Museum Minute: How Wounds Can Help Tell A Story

Oct 14, 2019

Young mountain lion. Puncture wounds can be seen at top left area of skull.
Credit Draper Natural History Museum

Late in the spring a couple years back, Leslie Patten went hiking and came upon something pretty spectacular. When she looked more closely, she saw that it was a dead mountain lion. 

“It had hardly been predated on. It was still cold because it was early April so nothing was decomposed,” Patten recalled. “I could see it was a young mountain lion, but I wasn’t sure what killed it.”

Patten is a volunteer at the Draper Natural History Museum Lab in in Cody so she thought she could take the skull back to the lab for research.  Since it was still cold, she waited a month or so and came back with proper equipment to bring the skull to the museum. 

“By this time there were a bunch of bugs on it. I took the skull, and I started to prepare a title and decided to let the bugs do their work, so I brought it to the museum in September,” said Patten. 

By the time the skull was cleaned, Patten said you could see two clear puncture wounds. Patten said these wounds helped prove her hypothesis that this was a young mountain lion who was looking for new territory and ran into a dangerous situation. 

“Probably come upon the adult male lion that was feeding on the deer it had killed, they got into a fight, and of course, the younger one got killed,” said Patten.