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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are deer cached in trees evidence of cougars? Helen Mcginnis and Chris Spatz of Cougar Rewilding as well as the members of Wild Felid Research & Mgmt Association all agree that deer found in trees are not the work of Pumas!

Roadkills, random cam pics, cats treed, shot, snared and wandering into towns and cities will appear in New Hampshire long before anyone proves a rumored (no one ever provides pics of these things) deer cache was stashed by a cougar.-Chris Spatz Cougar Rewilding

From: Helen McGinnis
To: rick meril
Subject: Are deer cached in trees evidence of cougars?

On February 16-18, 2012, I asked members of the Wild Felid Research and Management Association:
People frequently report finding deer in trees in the East.  They
claim that a deer cached in a tree is evidence of puma presence.  In
the past, I've asked a few of you with field experience with pumas in
the West if you've ever encountered evidence of such behavior. None of
you did.  Now I'm asking this wider group: have any of you ever
documented tree caching by wild pumas?

Puma in a tree

To read the article that led me to make this query, go to and scroll down to the February
14th post alleging that cougars currently inhabit New Hampshire.  It begins:
"Linda McCracken has become a friend of this blog...."  The article includes this quote:

"Deer, fawns, sheep and goats have been seen in various places throughout
the state cached in trees. What does that sound like to you? I was told it
was fishers. I don't think they are strong enough to haul a complete deer or
sheep carcass into a tree."

Harley Shaw, whose main research has been in Arizona, responded:
I have not.  Can't say it never happens, but its not something I would look
for as supporting evidence of puma involvement.   Question to you:   What
would be putting them there?
Helen McGinnis responded:
I have suggested humans.  In an online discussion, some humans responded
that we aren't strong enough.  But our species could figure out ways to do
it.  Leopards do tree cache when lions and/or hyenas are present, but it
takes a huge expenditure of energy.  One would have thought that pumas would
tree cache to keep their prey from wolf packs, but I don't know of any
specific instances.
Chris Belden, whose work has been in Florida:  To my knowledge, no one has ever found a deer cached in a tree in Florida.
Mark Lotz, who is also in Florida: I'll simply reiterate and confirm Chris' statement that in over 30 years of research on Florida panthers we've never documented a prey item cached in a tree

Leopards kill and take their prey into trees, not Pumas

Toni Ruth--I've studied cougars in Texas, New Mexico, Montana, and Wyoming:  I have never observed cougars caching prey in trees where they are sympatric with grizzly, black bear, and wolves, or in systems where they do not
overlap with other large carnivores.

Caching on the ground proves to be apretty effective (not 100%, but effective) method of minimizing detection by avian and mammalian scavengers. I have seen ravens and magpies haul piecesof deer and elk carcasses up into trees so that some trees around a kill site look like they are draped with prey hair and even pieces of hide. I would not be surprised if marten and fisher might carry some pieces up trees
to feed. Have folks indicated whether they have seen an entire deer carcass
in a tree or just pieces of hide and hair?

Winston Vickers We have never observed this behavior in southern California over the course of 11 years of study.
Linda Sweanor: We have never observed pumas prey-caching in trees in our research in New Mexico, California and in Ken's research in Colorado.  However, only the Colorado study has another large carnivore (black bear).  We've also never a puma up in a tree because it simply wanted to be up there... though observing a puma behaving naturally (not influenced by human
presence) is a big challenge!  Like Toni, we've observed small pieces of
hide and hair in trees above a cache; sometimes the evidence indicates that
playful kittens are taking them up there.
So my conclusion remains the same.  We have no evidence that cougars drag deer up into trees, and thus deer in trees are not evidence of cougars.--Helen Mcginnis


Barry said...

People just north of me say they find deer cached in trees. They claim it is Sasquatch doing it.

Rick Meril said...

where do you live Barry?............

Anonymous said...

As I just commented on another "black panther" post, it IS possible that the occaisional escaped/released captive leopard MIGHT survive for awhile in an area to create all manner of sightings and confusion!(less likely to actually be SEEN, as they are incredibly elusive), signs(much more likely to discover, IF someone has the knowledge to know what they are looking at.) Could a formerly captive leopard be responsible for some of these carcasses in trees? Fascinating, but it should be verifiable by reading other sign(teeth/claw marks on the dead animal, tracks/scat/hair nearby that could be tested, etc.). And though not impossible for the occaisional escaped leopard to live it's life out without anyone ever even knowing it was around, we certainly don't(?) have a breeding population(yet?). There was a fairly well known story locally where I live now(the Uwharrie Forest in midstate N. C.) of a "black panther" that lived in the area for a number of years--but it was NOT thought to be a black cougar(as so many people in other areas erroneously believe exist), but it's origin WAS KNOWN--an escaped black leopard from a local menagerie. Aparently lived it's life out in the woods here before finally disapearring(but never recorded as having been shot by anyone, or hit by a car.....)But MY guess for the carcasses in these trees? Human pranksters, or possibly poachers putting their game out of reach of predators/scavengers until they can come back and retrieve it...L.B.

