California's resident cougars may be elusive, but one ranch in the northern reaches of the state seems to be a popular hangout for these iconic cats. Some 30 camera traps record goings-on around the property, and the latest clip to emerge from the area shows that watering-hole wildlife dramas are not the preserve of the African bush.

(If you're squeamish, scroll down for the aftermath of the hunt.)

Local resident Randy Spade set up the camera traps with permission from the ranch owners. A naturalist at heart, he hopes the resulting footage will help to build interest in the local wildlife. 

The French Gulch property is not currently home to any livestock, but its relic of a watering trough has turned into a hotspot for wildlife sightings. Spade often catches glimpses of entire mountain lion families in the area. The recent deer ambush, however, took even him by surprise.

"We just got lucky as far as being able to catch everything and have it perfectly framed," he told KRCR News.

After landing the deer, the cougar proceeded to drag its large meal out of frame, possibly to a nearby cache. Down in Southern California's Santa Susannah Mountains, collared cougars like "P-35" regularly stash their leftovers. And just like that shrubby habitat, the French Gulch ranch plays home to bears, coyotes and other scavengers. 

Footage of the cat's return to the kill site the following day seems to support the food-caching hunch. And that's also when things took a turn for the [more comically] dramatic: when the mountain lion stopped at the trough, he found himself staring into the eyes of an intimidating "rival":

Find out more about Northern California's mountain lions here!


Top header image: Jon Nelson/Flickr