Portraits of Predators

When I was a pre-teen, my favorite animals were the wolverines and the cougars.  I am still awed by these amazing predators. Why?  Read on…

Wolverine - 70mm, 1/90 @ f/4.5

Wolverine – 70mm, 1/90 @ f/4.5

As a typical boy, I thought incredible strength and fearless attitude in a small package was impressive. This 35 pound animal will sometimes intimidate cougars and bears away from their kills. They’ve attacked animals as large as caribou and moose if the snow is deep enough or if the animal is sick. That seems pretty brave, but if you look closely at the bottom of the photo above, you can see massive paws armed with large, sharp claws.  I read once that they can quickly bite through a two-inch rope with their teeth.  So it has the weapons to back up it’s aggressive attitude.

Wolverines patrol territories which can be over 300 square miles.  I had an area that big to patrol, even with a dirt bike, it would feel hopelessly huge!  This little guy has short legs and no wheels, but it’s just normal for him.

Wolverine - 200mm, 1/180 @ f/4.0

Wolverine – 200mm, 1/180 @ f/4.0

Wildlife photography is not my specialty, and my longest lens is 200mm.  But thanks to Northwest Trek, where I took these photos, I can get some great photos of these predators in a natural environment.  I loved reading about these animals as a pre-teen and early-teen, and now I can take photos of the real critters as an adult.

Cougar - 200mm, 1/60 @ f/4.0

Cougar – 200mm, 1/60 @ f/4.0

I was lucky to get a sharp shot here.  1/60th of a second is way too slow for 200mm, but pressing my camera against the side of a post helped stabilize it.  I think tracking a moving animal with a long lens on a tripod would be very tricky and require some practice.

This was a dim, drizzly day, and the cougar was moving around more, instead of hiding out of sight as usual.  Cloudy skies also helped avoid harsh shadows.  Turns out I got better pictures on a rainy day.

Cougar - 200mm, 1/80 @ f/4.0

Cougar – 200mm, 1/80 @ f/4.0

Cougars are cool because, while they slouch around like a lazy house cat most of the time, they can jump 18 feet up from flat ground, and they can cover 40 feet in a horizontal leap.  They can be very stealthy and see very well in the dark.  So if you’re a deer, good luck getting away from a hungry cougar!  I just think they are beautiful animals.

Last month I was walking along a local nature trail with my Dad, and we heard a growling, snarling, barking commotion in the woods across the narrow bay.  I took it for a bunch of dogs fighting at first, and there were obviously dogs involved.  But I kept hearing this mid-range snarling that was pretty loud for a dog that far away.  I said to my dad, “Do you think that could be a cougar?”  Just a few seconds later we hard a half-snarl, half-scream that left no doubt.  That cougar was getting fed up with the dogs!  We got back to our car and drove away, so I have no idea how that showdown ended.  My dad didn’t want to walk over into those woods to find out.  Can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want to get close to an angry cougar. He he!

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