August 10, 2009

Today, hiking on the Hermosa Creek Trail, we saw a mountain lion.

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I didn't get a photograph.

AND: Meade got a picture of me...

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... standing at approximately the same distance ahead as the creature that slipped across that path.

43 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Who made the mountain lion ID? It looks more like a possum. But I have been wrong ID'ing road kill before.

rcocean said...

Interesting.

I've seen plenty of Mountain Lions near sunset and sunrise - never seen one between 9am and 3 PM.

And all of that nonsense about "they're scared of Humans" - total crap.

Ann Althouse said...

As I said, I didn't get a photograph. We did both clearly see the mountain lion and checked photographs on line to make sure. It had a mottled coat and seemed to be a juvenile.

bagoh20 said...

Is this some kinda code to call out the Althouse hillbillies: Ding, Ding, supper time!

"I have been wrong ID'ing road kill before."

The taste test is not entirely reliable with a hot carcass.

Meade said...

It was between 4 and 5 o'clock when we sighted it crossing a section of shaded trail, moving up the mountain side directly away from a 60 head herd of cattle.

Meade said...

Last week in Rocky Mountain National Park we sighted a brown bear. In that instance, we were two of a herd of approximately 20 humans.

Lem said...

What a beautifull country.

Cedarford said...

Looks like a dead pika.

Agree with rcocean, rare to see mountain lion in daytime. And a useless bit of advice...next time you see a mountain lion, stick together. A solitary lion in hunting mode wants a solitary target like a woman right on the trial it crossed, separated by 100 yards from her larger companion.

Old joke:

2 lawyers went out with a fishing guide in Montana.
They had almost gotten to the stream in a wide clearing when a huge grizzly bear emerged from the bush with cubs.
The bear roared and faced the men.
The guide warned them to be very still, quiet and to back away slowly.
"If the bear stands on hind legs, then comes down and holds her head low and the hair is standing up on her spine she will attack!"
Just then the bear stood up, with drool coming from it's fangs. Then dropped low to the ground, all back hairs standing up.
The guide sighed and dropped to the ground, undoing & kicking off the heavy boots, his pack. Then grabbing sneakers from his pack and putting them on, warning the lawyers that they may have to break for it, and if caught, roll in a ball and maybe the bear will just seriously maul the lawyers.

One lawyer astutely spoke up: "I may be a lawyer, but I know from reading National Geographic you cannot out-run a bear. You locals do read, right??"

The guide got to his feet and started to say something, but the bear roared again, and began an amble straight towards them.

He told the lawyers, still with heavy boots and strapped into their packs:

"I do read National Geographic. You two just missed the main point of knowing that three guys cannot outrun a bear."

Then the bear began it's charge and the guide bolted, the panicked lawyers several feet behind, slipping further back encumbered by their gear as the bear got closer.

The guide said distantly, well ahead of the lawyers: "I know I can't outrun that grizzly. I just have to outrun you two! Remember what I said about curling in a ball in the next few seconds! You might live!"

traditionalguy said...

Sorry for misunderstanding your point about seeing a live lion. That is one wild place.

traditionalguy said...

C-4...I guess your telling that story about two lawyers is better than making it about two Jews.

David said...

Now that is one fabulous place to take a hike.

I saw a mountain lion once, in 1964, in darkest Vermont. There is no mistaking what it is if you get a decent look at it.

David said...

By the way, which one of you stomped the little critter?

Michael Hasenstab said...

There is a mountain lion in northern Wisconsin. It may have migrated from South Dakota.

I carry this when hiking. It also works well on bears.

Skippy said...

Cool to have seen a mountain lion! Good thing it wasn't interested in you! I ride my bike along a riverbed in an aquifer recharge area in the San Joaquin Valley of California on the edge of a mid-sized city. We see bobcats and coyotes occasionally, but more often I am sure they see us. The first time we saw a bobcat, my friend and I were sure it was a mountain lion. The area couldn't support such a big animal; the little cat grew huge, thanks to our imaginations and excitement of the moment.

Paul said...

I had a scary mountain lion encounter in Indian Valley in the Santa Ynez mountains. Alone. On a mountain bike. Miles from anywhere. He was a big one and after I got away from him I got lost on a disappearing single track and had to backtrack to his vicinity and climb out on a fire road in the dark. Every time I went under an oak tree I was sure he was going to pounce on me. That was an adventure...

