Wildlife Communication

When people want to communicate with one another, they can just pick up a phone or send off an email. Wildlife, on the other hand, don’t have those options. They have to rely on other forms of communication in order to “talk” to one another. So how and why do animals communicate with each other?

Mountain lions (Puma¬†concolor), for example, will use both visual and olfactory (scent) cues to mark their territory or to communicate their “romantic” interests. Scrapes are depressions in the ground that are carved out by the lion’s hind feet. Left in the scrape is the cat’s scent, which ultimately acts as a “community bulletin board.” Many different mountain lions have been documented visiting scrapes left behind by another cat.

A mountain lion might also leave behind a message by scratching a nearby tree. The scratches will be approximately four to eight feet off the ground, depending on the size of the cat, and run parallel and vertically down the tree. Although these scrapes may simply be part of the claw-grooming process, many researchers believe it is another way for the cats to announce their presence.

The next time that you’re out on the trail, keep a sharp eye out for signs of mountain lion communication. Tracking wildlife is a great opportunity to play detective and an even better way to get to know some of our wild neighbors!

Denise Peterson

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