You know when Fluffy deposits some mangled "gift" at your door in a show of her hunting prowess? Well, this is sort of like that. Except the "gift" is a rather large deer carcass and the cat in question is a mountain lion.

The black-and-white footage of a cougar's late-night visit was captured by security cameras in a San Francisco Bay Area home. Awakened by loud noises and their dogs' barking, homeowners Mary Mines and Peter Rauenbuehler were greeted by the sight of the large cat dragging off a deer it had only just killed on their property.

"I didn't have my glasses on so when I looked through the peephole I thought it was a coyote," Mines told ABC7 News. "And I turned to Peter and I said, 'There's a coyote on our front porch,' because we have a lot here. I opened the door and I looked and I said, 'That's not a coyote, that's a much bigger animal.'"


Some outlets have described the encounter as "terrifying", and there's been speculation that the video provides further evidence that mountain lion numbers are on the rise. But National Wildlife Federation California director Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, who recently published a book on living with mountain lions, offers a different take.

"No one really knows how many mountain lions there are in California for sure," she says. Current estimates peg the population at between 4,000 and 6,000, but this "guesstimate" is a crude one, derived from local density estimates made over the last 30 years.  

"My own sense is that there are not more mountain lions around – they are an extremely self-regulating species," she says. Instead, it's likely that we're seeing more of them – and getting a novel look at their lives – thanks to the prevalence of remote cameras. 

And despite the "predatory" nature of the visit, Rauenbuehler and Mines were left in awe of their wild neighbour. "We're in their home," Mines added in an interview with The Washington Post. "It's a pretty intimidating animal. It's a pretty awesome animal. But it was also pretty cool. The deer are so brazen here."

Mountain lions in California have a tough run of it. Human encroachment in their native range means they're surrounded by an ever-growing concrete jungle. Just last week, collared mountain lion "P-39" was struck down on a Los Angeles freeway, marking the 13th road incident for the area since 2002. Cats in some areas, like the Santa Monica Mountains, have begun to see a shift in how humans respond to their presence, but conflict with farmers and a lightly dusted rap sheet mean there is still plenty of animosity to overcome. 

"In the video, that's nothing abnormal," says Pratt-Bergstrom. "It's a mountain lion doing what a mountain lion does well: taking down a deer. And helping to save the homeowner's roses as well. I am appreciative of the homeowners for thinking it a remarkable experience and promoting coexistence with these remarkable cats."


Top header image: Kristen Ortwerth-Jewell, Flickr