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Kitties in the backcountry, Nepalese style
First of all, this was Nepal so no need to worry about running into these kitties in the Appalachians.
I was on a guided jungle walk in the Terai in southern Nepal. I was just a few feet behind the guide and the rest of the group had fallen back a hundred feet or so. We had been "following" some Rhesus macaques in the trees in the hopes of finding some deer that tend to feed off whatever the monkeys drop. We were closing in on a group of deer only to realize that we weren't the only thing "stalking" the deer.
The guide and I heard the same thing at the same time. It was a cat, purring. Only this cat had the deepest purr I've ever heard. Basically, we were close enough to hear a Bengal tiger breathing as it stalked the deer. I almost laughed when the guide bent down to pick up a piece of fallen wood no larger than a baseball bat to use as protection.
Neither of us ever saw the tiger but just a few seconds later, the deer spooked and ran across (not away) from our field of vision. That cat must have circled around them a bit.
After that, we basically just headed back out to the edge of the forest. We were surprised again when we almost ran into a mother and baby rhino wallowing in some mud. I think they're more dangerous than bears in that they will charge and attack. But trees are good cover - only there weren't any trees larger than my wrist at the edge of the forest. :-)
We just waited a few minutes until a passing (domesticated) elephant "chased" the rhino away. Definitely cool footprints at that wallow (rhino, elephant, human, boar, deer, monkey, and tiger). WOW!
For people curious about large cat purring and behavior, check out http://members.tripod.com/~pudang/ and click on Physiology.
Among other things, this site states "Domestic cats purr when breathing in and out; tigers purr only when breathing out due to their larger nasal morphology." This is consistant with what we heard.
My experience was midday when tigers, not leopards are active.
As for making this AT related... Would a tiger in the shelter keep the mice away? ;-) Are pet tigers allowed on the trail (except in certain parks, of course)?
Last updated, February 19, 2012.
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