TRACKING NOTES: The Secret World of Mountain Lions
DVD Universities, Colleges, Community Screenings: $195
(includes Public Performance Rights)
DVD Public Libraries (circulation only): $39
Digital File (in perpetuity MP4) $495
DVD and in perpetuity MP4 $545
(includes Public Performance Rights)
A unique, non-invasive, mountain lion study uses a giant network of trail cameras scattered throughout the mountains over a decade coupled with interviews with MPG Ranch staff and volunteers in Montana, the filmmakers pieced together the life story of the area’s mountain lions. Genetic data gleaned from hair and other samples, in combination with the video footage, has allowed the researchers to trace the life histories of individual mountain lions and their complex interactions with one another, other wildlife, and the rest of the surrounding forest world into a story that contains never-before-captured events and behaviors at every turn.
Release date: 12-08-2022
90 minutes | SDH Subtitles
A film by Colin Ruggiero
NOTABLE ASPECTS OF TRACKING NOTES.
Written by filmmaker Colin Ruggiero.
Tracking Notes documents multiple important behaviors in mountain lions for the very first time. Chief amongst these is resource sharing amongst unrelated individuals. While others have indicated this might occur and documented it with collared animals, we are the very first to have filmed it. Tracking Notes contains the very first footage ever recorded of wild mountain lions that are confirmed through genetic testing to be unrelated, sharing food resources with each other. Additionally, these wild cats are uncollared and the behavior was documented on two separate occasions. The film, which relies heavily on a giant network of remote cameras, also contains many other shots and sequences of behaviors rarely if ever witnessed or recorded. Mountain lions killing foxes, mountain lions hunting and killing bull elk, wild interactions between mountain lions and black bears and between foxes and elk, Mountain lions listening to elk bugles and mountain lion kittens being abandoned - all of these things are behaviors that have never been filmed before. This film is a bonanza of revelations for people who are fascinated by the lives of wild animals and a paradigm-shifting contribution to wildlife science.
Unprecedented footage like this is difficult to come by these days and requires a significant investment to get. The film however was made with a very small fraction of the budget for most commercial natural history films. There are not any 5 consecutive minutes in most award-winning wildlife shows that didn’t cost more than this entire film. Tracking Notes was shot and edited by one person in a 50-mile radius of where I live. There was no air travel, no shipping of equipment, no crews to transport, no hotels or rental vehicles, etc. The footprint of this film is virtually non-existent in comparison with the average nature film. I’ve worked on films for many of the big broadcasters and I don’t necessarily take issue with devoting resources to telling these stories. But I think my film shows that local stories told creatively with a minimum of resources and impact, can be just as meaningful and valuable as giant productions. And I think that is worth recognizing and celebrating.
In making Tracking Notes I spent countless hours connecting the dots between pieces of research footage shot by a network of somewhere between 200-300 cameras that had been continuously deployed for 10 years. Much of this footage had simply been copied by interns, backed up and forgotten about. Much of it had never been logged and much of it had never even been looked at by anyone. I spent long nights scrolling through empty clips waiting for that one where an animal had passed by, triggered a camera and opened up a portal into the secret life of the forest. That in turn led to cross-referencing the camera data with the maps of genetic sample locations and dates to try to identify distinct individuals over time. Some of this had been done by the research team but much of it had not and my obsession with the footage led to a familiarity which in turn revealed a number of discoveries that had evaded the researchers. The editing task of finding and putting all of these puzzle pieces together was huge and comprised by far the largest amount of effort put into the film. What started as a 15-minute video ended up being 3 years of connecting together random clips shot over the course of a decade to create a feature-length film that tells the story of a lineage of mountain lions.