40-pound midget, subadult female mountain lion killed by a porcupine

This is the sad story of a mountain lion that conservationists had labelled F99. She was a midget mountain lion at 40-pounds in weight. This is about half the size of a normal female puma of her age. She was regarded as a subadult. Her face was that of a mature animal but her body was pint-sized. Some large Maine Coon cats are as big as she was.

40-pound midget female mountain lion killed by a porcupine
40-pound midget female mountain lion killed by a porcupine. Photo: Teton Cougar Project camera trap.
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Sadly, she was orphaned when her mother was killed by another mountain lion in the spring. She bravely overcame many obstacles during her short life. She died at the age of 16-months. She had eked a living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming according to researchers. She had been tracked by the Teton Cougar Project of Kelly.

She taught herself how to hunt and in struggling to survive she decided to attack a porcupine. Porcupines are rodents with about 30,000 large, hollow and very sharp quills over their body to protect them from predators. The quills are barbed. They are very painful and they tear the flesh when extricated.

There have been instances of porcupines killing mountain lions and this was one such incident. Her body was found in the days leading up to Christmas 2014. A necropsy (autopsy) revealed that some quills had entered her chest cavity and lungs. As a consequence, one of her lungs had completely failed. This appears to have been the cause or a cause of death. She had eaten the porcupine but also ingested quills. It must have been a very painful meal born out of desperation.

F99 (I wish we could call something better) had underdeveloped ovaries. They were, according to a veterinarian, the size of a six-month-old house kitten. She probably couldn’t breed and is believed that she may have remained at 40-pounds in weight throughout her adult life if she had survived.

However, the autopsy revealed “gobs of inter-organ fat that suggested she was healthy”. Mark Elbroch, a member of the said cougar project, commented that it was amazing. He said: “You had this tiny little cougar that was healthy”.

She survived on eating small mammals and birds including grouse, pine martin, skunks, a coot and gophers. The porcupine that killed her may have been her biggest prey up until that moment. Elbroch believes that it was her “naïve innocence” that protected her rather than made her vulnerable.

He said that she survived “vicious temperatures last winter”. The cold had “claimed the tips of her tail and ears”. This must have been frostbite. She had a sister who starved to death well before her passing.

And so, F 99 survived alone after her sister had succumbed to starvation. She had somehow mastered hunting small prey and apparently striped skunks were her specialty. A bald eagle attacked her and picked her up off the ground. She survived that attack. She shared a carcass with a grizzly bear.

I feel sad about F 99. May she rest in peace over the rainbow bridge ?.

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