But my wife and I saw an even more rare event last week....two rattlesnakes mating!! Wow!! They were entwined with their heads and "necks" up in the air dancing like cobras. This went on for five or ten minutes, at which time they seemed to have an estatic moment and became very animated. They then seperated and the female slithered of the trail into the brush. The male lingered a while longer before he moved of the trail too. I got pretty close to him. I'd guess he was about three feet long and almost three inches in diameter.

We were on a local ride so we didn't have a camera.

Fred4Pres said...

I saw a puma today too.

Here's the picture.

traditionalguy said...

Paul... So that's what starts the fires in the Santa Ynez mountains: male rattlsnakes having a smoke after intense sex. It is amazing what one can learn here.

Father Martin Fox said...

Ann:

Was that a picture of you after you ran away, down the path?

Just kidding, I saw your explanation in the caption!

John Lynch said...

This is great. I've been to that exact spot.

There are a lot of bobcats around here. I see them all the time. You were there, but if you couldn't judge the size it may have been a bobcat. They can get fairly large.

traditionalguy said...

Bagoh20...The Hillbilly signal has indeed gone out. And you may soon no longer be protected by those Appalachian mountain dwelling warlike Americans. So my best advice to you is to run for your life before Southern California becomes roadkill itself following foreclosure by China and resale to the Mexicans. That should work like a reverse Grapes of Wrath novel.

The River Otter said...

We saw a mountain lion last year in far northern Wisconsin. It ran across the road at dusk and it was breathtakingly awesome. Later they did find out that we were not crazy hallucinating, and I have to say that Andrew Wydeven from the DNR took my "concerned citizen" emails seriously.

PoNyman said...

I'm sure the Instapundit will be recommending the book "The Beast in the Garden" in response to this post, but I figure I'll try and beat him.

JAL said...

Saw a large bobcat in broad daylight (30-40 lbs.) last year moving across my property. The crows were going nuts. Yelled at the bobcat, following it all the way up the mountain above the trees.

Our newest sighting is coyotes in broad daylight. Large and healthy looking. We have a donkey so they each stayed out of the pasture but trotted the fence on their way to somewhere.

The rumor is that mountain lions (cougars) have been in the Smokies, and are just now occaionally sighted. Glenn Reynolds mentioned a friend who had seen one last year.

Meade said...

John, cool that you know the spot. The cat we saw was clearly larger than a bobcat and had a long tail. The fur was tawny and slightly dappled. It's movement was very fluid and smooth.

We were together, holding hands when we spotted it, talked loudly and steadily, and kept holding hands until we reached the car.

This is some wild country. Love it!

JAL said...

Do they have redbud and law schools in Colorado? You could still shovel snow ....

And you could post comments at ridiculous hours.

Chip Ahoy said...

Why the mountain lion is not shown.

Paul said...

traditionalguy...I guess rattlesnake sex brings out the comedian in folks. When I told a friend that the male lingered for a bit afterword he suggested that he was looking for the remote. LOL!!

It was in Clayton, CA, by the way, east of San Fransicko. That's home. (One of the best kept secrets in the Bay Area).

Michael McNeil said...

I had a scary mountain lion encounter in Indian Valley in the Santa Ynez mountains. Alone. On a mountain bike. Miles from anywhere. He was a big one and after I got away from him I got lost on a disappearing single track and had to backtrack to his vicinity and climb out on a fire road in the dark. Every time I went under an oak tree I was sure he was going to pounce on me.

While actually encountering a mountain lion on a trail might certainly be expected to inspire concern, it is not sensible to be overly worried that “he was going to pounce on me.”

Folks might like to peruse this page from the California Department of Fish and Game listing all verified mountain lion attacks in the state over the last almost 120 years — this in a state of (now) more than 35 million people, millions of whom live in relatively remote suburbs where tens of thousands of mountain lions roam in close proximity.

Notice the number: a grand total of 16, only six of which were fatal, while two of those were due to rabies.

Clearly, it takes a mountain lion that is extremely seriously deranged by their standards — such as sick with rabies (which obviously not very many are) — not just hungry or even starving — for it to attack a human. Thus, there's no reason for inordinate concern even if one does see a lion.

Glenn Reynolds posts every now and then about mountain lions, and while they're obviously capable of harming people, he talks as if in fact they're an extremely dangerous threat that should be exterminated from all human-occupied areas (i.e., nearly everywhere these days). Given the foregoing statistics, that's plain nuts.

Note that I live in a neighborhood in California where a lion was seen just a month or two ago, so I'm not just blithely talking from some locale remote from the “danger.” Personally I find those statistics quite reassuring, as should we all.

