Free dinner? Yes, please! In California's Santa Susana Mountains, a black bear and her cub waste no time helping themselves to a tasty deer carcass. But this lucky find is no random freebie. Camera trap photos posted to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Facebook page reveal the full story: this carcass was actually left behind by a mountain lion known as P-35.  

Image: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Facebook
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Image: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Facebook

The camera trap, which belongs to the US National Park Service, is set up near a spot where P-35 often stashes her food for later. "You never know what our camera traps are going to capture!" says NPS staffer Zach Behrens.  

You'll notice that the gorgeous cat is wearing a collar, which she's been sporting since she was tagged in April 2014. The collar collects information about P-35's whereabouts eight times per day – and that's crucial data for NPS scientists who need to understand how the local wildlife uses area.

The scientists have been deploying tracking devices like GPS collars since 2002 in order to study the movements and behaviour of these big cats living on the outskirts of Los Angeles. As for the mountain lion's moniker, the P stands for puma (which is another name for mountain lions, Puma concolor) and the number indicates this is the 35th cat to be tracked in the area.

Image: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Facebook
Image: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Facebook

"It wasn't that surprising to see the bears," says NPS biologist Jeff Sikich. "Bears are known in the Santa Susanas and do scavenge mountain lion kills." 

While they usually feed on grasses, roots, berries, fish and insects, the opportunistic omnivores will eat just about anything they can get their paws on – including carrion like this deer. Black bears can take down the occasional deer or elk, but they typically target juvenile animals. 

"However, it was interesting to see that three of P-35's kills that we were monitoring within a period of a couple of months were scavenged by bears," Sikich adds. 


Top header image: Santa Monica Moutains National Recreation Area