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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mountain Lion, Cougar, Puma

A friend posted a photo of a mountain lion with its kill which reminds me of the fact that we live in mountain lion country and see them infrequently but enough to know that they are around. It doesn't matter what you call them by they are around even when we don't see them. They are wary of humans unless that human happens to be running then the prey drive kicks in. We see joggers run down the road on occasion and it is only a matter of time before they are seen by our mountain lion population. Stalk, follow, seek an opportunity and attack from the rear, going for the neck. They can be faced down - which we have done - but when they are in prey mode and attack from the rear the jogger or runner can't out run them and won't see them coming from the rear as they move silently.

I have lost track of how many we have seen in our 16+ years here but it has been several. As close as 8' and once at 15' when one coiled up on the ground snarling and showing us its nasty yellow teeth with ears back and lots of hissing. We stood our ground and after a few minutes - seemed like hours - it finally bounded off and was gone. These cats are natural hunting machines and 140-160 pounds of pure muscle it is good that they are basically afraid of humans. They are so strong that they can climb a tree to drape a deer over a limb to protect it from other predators. Natural hunting machines is what they are.

Once we were walking the dogs down the road and saw something walking the same direction about 50 yards in front of us. The dogs didn't alert which should have clued us in that it was a mountain lion but after a while walking down the road together the lion turned and saw us behind it and went up into the woods. Then we could see its profile and knew it was an adult lion.When I was in the military as an investigator we were having a rash of peeping tom reports from base family housing. To put an end to it we posted and hid military police around the area one night. After bringing them in one airman from NY said those people sure have weird pets. I asked him what he meant and he said a big cat - about the size of him walked within inches of where he had hid in some bushes. There was light snow on the ground so I had him take me to where he had seen the cat. Sure enough it was a mountain lion that had walked within inches from where he had been sitting in the bushes. He could have reached out and touched it. Cats are funny animals and it is always wise not to get reckless around them. He told me he was going to reach out to pet the 'cat' but decided not to. Good thing as that cat would have shredded him and I would still be filling out paper work to explain how I lost an airman to a mountain lion on a stakeout.

They are beautiful animals but when you see them up close there is no doubt how powerful they are. They have a wicked set of teeth and those claws are for holding or ripping and would make short work of a person too small or weak to fight back. Thanks to my friend for posting that photo which helped me remember some actual lion encounters myself. Most people only see them in zoos where they are well fed and cared for. When you see one in the wild as close as 6-8' away, as we have on occasion, it is a sobering situation as you realize in those eyes that are focused on you the lion may consider you a food source. Bears are much easier to discern what they have on their mind but that is not true with lions. Given a chance the lion will run off but an old lion who has trouble hunting or a young lion who has not learned the fear of humans could pose a problem for a person. They are most dangerous when they gather as a group to hunt together. Dealing with one is serious enough but when there are 3-5 of them you can't tell what is behind you when they circle you. When you live in lion country you are always aware of your surroundings and it is wise to frequently glance behind you. It doesn't pay to be careless in lion country.

1 comment:

kickboxingmom said...

Hi. My husband and I recently bought some land about in the San De Cristo Ranches. We came out for a visit the first week in November to look at the property and visit the area. We saw a lot of deer and deer tracks. We also had another print. We were thinking bear or mountain lion. Do you think you could identify it if I emailed it to you?