Simon Kenton said...

This happened last year; I wrote it up under the heading of 'Professional Courtesy:'

My second-story office has a canted wall with 2 large center-pivot skylights inlet into it which serve as windows. It fronts on the south wall of the canyon, which rises at about a 45-degree angle. The slope is sparsely wooded, owing to my wildfire mitigation efforts; limbed and stately ponderosa pines whose bark betrays an age greater than 100 years are dotted 20 or 30 feet from each other. Between them are desiccated forbs and a few low grasses, sere from the drought.


About 1800 I glimpsed something streaking along a contour of the slope, headed west. It was hardly perceived before gone, so I leaped from the chair and moved to the next window to the west. I had an impression of brown, moving very fast, so fast I first thought it was a low-flying juvenile or brown morph of a coopers hawk, just off the deck. In a moment it had resolved itself into a spotted fawn, still small enough to be sunk deep into the drying grasses. It was moving as I have not seen a fawn move before. Usually they have juvenile abruption. In a flash they will butt the doe’s udder. Or something will spook them and they suddenly stott away a couple paces, and look back to see if the doe is frightened. They may frisk about one another, quick as thought, but it’s instant to start and instant to stop. Bounce, jostle, freeze, browse. This little deer was in full, backflattened streaking mode, racing across the hillside, tiny black nose parting the low brush.


Less than a second, hence less than 50 feet, behind it was the lion, bounding along, tail snapping back and forth, paw pads spread. They traversed my window in an instant. I ran to the closest west-facing window in the other room but it took me a couple of seconds: no trace of them.


I went downstairs, checked to see if the elk steaks aging in the refrigerator had tenderized enough for tomorrow night (they have), and went up the road to see if I could spot either of them. No luck. On the road were oblivious polychrome bicyclists. About 40 minutes later I found a solitary doe, browsing wildrose a little downcanyon.


It’s a hard world for little things:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N9LnkKQfuc

Big Mike said...

@Michael Hasentab, some Alaskans I know are pretty derisive about sprays as defensive weapons. They prefer this and cautioned me to aim for the shoulder to stop its charge.

Big Mike said...

@Michael H. (they were talking bears, though Alaska apparently does get cougars in the southern part of the state).

Superdad said...

"I carry this when hiking. It also works well on bears."

This works even better:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.357_Magnum

Paul said...

Michael McNeil-

Sensible??!! Listen, YOU come accross a big lion way out in the wilderness alone, figure out a way to get passed him (because there was no going back the way I came)and then be forced to return to his neighborhood in the DARK and grind up 2000 vertical feet on a bike under overhanging oaks where it's pitch black and remain SENSIBLE.

Have you ever even been in the wilderness alone let alone seen a big cat? You sound like some duffer who pontificates from his easy chair with a fire and a snifter full of cognac to me. Feh.

Michael McNeil said...

Michael McNeil- […]

Have you ever even been in the wilderness alone let alone seen a big cat? You sound like some duffer who pontificates from his easy chair with a fire and a snifter full of cognac to me. Feh.


Though I now live in California (in a remote suburb on the side of a honkin' mountain with lots of lions), I'm from Montana — and in both states I've done plenty of wilderness hiking and camping, indeed in Oct. I'll depart on yet another such expedition into a very remote wilderness area.

And though I've never encountered a mountain lion (except possibly, on a piece of wilderness land my [now ex-] wife and I own), I have encountered plenty of black bears and even brown (i.e., grizzly) bears — which I would never treat anything like as blase as I think the statistics indicate one may sensibly regard cougars.

But in my view the statistics speak for themselves, far louder than I ever could: once again, a grand total of 16 attacks on humans over more than a century of time, in a state where millions of people pass close to tens of thousands of big cats and vice versa all the time.

If those statistics don't speak to you, well rather than using stronger language, I'll just say that you're in serious need of acquaintance with the concept of numbers and what they mean.

Paul said...

Well Mr. McNeil, the day comes when you're ten yards from a big cat and he jumps up into the chapperal above you while you're alone you talk to me about numbers. A couger attacked and killed a mountain biker in SoCal a while back, and the ranger told me a big lion was shadowing two women equestrians right where I encountered my lion just a couple of days prior.

I've seen plenty of bears and they never spooked me like the cougar. I suspect one of the reasons there are so few attacks is because encounters are so rare, but all the statistics in the world don't mean a thing to the unlucky individual who does manage to get mauled.

Michael McNeil said...

