Cougar Kit on a hunt
by: Annette M. Hall
Several years ago, our family was driving down Middle Camp Road, just about four miles from home. You can imagine our mixed emotions when we just happened to spot four mountain lions lazily walking down the road, seemingly without a care in the world.
There were two small lions, obviously cubs and two larger, presumably female lions, though one could have been a yearly. I'm told it is very unusual for adult lions to travel in pairs. We watched for a few moments as they continued on down the road, not paying any attention to us. I was left with a feeling of awe and fear. There were houses all around and no place for them to take cover should they need to do so.
Though in retrospect I doubt they have any natural enemies in this area, besides the human kind.
It's one thing to know that you live in mountain lion country and another thing to see them up-close and in-person. They were beautiful animals for sure. I was left wondering where they were headed and what they were doing in the middle of the afternoon walking down the center of the road.
I could kick myself even today for not having a camera handy. Of course there is never one around when you need one. That is a mistake I don't intend to repeat. Now, whenever we leave the house, we have our camera with us, just in case.
On Fathers Day, we were heading down Highway 108 towards Modesto for a family get-together and my husband saw a dead mountain lion on the side of the road. Apparently, it had been hit by a car and left to die. Can't say I blame the driver for not stopping. I'm not certain I would have been brave enough to stop to offer assistance.
What was unusual about seeing it on the side of the road was how close it was to the valley. People who live in the hills (mountains) expect to see - or should expect to see an occasional mountain lion but to spot one so far down the hill was unexpected.
We looked for it on the way home but either we didn't see it or it had already been removed by animal control. I wanted to note the exact location and document the sighting with a photograph.
Tonight, while updating my other mountain lion stories, I was searching for recent sightings and noticed that there have been a vast amount, many more than the last few times I've searched. That is a cause for concern. Either there really are more reported sightings of mountain lions, indicating there is an increased population of mountain lions or the press is simply reporting them more often. Perception is everything - right?
The increasing incidence of mountain lion sightings in Missouri parallels neighboring states' experience. Mountain lions used to be rare in South Dakota, but they have a well-established population there today. Nebraska is seeing them more often, and there have been verified sightings in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.
As a precaution we do our best to keep our cat inside at dawn and at dusk, which is no easy task, especially during these summer months.
We have a herd or two of deer that like to frequent our property on a daily basis. It's unclear exactly how many there are. We have seen up to a dozen deer walking through our yard at any one time. While deer are the preferred prey for mountain lions, it would stand to reason that wherever you find deer, mountain lions shouldn't be too far away. As of today we have yet to see any mountain lions in close proximity to our home, which to me is both a blessing and a curse. I would love to see one, just so I can get a picture to include with this article but just how close can you safely get to a mountain lion? A question that will likely go unanswered, at least by this author.
It's clear to me that the Department of Fish and Game needs to get an idea of the number of mountain lions who live and hunt in California. If the numbers really are on the rise, it won't be long until the state has a serious problem they will be forced to deal with. Only this month, a mountain lion was shot and killed in Pleasanton, CA. The lion had entered a condominium and refused to leave, making a nuisance of itself.
There have been very few instances of humans actually being attacked by mountain lions, though there have been an increase in the number of livestock and other small animal attacks. However, this could change should the deer population unexpectedly drop and food sources for these territorial animals become scarce.
Only time will tell whether or not the mountain lion population has increased and if it will become an ever-increasing problem in California, one of only three states that does not allow mountain lion hunting: Nebraska and Florida are the other two.
Parents would do well to educate themselves and their children about mountain lions. There are many good, informative websites where you will learn what times of day to avoid letting your pets out (namely dawn and dusk). Children should be taught to make themselves look as large as possible, wave a stick around and never to bend over in the presence of a lion.
Those living in California, where a large number of sightings have occured, need to be aware of the dangers, regardless of where you reside in the state. Don't make the mistake of assuming you are safe simply because you live in the city. There have been several recent sightings in the highly populated Bay Area this month alone.
Being prepared and aware of your surroundings can make the difference between life and death for you or a family member. Don't leave it to chance.