Depending on your view of predatory wildlife, the video above is either absolutely wonderful or downright terrifying.
At first, it’s hard to make out what’s happening in the darkened, black-and-white security camera footage. Then two eyes, glancing about, begin to glow through the black. They’re attached to something, and it’s obviously not human.
When the lights come on, they shine down on not just one, but two creatures — both on a covered patio adorned with potted plants. The owner of those incandescent eyes is a muscular mountain lion. Below it is a deer that looks dead. The cougar looks around, backs up, then sinks its teeth into the neck of its prey and drags it away.
We here at Animalia are in the camp that finds this video wonderful, and so are the California homeowners whose security camera captured it early Wednesday. Mary L. Mines and Peter Rauenbuehler, who live south of San Francisco in Hillsborough, said in an interview that they were awakened by loud noises shortly before 4.a.m. It was raining, and they heard a loud crack. Mines said they thought a tree branch might have fallen.
Their three dogs were barking, so Mines went to the front door to look through the peephole at the porch outside. She saw something move and figured it might be one of the coyotes that are common in the area. She opened the door a crack and realized it most definitely was not.
“Mary turned on the light, and lo and behold, there was a big cat,” Rauenbuehler said.
The couple surmised that the deer had been munching on their potted roses — “the deer are so brazen here,” Mines said — while the mountain lion stalked it. The crack, they think, was the sound of the cougar snapping the deer’s neck. They also found hair on their wrought-iron fence, which they believe was left when the cat dragged the deer over it.
The mountain lion later lugged the deer from the front porch, up the four steps to the street and carried it to a neighbor’s home, where it left the prey after having only “eaten a couple bites,” Mines said.
All this drama left the couple relatively unfazed. They’d recently returned from a vacation in Borneo, where they viewed exotic wildlife whose existence is crucial to that nation’s tourism industry.
“We’re in their home,” Mines said of cougars. “It’s pretty intimidating animal. It’s a pretty awesome animal. But it was also pretty cool.”
“It was more exciting than scary,” Rauenbuehler added.
They said they’d told their son to be careful outside, Mines said, “to be big and loud and don’t run” if a mountain lion crosses his path.
That’s sound advice, according to the Bay Area Puma Project, which tracks sightings of mountain lions — which are also known as cougars or pumas — in the San Francisco region. The big cats are the area’s “top predator in the natural spaces around the Bay Area,” the project says.
And for a brief few minutes, a mountain lion was certainly the top predator on the Mines-Rauenbuehler porch.