Well Mr. McNeil, the day comes when you're ten yards from a big cat and he jumps up into the chapperal above you while you're alone you talk to me about numbers.

No doubt that's true, but see below.

A couger attacked and killed a mountain biker in SoCal a while back, and the ranger told me a big lion was shadowing two women equestrians right where I encountered my lion just a couple of days prior.

Did you even look at the Fish and Game page I pointed to? The last fatal attack by a cougar in California on a human being was in 2004 — five years ago. The last fatal attack on a woman occurred in 1994 — fifteen years ago. That's “a while back” all right.

I've seen plenty of bears and they never spooked me like the cougar. I suspect one of the reasons there are so few attacks is because encounters are so rare, but all the statistics in the world don't mean a thing to the unlucky individual who does manage to get mauled.

Black bears are normally much less dangerous than grizzlies (the recent attack in Colorado notwithstanding), but being “spooked” versus actually being in danger are two entirely different things. For one thing lions range over far more territory that brings them into much closer proximity to populations of human beings than bears do, but nevertheless despite that advantage mountain lions almost never attack people.

Will said...

Here in Colorado Springs, we have periodic sightings of mountain lions in the foothills. I've lived here 35 years, and I don't recall an attack on a person. Pets, particularly small yappy dogs, yes, but not people.

Big Mike said...

@Michael McNeil, all we are saying is try not become #17, okay?

Michael McNeil said...

Michael McNeil, all we are saying is try not become #17, okay?

I'm all in favor of that. But my point is that while carefully avoiding becoming the statistic of California attack #17, don't worry overly much about it — certainly don't worry yourself sick — because the risk of a mountain lion attack is exceedingly low. Nor should one forbid oneself or one's children from enjoying things like the great outdoors because of an almost entirely imaginary danger like that.

Big Mike said...

Nor should one forbid oneself or one's children from enjoying things like the great outdoors because of an almost entirely imaginary danger ...

Did you mean an "entirely imaginary danger" like this?

Michael McNeil said...

Did you mean an "entirely imaginary danger" like this?

No. In the first place, I said “almost entirely” not “entirely imaginary” — there's a difference.

Beyond that, I've already said that I regard bears as a greater danger than the big cats. To amplify on that, in my view bears are less shy, less predictable, bolder, and much more likely to be attracted by the food that humans carry and consist of.

This, of course, is particularly true of grizzlies (of which there are none in California), that are known to track and eat people, but even black bears are dangerous near human camping spots, for instance.

Here is the black bear equivalent of the Calif. Fish and Game page for mountain lions that I pointed to earlier. Notice that there have been a dozen black bear attacks on people in California since 1980, as opposed to sixteen mountain lion attacks during the last (almost) 120 years — this, when black bears are much less likely to live and roam in close proximity to populous California suburbs, and thus have far less opportunity to approach many people's homes and persons.

Big Mike said...

Your assertion that there are no grizzlies in California startled me -- aren't they on your flag?

But a quick Google search seems to confirm it. Strange.

You just be careful out there. All the statistics in the world won't count if you really do meet up with a hungry cat. Or black bear.

Enjoy yourself.

Truth to tell I wouldn't let wildlife scare me away from a hiking trip -- the state of my knees does that for me -- but I did use to carry a Hudson Bay axe -- bigger than a hatchet but much lighter than a full-sized axe. More useful than a hatchet for camping chores, too. And I always figured that if I ever needed a weapon I'd probably need one pretty bad.

Michael McNeil said...

Your assertion that there are no grizzlies in California startled me — aren't they on your flag? But a quick Google search seems to confirm it. Strange.

Ironic perhaps, but not so strange. I said earlier that I'm from Montana; and Montanans are well aware that the only grizzlies in the continental U.S. reside in either Yellowstone Park and the adjacent wilderness areas along the crest of the Rocky Mountains south of Montana, or in Glacier Park and the adjacent wilderness areas along the crest of the Rocky Mountains in northern Montana.

It was the latter in which I and some friends encountered a grizzly (sort of: he tore up our camp and caused its closure, giving us a free night in a remote hikers' chalet in Glacier Park). That's really as close as I want to get to a grizzly.

The reason why those are the only two places where grizzlies exist in the continental U.S. is because they've been exterminated from everywhere else.

As for black bears, I remember clearly as a child and young man, before the Park Service adopted a policy of strongly discouraging bears from hanging around campgrounds in Yellowstone, when one might easily be surrounded by dozens of black bears at various distances, and literally think nothing (or very little) of it. It boggles the mind in retrospect.