Rick Meril said...

Anonymous...............enjoying your commentary on all things Puma and Wolf.............keep em coming!

Anonymous said...

....But I'm NOT "Anonymous"! I've been initialing my comments, at least! But I'll go ahead and introduce myself--Lane Batot--(howdy!)--total critter geek--ESPECIALLY a lot of the subjects you are posting! So you may have me plaguing you with commentary for some time......L. B.

Rick Meril said...

Lane,,,,,,,,,,,pleasure to know you and appreciate your "critter geek" commentaries...........Glad to have you as a reader

Anonymous said...

Yeah, wow! I'm having trouble keeping up with all your posts! But loving it! I am one of the last living humans without a computer(or even a cell phone--purty primitive!) of my own--my access to the computer world is only from work, so my correspondence/responding CAN be sporadic due to #1 actually having to do some real work; #2 competition for computer access with co-workers; and, #3 days off from work where I'm out in the woods with the coyotes and not near any computers! So be patient if you ever want to ask/contact me about anything!.....L.B.

Rick Meril said...

keep in the woods as much as you can...............this blog comes a distant 2nd............Best to you

Anonymous said...

Oh, aye--no worries there, mate! One reason I am so modern-technology-deprived is because I CHOOSE to remain primitive! Just got the book in the mail(ordered from Amazon after seeing it on the blog link you provided) "Suburban Howls"--CAN'T WAIT to read it!.....L.B.

Anonymous said...

I found this by chance- back in about 1993, something started killing calves on our eastern KY farm (just north of the Red River Gorge). The interesting thing is that those calves were being found partially eaten up in trees- 10-15 ft off the ground. My grandfather set out bear traps and got one full of black, glossy fur, as well as digging up very large cat tracks out of the creek bed. Fish and Game refused to even take a look, as cougars didn't cache prey in trees.

Rick Meril said...

perhaps an escaped "Cat" from Afric-- a zoo or private collector escapee...........Pumas do not cache in trees and are not black.............Jaguars can be black but unfortunately, they are not in Kentucky as free roaming animals.......Again, perhaps an escapee

Anonymous said...

Very interesting(to Anon/Nov30th/10:50)--though cougars aren't known to cache in trees(but cougars, like all animals, are INDIVIDUALS, which are always frustrating the "experts" by not behaving like they're "supposed" to!), and I've never heard of a black bear doing it either (that "individual" thing again should always be kept in mind...) Kentucky DID have one of the few VERIFIABLE cougar sightings(complete with a body! Should be able to find this on the internet somewhere, I'd think....) back in the early 1990's(forget exactly which year), when a motorist hit a young kitten on the road at night, and he claimed it was one of 3 kittens behind an adult--he clipped(accidentally) the hindmost. Turned in the body to local Wildlife Employees--I saw the photos--DEFINETELY a cougar kitten! DNA tests were done, and the results indicated some SOUTH AMERICAN DNA in the mix--which indicates this kitten was descended from at least partial South American stock--not suprising when one realizes that a lot of captive cougars bred for the exotic pet trade have South American origins! Meaning some of the cougars possibly repopulating the East may very well be surviving escaped or released former captives. Howsomever it happens, I'm all for "panther" recolonization in the East!(I'm in N. C.) As long as they are surviving and reproducing, I say power to diverse genetics!!!.....L.B.

Josh Dillingham said...

Rick. I am a hunter that lives in northern Oregon. My name is josh.
I hunt mostly deer and elk.
Yesterday walking in the woods with a friend. We came across a very large ( kill zone) if you will.
9 ducks to be exact. All that was left were wigs and maggetts everywhere.
But there were bones all over too. As we quickly decided to make our way out of there. I just decided to look up. And in the tree above us about 12-14 feet up was most of a half, of a doe deer.
Now the ducks you could say bobcat maybe. But the deer in the tree. Hummm cougar???
Your thoughts please.

Rick Meril said...

Josh.................I responded to your question yesterday via personal email..............Virtually all Puma scientists feel that there is no evidence to support Pumas caching their kills in trees............Sent you a peer reviewed paper as well as other commentary

pum said...

My husband found a carcass in a big tree he cut down for firewood. In the Adirondack's. I will have to ask him about how far up the tree did he think it was? Also we always put our animals in the barn at night and the one & only time we got home late one of our geese totally disappeared.. Nothing, not a feather nothing just gone. Looked & looked actually still can't help but wonder.

Rick Meril said...

Hi Pum..............still no evidence that Pumas cache deer in trees.....Thanks for checking in