Tag Archives: Predators

Coyotes, Mountain Lions, and Bears, Oh My!

The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator’s Deadly Return to Suburban America


“Reads like a crime novel . . . each chapter ends on a cliff-hanging note.”?Seattle Times

When residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their backyards, it became clear that the cats had returned after decades of bounty hunting had driven them far from human settlement. In a riveting environmental tale that has received huge national attention, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles one town’s tragic effort to coexist with its new neighbors. As thought-provoking as it is harrowing, The Beast in the Garden is a tale of nature corrupted, the clash between civilization and wildness, and the artificiality of the modern American landscape. It is, ultimately, a book about the future of our nation, where suburban sprawl and wildlife-protection laws are pushing people and wild animals into uncomfortable, sometimes deadly proximity.

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Close-up photo of a mountain lion. Backyard Wildlife
Watching…From the Edges of the Backyard

 

Lions and Bears in The Backyard, Oh My!

 

August, 2012

Many of our followers are aware that I have done a lot of security work over the years, and I still do. I’ve spent many sleepless nights on one type of patrol or another, and I’ve learned to notice many things that most people miss in the world all around them.

Last night I missed a chance to see a big mountain lion moving just a short distance from my solitary post. It was reported to me by an excited and breathless observer, who apparently had some trouble believing his own eyes. He just had to tell somebody, and I’m glad it was me.

The sighting took place on the black top and concrete of a two-track bridge over a cold, clear river in western Colorado, not far from the unfenced yards of several exclusive homes and the manicured grounds of a large country club and golf course. It seemed an unlikely spot to find such a magnificent predator, or so he thought. For his part, the tawny beast was no doubt chagrined to find himself caught in such an exposed and vulnerable position.

The lion enjoys good company as he hunts. Coyote, the all-seeing trickster grows more bold and opportunistic with each passing year, having learned long ago to take advantage of the nonchalance of the family pet. He may have learned it from the big cat. Likewise, encounters with black bears are increasing, as are people and bear conflicts. As a result we receive many complaints about coyotes and bears on the property that I roam, and it looks like it may become particularly bad in this time of terrible drought.

After all, we are surrounded by the rocky mountain west, with national forest and other undeveloped lands close at hand. Still, a mountain lion report is big and electrifying news which will surely surge throughout the small community by morning. This creature rules by stealth, and it is no surprise that most people have never seen one outside of a zoo or animal park.

I have been quite fortunate to study them several times in my adventures and wilderness travels. I’ve spied them without them seeing me, and I’ve noted their reaction when they realize they haven’t seen me first. I’ve hunted them several times, and have found myself standing with the bawling hounds under the killing tree, with an angry and snarling cougar above. I’ve followed their distinctive paw prints over hill and dale, and on more than one occasion found their tracks following me. I love to watch them under any circumstance, and to see them do their thing for any amount of time is an awe-inspiring experience that marks an indelible impression. I can see a stalking cat right now, in my mind.

What I don’t like is this long-tailed ghost watching me, particularly when I don’t know it. I have absolutely no doubt that it’s happened, countless times, at close range and but a primordial fang away. I’d take a bet that it’s happened to you too, if you have spent any significant amount of time in puma country. Fates can change quickly, as the tip of a cat’s tail twitches, measuring what to do. But of course, we will never really know, and it only adds to the mystery and magic of it all.

Sign Depicting What To Do When Encountering a Mountain Lion. Backyard Wildlife
Follow The Signs

 

I would have explained this to my wide-eyed mountain lion man, if I could have gotten a word in edgewise. There are some noteworthy visitors out there in the black night, just out of reach of headlight beams or human consciousness.

Think about that the next time you enjoy a hike on a shadowy mountain trail in a quaking aspen grove, and the hair on the back of your neck stands up for some unknown reason. You may wish to honor that sense. It’s there for a purpose.

Keep it in the back of your mind the next time you go out at night to check on your chickens or other animals in your backyard or back forty. Catch a breath, and take a second to wonder about what just made a nearly silent footfall, behind or above.

The possibility of a lion nearby reminds us of the wilds at the edges, and grounds us in the realities of the natural world. It’s an unsettling thought for some, and one that many of us have to live with when we spend time in the places that we love. Still, I would rather live where I live knowing that a mountain lion lives here too, rather than in a place known to have no mountain lions, and wishing that it did.

It’s a reality I am happy to accept, in the hope of but a quick glimpse, in the corner of an eye.

Michael Patrick McCarty

Game Camera Photograph of Mountain Lion at Night. Backyard Wildlife
Things That Go Bump In The Night

 

Update: October 17, 2012

Game trail cameras are an invaluable tool for those wishing to document the comings and goings of our wild neighbors, particularly in those magic hours between dusk and dawn. Strategically placed, they can capture a delightful display of animal movements not otherwise observed. It’s great entertainment, with the promise of true surprise within easy reach. My anticipation of the next photo or the next video can barely be contained. You never really know what you’re gonna get…

We use several cameras scattered about the property, which we move on a regular basis. Our main interest lies in the activities of the creatures with two legs. We watch for trespass, intrusion, and foul play. That, of course, is a story for another time. Animal sightings are the bonus feature to the main event.

