Mountain lions in British Columbia's Pacific Rim National Park Reserve like to fatten up on black-tailed deer, but also on unlikely prey items such as harbor seals and sea lions.
Researchers made the surprising discovery -- believed to be the first showing that cougars prey on marine mammals -- after collecting scat samples for a recent diet analysis.
They also were surprised to learn that black-tailed deer comprise only a quarter of the predators' diet, and that raccoons are their top food source.
But seals and sea lions?
"This is really interesting; imagine a cougar stalking its way across a barnacle-infested reef," researcher Chris Darimont told the Leader-Post newspaper. "I know of no other account of cougars eating a marine mammal.
"But I'm not completely shocked. There is some pretty delicious seafood out there. Seals are loaded with calories, fat and protein. They're big prizes, and, compared with deer, a little safer to hunt."
The analysis involved 29 scat samples from a vast park area along Vancouver Island's west coast. It showed that raccoons comprised 28% of the cougars' diet; harbor seals 24%; black-tailed deer 24%; river otters 10%; sea lions 7%; mink 4%, and unknown species 3%.
Prey items were identified through scat examination but also carcass analysis in the field.