from above, often severing the vertebral column and breaking the neck. 
  • They also kill by biting through the skull. 
  • Lions usually feed first on the front quarters and neck region of their prey. 
  • The stomach is generally untouched. 
  • The large leg bones may be crushed and the ribs broken. 
  • Many times, after a lion has made a kill, the prey is dragged or carried into bushy areas and covered with litter. 
  • Lions might return to feed on a kill for three or four nights. 
  • They normally uncover the kill at each feeding and move it from 11 to 27 yards to recover it. 
  • After the last feeding the remains may be left uncovered, and a search of the area might reveal previous burial sites. 
  • Adult lion tracks are approximately 4 inches in length and 4 1/4 inch in width; they have four well-defined impressions of the toes at the front, roughly in a semicircle. 
  • Lions have retractable claws; therefore, no claw prints will be evident.
  • The untrained observer sometimes confuses large dog tracks with those of the lion; however, dog tracks normally show distinctive claw marks, are less round than lion tracks, and have distinctly different rear pad marks. 

Bobcats and Lynx -- Signs of these Predators:
  • Occasionally prey on sheep, goats, deer, and pronghorns; however, they more commonly kill smaller animals such as porcupines, poultry, rabbits, rodents, birds, and house cats. 
  • Bobcats characteristically kill adult deer by leaping on their back or shoulders, usually when the victim is lying down, and biting them on the trachea. 
  • The jugular vein may be punctured, but the victims usually die of suffocation and shock. 
  • Look for hemorrhages caused by claws on both sides of the carcass. 
  • Small fawns, lambs, and other small prey are often killed by a bite through the top of the neck or head. 
  • The hindquarters of deer or sheep are usually preferred by Bobcats, although the shoulder and neck region or the flank are sometimes eaten first. 
  • The rumen is often untouched. 
  • Poultry are usually killed by biting the head and neck; the heads are usually eaten. Also, both species reportedly prey on bird eggs. 
  • Bobcat and lynx droppings are similar. In areas inhabited by both species, the tracks will help determine the responsible animal. 
  • The Lynx has larger feet with much more hair and the toes tend to spread more than they do on the more compact bobcat tracks. 
  • Feline predators usually attempt to cover their kills with litter. Bobcats reach out 12 to 14 inches in scratching litter, compared to a 35-inch reach of a Mountain Lion. 
  • Canine teeth marks will also help distinguish a Mountain Lion kill from that of a Bobcat --1 1/2 inches for a lion versus 3/4 to 1 inch for a bobcat. 

For more on Livestock Predator Identification, please click on any of the following links:

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