Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mountain Lions

Mountain Lions
Some good facts:
1. Mountain Lions have an instinctive wariness around humans: sightings by humans are rare but imagine how many mountain lions you may have passed on the trails and you didn't even realize the lion was there!
2. Since 1890 there have been 16 mountain lion attacks on humans. 6 of them were fatal. The animals that were trapped and killed were found to have had diseases (rabies, feline leukemia).
3. Where there is deer there are mountain lions. Mountain Lions favor deer above other foods. They seem pre-programmed to kill deer. They will eat pets and livestock as well.
4. Mountain Lions are solitary animals. It is assumed that female territory overlaps with a male territory but an encounter other than for mating may result in death. They are not pack animals. If seen in more numbers it will most likely be a mom with her kittens. The young stay with her until they are 9-24 months old.
5. Mountain Lion territory in CA is believed to be 25-50 square miles big.
I have unfortunately never seen a mountain lion. I have heard them. The mating scream is a sound that I cannot describe. It was almost human. A woman screaming?! Then I was out one evening, the sun was just down and I heard a deer being killed by a mountain lion. The running through the oak leaves, the cry of the deer and the pulling of its prey through the dense brush is something that I will never forget. I have heard coyotes kill a deer right by our house and that was horrible but this kill was short and clean.
Once I thought I was really close to seeing one. A neighbor reported a mountain lion sun bathing on the another neighbors property. My husband, kids, dogs and I tracked down the cat. Our Lab caught the scent fast and we tracked down the cat. Not a mountain lion. A bobcat.
I have been told that one thing that will stick in your memory when you see a mountain lion is its impressive tail. Something the neighbors couldn't recall seeing!
Unfortunately the media contributes to a negative vision of these beautiful animals. The broad public only knows them as blood thirsty stalkers and killers. A good book to read about mountain lions is "The Cougar Almanac" by Robert H. Busch. Another good resource: