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The Secret, Social Lives Of Mountain Lions

A lone hunter stealthily stalking its prey; a shrill cry in the night.

Mountain lions may conjure up terrifying images in our minds, but researchers show that our fears might be based on mythology rather than scientific observation.

Mark Elbroch, a wildlife biologist with the Panthera Puma Program, has been studying these big cats for 15 years — and the 100,000 videos he collected of mountain lions in their natural habitat reveal a whole secret world.

His highly sensitive cameras allow him to see inside the den of a mountain lion and observe all the interactions between mother lions and their kittens.

There's the little chirp the kitten makes when it greets its mother, and the louder purr the mother makes when she calls to its kittens.

Here are two mythbusting facts Elbroch shared about these big cats:

Fact No. 1: Far from being lone hunters of our nightmares, mountain lions are very social animals and they rarely hurt each other.

"You've got these huge male sons of mothers that have already outgrown their mothers and the mothers are just rolling with them and licking them," Elbroch says. "They sleep in these huge cuddle puddles, as interns like to call them."

Fact No. 2: The infamous mountain lion scream? That's actually a female in heat.

It is not, as many wildlife biologists have thought it to be, the sound of an angry, hungry male about to attack.

Elbroch hopes that when managing mountain lions in the future, wildlife agencies can just focus on removing individual problem cats — with the help of his motion-triggered remote cameras — instead of relying on open hunting seasons.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Melodie Edwards graduated with an MFA from the University of Michigan on Colby Fellowship where she received two Hopwood Awards in fiction and nonfiction. Glimmer Trainpublished “Si-Si-Gwa-D” in 2002 where it was one of the winners of their New Writers fiction contest. She has published stories in S outh Dakota Quarterly, North Dakota Review, Michigan Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorseand others. She is the recipient of the Doubleday Wyoming Arts Council Award for Women. “The Bird Lady” aired on NPR's Selected Shorts and Prairie Schoonernominated the story for a Pushcart Prize. She has a story upcoming in an anthology of animal stories, published by Ashland Creek Press. She is the author of "Hikes Around Fort Collins," now in its third printing. She is circulating Outlawry,a novel about archeology theft in the 1930's with publishing houses. She is currently working on a young adult trilogy about a secret society of crows and ravens.