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Lions Crossing The Sand River |VERIFIED|

Many of Ruaha's rivers cease to flow in the dryseason, and are known as sand rivers. Thereis still water available a few feet down and theelephants exploit this by digging wellsCommiphoras and combretums are the dominant vegetation as well as acacias and areas of open savannah. Beyond the Ruaha escarpment to the Northwest is miombo woodland.

Lions Crossing The Sand River

Buffalo crossing the sand river. Herds of over 1000 animals can sometimes be seen The Ruaha River first dried up in 1993, after the expansion of rice growing in the catchment area to the SW. As more rice was grown, more water was extracted in the dry season (when planting starts 1st October) causing the river to be dry in sections for generally longer periods each year. Despite some efforts to regulate this it has got steadily worse until in the drought season of 2010/11 it dried up from October to Mid March.

Ruaha boasts a population of around 2000lions, which is roughly 10% of the World'spopulation of African lions2012/13 experienced the lowest wet season river levels ever recorded. The flood waters were poor despite reasonable rain and by June the river was reduced to a mere trickle compared its normal flow rate.

Game viewing is superb in spite of this and maximum densities are seen in the dry season when wildlife congregates near the rivers. Visitor numbers are very low so you will get the true experience of being in the Wilds. There are thousands of elephants and some big lion Prides as well as high numbers of impalas, giraffes and buffalos. At this time of year the elephants dig wells in the 'sand rivers' to get to the water that is still available a short way down.

It was really exciting to watch these new male lions slowly push closer and closer towards the river. Would they eventually cross the river? What would happen if they met with the resident Othawa Pride or the Matimba male? These were questions that were asked on a daily basis.

Columbia River salmon and steelhead face a serious threat from sea lions that prey on fish waiting to move up the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam in early spring. Each year since 2002, sea lions have consumed thousands of migrating fish, many from runs listed as threatened and endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

While some research has been conducted in the past -- including recent work on harbor seal population assessment and diet analysis, as well as research into California sea lions' diet -- it has generally been sporadic. New funding will allow for annual research, leading to better-informed conservation and management of these important species, as well as more focused deterrence efforts by identifying important estuatires and rivers where non-lethal deterrents can be used to protect both spawning adult fish and out-migrating smolts.

Since 2002, sea lions in the Columbia River have been taking a significant toll on endangered and threatened stocks of salmon and steelhead listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Predation by sea lions occurs throughout the lower river system, but the problem is especially acute below Bonneville Dam where returning salmon and steelhead congregate as they prepare to move up the dam's fish ladders to spawn upstream. Sea lions also prey on mature sturgeon below Bonneville Dam, and on listed salmon and steelhead runs in the Willamette River and other tributaries to the Columbia River.

Those records are just one indication of the level of sea-lion predation on Columbia River salmon and steelhead. Another estimate, based on California sea lions' metabolic needs, suggests that 100 animals feeding in that area consume at least 13,000 salmon each spring. That estimate applies to predation only in the tailrace of Bonneville Dam; it does not consider predation observed farther downriver in the lower Columbia River or its tributaries.

Elsewhere in Washington, WDFW and partners continue to evaluate pinniped population sand predation on other salmon and steelhead stocks in Puget Sound and coastal waters, and explore potential deterrence and management measures. Wildlife managers are making efforts to expand their understanding of the impact of seals and sea lions in these ecosystems, including a request for additional legislative funding to help facilitate statewide pinniped management efforts.

