A HUNTERS TRAIL CAMERA in Washington state captured an extremely unusual gatherINg of eight cougars on the Douglas County ranch where he hunts. Wildlife enthusiasts were in awe of the scene, which few people will see in their lifetimes.
A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW ) biologist who received a CD of the hunters remote camera cougar images raised his eyebrows and called it, “a magnificent one-time observation; not unheard of, but its very rare.”
“Cougars are notoriously territorial,” said Jon Gallie, the state wildlife biologist in Wenatchee. “Seeing eight in one spot is a wildlife jackpot.”
“This is the second year Ive had a camera in that location, and Ive got images of some coyotes, about five deer and one skunk, but I cant tell you how many pictures I have of cougars—a lot,” said the hunter who requested anonymity.
The hunter said the camera was mounted on an old cow trail along a rimrock cliff. “Its the first wide spot in the trail with a view of the huge valley below.”
A rare sighting of 8 cougars was captured by a trail camera in Washington State.
Crowd of Cougars
Photos: COURTESY WDFW.
“Its a perfect place to stop and scan for prey below,” Gallie said, noting that 300-500 deer might be wintering in a 5-mile stretch of that valley when forced down by snow. “Thats why the cougars were there. When the snow clears up at higher elevations and the deer disperse, you wont see that many cougars in one area again.”
The only photo as interesting as the image of eight cats occurred when he went back after Christmas to check his camera again.
“The first picture is of me leaving the camera after setting it up two weeks previous,” he said. “The next image is of a cougar coming down the same trail in my tracks just minutes after Id left.”
Circulated by email, most claimed the cougars were congregating to feed on a dead cow, but the hunter and Gallie both confirmed there was no carcass in the area.
“The ranchers had carcasses in other areas near Moses Coulee, but they said no cougar tracks were in the snow around them,” Gallie said.
Coyotes, eagles, ravens and magpies clean up carrion pretty fast, but cougars generally like their meat a little fresher.
Gary Koehler, a WDFW carnivore specialist and cougar authority, said the photo of eight cats likely includes two adult females and their litters.
“We and others have documented two related females converging with their litters on occasion,” Koehler said in an email. “This is likely a result of a female with her current litter and her female offspring from a previous litter and her kittens.
“Female offspring often set up home range adjacent to their mother and, as demonstrated from radio GPS marked animals, these adjacent females may get together along their home range boundaries with eachs litter.”