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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Teton Tuesday: Cougar Whistling

I would like to begin by wishing our entire Tejon community a very happy New Year! For my first  offering of 2015 I’m going to share some footage of our Tejon mountain lions exhibiting an interesting vocalization behavior. The videos below record cougars “whistling”, a strange and not entirely understood call believed to be used by members of the same family group communicating to each other over large distances. Cougars are known to make a variety of calls including a hiss, a purr, a growl and the infamous caterwaul, but this sharp, shrill whistle sounds more like the call of a small bird than that of a 200 pound apex predator. It is still unclear exactly why cougars make this call, but it may be that this vocal incongruity is by design, allowing cubs to safely call out to their mothers and adult lions to call each other without alerting potential prey that they are in the area. In any case these videos offer a rare and intimate look at the mysterious behavior of these iconic creatures.   

note: to appreciate these videos make sure the audio is enabled and your volume turned up!

In this video an adult cougar can easily be seen whistling as she stops for a drink along El Paso Creek.

This second video is even more fascinating but requires a little explanation: The first cougar crosses just in front of the camera as the clip opens(this is the only time a cougar appears in frame). After she exits the frame, a loud whistle can be heard quite closely to the camera at about the 8 second mark and again at the 13 second mark. Then, at about a the 23 second mark a very distant reply whistle can be heard from a second cougar off in the distance. From that point it appears as if the first cougar moves away from the camera and the two can be faintly heard calling back and forth at the 45, 51 and 59 second marks.