I went for a walk today, just because I wanted to look for tracks on the sandy patch on the river bar. (Curiosity outweighed my need to keep my ears warm and not freeze them off on the windy river bar.) I had heard a strange noise last night long after dark. My cat, Tiger, was outside, as usual. He likes to stay outside, even at night. The others all come inside, but he refuses to do so. Even when it is cold. Well, last night, I heard a thump and what sounded like a hissing sound. Now, that usually means Tiger has encountered a raccoon or a skunk. He usually runs from the raccoons, hisses at the skunks. This was a big thump though and I immediately grabbed my flashlight and was out the door less than 10 seconds after I heard it. I saw nothing, although Tiger was not at his usual post on the porch. He doesn't go far from the source of his food. I called him several times and waited a few minutes. I looked under the cabin and looked for tracks, thinking all the while of the night Bones was dragged off by the bobcat. Finally, he came trotting down the hillside. He was way up there for some reason. Something had scared him off. I couldn't see any tracks out there, so I figured he had made the thump when he jumped off the boards under the cabin. I didn't think anything more about it until I was walking along the river bar and happened to decide to go up the big river access trail. I had been down by the water and had found the sand patch torn up and some black and white clumps of fur scattered about. It looked like something had attacked a skunk and torn out pieces of its tail fur. I headed up the gravel and got to the bottom of the access trail where a shape caught my eye. Two tracks side-by-side, worn by the wind until the edges were rounded. They were unmistakable. Not a bobcat... too big for that. Mountain lion. A young one too. Eagerly, I took photos of them and then followed them backward. I wanted to see where the lion had come from. I found tracks here and there in patches of sand interspersed with rocks as I went toward Redway beach. I found where the lion had come down the rock on the southern part of the camp property. I stopped there and decided to follow it the other direction and see where he had gone. It was dusk and the sun had long ago gone behind the ridge. It would be too dark soon. The wind had kicked up a bit and was rustling the leaves enough to cause me to keep looking back over my shoulder. I went back to the river access trail where I had first picked up the trail. Following along, I found tracks going in both directions. There was an area where the lion appeared to have stayed for a while because there were numerous tracks. I got near a log that had been washed up by the river and had since overgrown with berry vines. There, I stopped to examine some scat that may be porcupine scat. Then I noticed the smell. It smelled like something was dead nearby. Ick! I moved on rather than crash into the brush to examine what might be the mountain lion's food cache. Perhaps Tiger had heard something last night. Maybe he heard the cat kill a skunk? I found another place not too far away where the cat's tracks were crisscrossing each other. It had spent some time here. Looking up, I saw the window of my cabin about 100 feet away through the trees. This summer, the maintenance guy had cut some trees here and it is now very easy to see most of the camp from the river. Had I been looking out that window last night, I would have seen the lion. The tracks showed no rain pock marks. In sheltered places, the tracks looked almost fresh. In unprotected areas, the wind had worked on them and flattened some out until only the shape remained. But they were no more than a day old. One of them had some lizard tracks inside, in the heel mark left by the cougar. I found one nearly perfect track. The light was almost gone, but I tried to take a picture anyway. I hope it comes out. I then stacked a few rocks around this track, hoping to protect it from the wind so I can come back tomorrow with better light and get another photo. I followed the trail on. At the smaller river access trail, where I had come down, I found more tracks. I had been focused earlier on getting to the sand patch because I had seen ravens there and wanted photos of their tracks. Had I looked at my feet, I would have found much more exciting tracks. The cat had paused here too, perhaps considering whether to go up that trail, or continue on the river bar. It apparently decided on the latter because the trail led north on the river bar, toward where I had seen lion tracks last January. This one followed the same path. It could have even been the same lion. I didn't go up the hillside to see if it had climbed up there. The light was fading fast and there wasn't time. I headed back and stopped to examine a pair of shoes and a shirt that was laying on the rocks. This hadn't been here several weeks ago. Maybe the lion ate the shoes' owner? Time to get outta here! I hurried back to the trail and on up to camp, checking the trail for telltale tracks. There were none. A raccoon had gone down the trail to the river, but no lion had come up that way. There were numerous tracks from my cats on the sandy trail. Tomorrow, I think I will go to the place where I found the lion tracks in January at "Effluent Creek." If I am correct, he will have gone that way and up into the drainage of Leggett Creek. In a way, I want it to come back, although I worry about Tiger. He refuses to come inside, or to come near enough so I can grab him and bring him inside. But, I want to hear a mountain lion scream. I have been told what it sounds like, but never had the privilege of experiencing it for myself. I want to hear that sound that is supposed to send shivers up your spine and make you glance nervously at the locks on the doors and the shadows under the trees. Of course, I don't want to be on an empty river bar in the dark when I hear it.....

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