Whoa, this must be mountain lion week on LA Observed. The photo of Santa Monica Mountains cougar P-23 on top of a deer she had just killed (or was in the process of killing) on Mulholland Highway was pretty dramatic. I've seen it re-posted just about everywhere. But Glendora photographer Robert Martinez can do better. On Thursday he went to collect the images from one of the trail cameras he has placed in the mountains above his hometown. He found that he had footage of a lion dragging and hiding a newly downed deer right in front of his camera — in the daylight just 12 minutes before he got there.
Martinez also posted a night clip of the lion returning to the kill nine hours later. This lion does not look to be tagged or collared — she (Martinez thinks it's a female) is in the San Gabriel Mountains, not the Santa Monicas where lions are being tagged and tracked. She looks skinnier in the infrared light at night.
Martinez has posted a dozen videos of mountain lions, bears and foxes in just the past three months, but he has been at it for more than a year. He has captured lions marking their turf, two lions galloping at night together, a mother black bear with her cubs, ringtails, a bobcat and other wildlife. One thing for sure: when you hike in the mountains above Glendora, you are not alone.
Martinez tells me he's 40 and works in the merchandising department at Stater Bros. "I've always been obsessed with mountain lions," he says via email. "I just started doing this last year after seeing various signs of lion activity while hiking in my local mountains and at the same time learning about trail cameras. I've got way more wildlife footage than I could've ever expected!" He uses Bushnell HD Trophy cameras — check out this wary lion investigating the camera one night last year.
I asked him if it's just a little scary to realize he shows up sometimes right behind his prey — like with Thursday's hungry cougar.
"Oh yeah! Sometimes it is a little creepy being out there on my own knowing some these animals were passing by only hours before I got there," he says. "The other day though was by far the scariest! I never thought I would find a fresh kill only minutes after the lion left it in front of my camera. I'm almost certain I was being watched that morning."
Better him than me. Here's a black bear out in the daylight in May. I'm no expert, and yes the screen grab is cropped, but isn't this guy ambling in to check out the camera kind of big? Watch the action on Martinez's YouTube page.
Noted: I see a lot of the people posting the Irv Nilsen photo of P-23 on social media also marvel that such a scene is possible in the nation's second-largest city. Well, clearly it is possible — there is at least one lion roaming Griffith Park right now as far as we know, and he's gotta eat. But P-23's deer kill last weekend was actually on Mulholland Highway in
Ventura County far western Los Angeles County, not to be confused with Mulholland Drive in the city. The site is reportedly west of Decker Canyon and highway 23. That's what, 20-plus lion miles from the city limits of Los Angeles? Just guessing, but under no interpretation is it "in Los Angeles." We just share the mountain range.
* Fixed: Mulholland Highway sneaks around close to the county line, but stays on the LA County side. Thanks to @SantaMonicaMtns for the correction.
Top screen grab: mountain lion brings his snout right up to Martinez's camera in video posted June 2012.