David Neils isn’t your average wildlife photographer. He doesn’t sit in one place, waiting for the perfect shot. Instead, he just uses hidden cameras.
“People have an image in their head about mountain lions based on TV shows… based on Disney… that they’re lying up there on a rock scratching their claws, and the Lion King music is playing in the background,” he said. “That’s not it at all.”
Animals found on Sylvan Dale Ranch near Loveland
Next hiked four miles into the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch with Neils, to check his trail cameras. On our hike, we found video of a coyote walking down a trail and a fox sniffing a scent post.
But David’s cameras have captured some incredible images of mountain lions in the area, including one shot of a mother lion and her three cubs crossing a trail. It was a mountain lion that first piqued Neil's interest in wildlife photography, after a bowhunting trip.
"I was laying on my side sleeping, taking a nap in the afternoon," he says. "A male mountain lion came up from behind and pushed on my cheek like that with its muzzle, and I sat up, and it ran behind me. And I looked over and saw huge male mountain lion tracks, and the claws were extended. So it thought I was prey, but it decided not to eat me ... The first thing I did was I smelled my armpits, and I was like, ugh, I'm glad I didn't shower for two days. Maybe that's what saved me."
The ranch is a conservation easement. Only ranch guests typically hike the trails. David volunteered to monitor the wildlife several years ago.
His mission is to show people that there is more to live than pavement. He hopes his incredible images inspire others to search for signs of wildlife, perhaps even shooting their own video.
“I hope that through this people will just become more interested in spending time off the pavement.”