Today’s review of the image collection was no exception. They held the usual cast of characters. Marmots, foxes, and inquisitive raccoons. Wandering pets, and the occasional biker. One frame held the faint outline of a bear in the shadows, and another the up close face of a young mule deer.

And as you may have guessed by now, one camera captured a video segment of a mature lion on the prowl. At first there was nothing but the wide emptiness of the night, then the world lit up as the beams of infrared caught the ghostly figure like the flashes from an electronic campfire.

He was big and long and solidly built, with well-defined muscles that rippled on his bones as he padded easily back to who knows where. No doubt he had used this route before.

A house loomed large here too, just out of camera range. I know, because I set the camera there myself.

My reaction was sharp, and visceral. It’s one thing to hear someone else talk excitedly about their sighting and personal experience. You want to believe, yet, there’s always a little room for doubt in undocumented reports. It’s quite another matter when you actually see a lion for yourself, or have indisputable evidence in hand.

Real is real, and but a moment away from memory. It is undefinable proof of the untamed mystery of our realm, accessible to all just inches from the comforts of our daily routines.

I shall do my best to stay out of the big cat’s path and unseen wanderings, yearning, for his eventual return.

Hunt well, my friend.

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*Update August 27, 2013

There is not a week goes by that someone does not ask if we have had any puma reports, and I must say, I’m a bit anxious myself. The leaves in the high county are beginning to turn color already, far too early it would seem, and it won’t be long before the early snows are as high as an elk’s belly and the mule deer are headed for the lower valleys along the river. The big cats are sure to follow, and it is then that there is a fair chance to record them on a well placed trail camera. We hope that the hunting is good this season, for us, and for mountain lions everywhere.

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By Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom, and Guns Too!

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Comments? Tell us about your Mountain Lion experience.

There’s A Baar In Them Thar Woods…

O.K. – You Have My Attention!

My good friend has a cabin in the woods, and if I’m real lucky, I get to spend a few days there each year.

The building is solid and stout, constructed with magnificent unpeeled logs and positioned perfectly beside an idyllic stream of impossibly clear waters. Above all, it’s quiet and protected and far from the screeching of traffic and cell phones and all of the normal worries.

One night by the campfire in this place can do wonders for the maintainance of one’s sanity and eternal soul. It’s a comfort just to be there, and a place not so easy to leave, or forget.

Birds and small creatures flit and scurry through the aspen leaves and fallen evergreen needles. Elk and mule deer come to parlay on a regular basis, and my friend and his young boy once had a much too close encounter with a mountain lion with questionable intent. The bears like the neighborhood just fine too, and they always seem to pay it a visit once they wake from their winter’s hibernation and begin their first travels.

You might say that these visits have become an annual ritual for man and bear alike, and it’s nice to know that the lumbering beasts are happy to take the time to drop on by and say hello. They seem to love to leave a calling card as well, in ever more creative ways.

Well, as you can see from the picture, you could call this a calling card all right! And no, it’s not left behind by a rider and horse or a remnant grizzly either and we did not make use of special photographic effects. It’s simply a full and natural deposit from just one big old glorious Colorado Black Bear, and I found it a few short yards from the main entrance door.

I’ve come across a lot of bear sign in my wanderings in the west and I can safely surmise that this must have come from one not so ordinary bruin. I’ve seen quite a few black bears too, and some big bears among them. But I don’t think I’ve ever run across anything close to the Colorado record of 700 plus pounds. That is until now.

Of course I will never know how big this bear could be, and any attempt to speculate would be just that. But it does give a thrill to wonder.

Regardless of its size and weight, the mere sight of what this animal left behind is more than enough to make a careful individual pause in mid heartbeat, and pause again. I can easily imagine that big ol’ boy watching from the shadows of the overhanging boughs of spruce and fir and enjoying a great big belly laugh at our expense.

I chuckle to myself when I think about that, albeit a little nervously. If he wanted to gain my full attention it was an entirely effective act.

It also makes one take a good look around with the flashlight before venturing out at night to take care of your own reluctant business.

All I can say to Mr. Bear from my current seat in the more mundane world is “Welcome Back Sir” and “Thanks for the Memories”. Your presence in the outer corners of my consciousness is a reality I won’t soon forget. I feel extremely small, yet part of something so big too, at the same time. And that is the gift of the bears.

I think of you compadre, and hope to see you soon…but then again, perhaps not.

Some acquaintances are better left undisturbed, and in my way of thinking, you are just fine wherever you are.

 

Black Bear Picnic Raid. Painting by Walter Weber.

 

Food Freedom, and Guns Too.

Michael Patrick McCarty

P.S. The size 11 tennis shoe belongs to me – better for running, you know!

 

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