@Bob, I agree, those paws are phenomenal; probably my favorite part of this last series.
@Nick, thanks! And thanks for the shout out on my hats as well :)
@Tom, yes, a wary critter, but I have some thoughts of what was going on there...
A little bit of background.
I think this is a male, given the way it scrapes and leaves scats piles on top of the scrapes. I also think this is a young, 18 to 24 months old cat, because it still has a bit of spots on his coat. ( I have been reading up on them, including all the great work from the Puma Project).
This particular spot is where it seems to spend some time at, versus just walking by. This is where it usually either heads down a steep bank into a rocky gulley and eventually a small creek. This is also the spot where it seems to cut the switchback and just heads up straight and then shows up at another camera more in the open, but usually at night. This time it chose to go straight through, avoid the open trail and get into a rocky bank most likely heading up but hugging the mountain through a more protected area. I have another camera set up higher where it seems to climb back onto a trail from that side but I have not checked it; trying to give the cat more privacy in that upper area. The spot in the video is also where it has left two visible scrapes that could indicate the edge of it's territory. So my theory is that all the circumspection could be about any or all of the following:
1. Here it smells my dog, a horse, the bobcat, me etc.
2. Here it is possible that it may meet another male, which is a big deal as the chances of getting killed by another male are quite high. This possibly being at the edge of it's territory means it really needs to pay attention.
3. Leaving a scrape is also how they hope to attract a neighboring female.
4. It was trying to decide which way to go?
I also think that it just ate a big meal, for it to come from the lower neighborhood in the morning.
This afternoon I went to a midway point where I found old tracks. I hauled up half a plastic barrel and was able to tap Into the water line and filled it. I also wet the sandy clay all around the water container hoping to get some good fresh tracks that could tell me which way it goes from there.
Meantime, one of neighbor cats tracked by the PumaProject has been getting Into trouble in the little town four miles from here. Last week it took a cat from someone's yard right in front of them right before dark. It also snatched a small dog from a deck but dropped it when the owners went at it. Most of the pets and livestock troubles seem to come from collared cats around here; makes me wonder if the repeated capture and collaring from humans makes them more used to humans..