About 2 1/2 years after he set up his first surveillance camera along a game trail in the backcountry of Angeles National Forest, Robert Martinez got footage of Southern California wildlife even he couldn’t believe.
He had seen mama bears and their cubs, ringtail cats, foxes, and even a mountain lion dragging a deer. But footage one of his cameras caught on Friday showed what he described as a family of four mountain lions at once.
That video, posted to YouTube Monday, was “by far the most exciting,” Martinez said. It showed four big cougars loping across the leaf-covered ground, followed by another large mountain lion that appeared later that night.
Martinez, who started erecting his set of eight Bushnell trail cameras in the area around Big Dalton Canyon above Glendora in spring 2012, goes to the area every few days to download the footage. Sitting with his MacBook on the forest floor, he got a thrill seeing the family of “completely new” animals crossing right in front of his camera.
“I sat up straight,” Martinez recalled. “They were just there a few days ago? Holy …” Martinez said his videos are intended to bring awareness to local wildlife, especially mountain lions. He said he wants them protected and their “legacy” kept safe.
He also wants to show that it’s safe for humans to be in the same habitat as the seemingly fearsome creatures. “I can go out there too,” Martine said. “They’re not sitting in the bushes lying in wait. … They want to survive.”
The best videos are posted on the YouTube channel “Parliament of Owls,” so named for an Elliott Smith song lyric and on Martinez’s Instagram account. When he got his first mountain lion footage just six weeks after setting up his first camera, the 41-year-old Glendora native and longtime hiker said he became “really obsessed.”
Last summer, when he posted the video of the mountain lion dragging a dead deer just minutes before Martinez arrived on scene, he got attention from the media website LAObserved, and in turn was covered by local TV new stations. The cameras he uses are posted on a game trail (general area map) on which he occasionally sees a weekend hiker when he’s downloading video, but he says it’s not an area heavily used by humans.
The cameras have attracted followers online — and attention in the wild too. He often posts video of curious animals investigating the recording devices.
Mountain lions are not uncommon in the San Gabriel Mountains, though their fellow cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains and Griffith Park have gained more fame. Humans who encounter mountain lions should make themselves look large, stand their ground and never run away, state wildlife officials advise. More information on mountain lion encounter safety is on the state’s “Keep Me Wild” website.