It’s a cold blue-sky morning somewhere in North-central Washington late this past January.
Snow blankets the forested copse, almost a peaceful scene except that a whitetail doe appears to be struggling for some reason.
From the vantage point of her neck, we can see her apparently clambering over or under a downed tree.
And then things go downhill very fast for her.
After a moment’s respite, a tan blur races right at her, two seconds later she lets out a bawl, snow flies, branches like a rib cage are everywhere, then the camera angle changes to sideways and is even closer to the ground.
The deer had no chance to wheel and run before being taken down.
It’s a chilling if not extraordinary piece of footage from work being done by University of Washington researchers.
Strapping neck cameras on whitetails and muleys, they’re looking at wolf-deer interactions in eastern Okanogan County and on the Colville Reservation, including how the presence of packs may affect how the ungulates graze.
But this video, posted to YouTube by American Hunter magazine, actually shows a mountain lion taking down one of their deer.
Slowed down to one-quarter speed the cat races in. You can see its ears pinned back as it either throws or rolls the deer under a downed tree.
Now askew, no longer does the camera dutifully record every bit of forage that enters the deer’s mouth — but as snow showers off the shaken branches, you know the predator will soon gorge.
The camera and its video were later recovered by UW PhD. candidate Justin Dellinger’s team. Their work is being funded, in part, by the Safari Club International, and just recently a Useed campaign raised over $12,000 for more.
Besides strapping neck cams to deer — they’re programmed to only record so many hours each day and then drop off after 80 hours — they’ve put up a ton of trail cams in the woods. Reported American Hunter‘s J. Scott Olmstead, who went afield with Dellinger last June, one site yielded “216 images of cattle, a cougar, a mule, a whitetail deer, a coyote and a wolf.”
They plan to continue their work through 2017.
For more on the project, check out our previous stories:
And then check out Dellinger’s fundraising page — maybe even consider giving to work that better helps determine the impact wolves will have on Washington deer.