According to a local
biologist thereís a mountain lion in the
area where I live. Iíve seen the remains
of deer that I suspected were the
leftovers of a mountain lion meal, but
Iíve never actually seen one.
I was hiking in the hills behind
my house recently looking for deer
antlers when I had the uneasy feeling
I was being watched. Looking around
for anything--or anyone--I decided to
just sit down on a rock and watch for
any movement. Suddenly, a very large
"cat" walked right out from behind
some boulders not more than 10 feet
away. "Holy spit!" I yelled, jumping up.
I knew not to run like a prey animal,
so I stood on the rock waving my arms
trying to look as large as possible. In
my loudest, deepest voice I tried to
make a roaring sound. The lion wasnít
scared, but Iím pretty sure I spooked a
It stared at me for a few
moments, eyes fixed and tail twitching.
Then, it suddenly put a large paw on
its belly and started to laugh. "Hey,
donít scare me like that!" I said,
embarrassed. "Where did you come
from anyway?" The lion slowly regained
its composure. "Iíve been watching you
for a while---right here in plain sight,"
it said. "Donít feel bad. Stealth and
camouflage are what allows us lions to
sneak up on our prey. But, donít worry,
just ate." "Okay," I said nervously.
"What should I call you? Mountain lion,
puma, cougar, panther or catamount?
"Nameís Patty," she said, holding out
a paw. I stared at her. "Thatís short
for Patricia." "I know," I said, curtly.
"Mineís Joanie." I reluctantly shook her
enormous paw which was roughly the
size of my frying pan. Okay, maybe
closer to four inches, but it seemed
oversized at the time. There were four
toes with retractable claws. Thankfully,
"How did you end up with so
many names?" I asked. "Well," she said.
"The American lionís scientific name
is Puma concolor, and is sometimes
as "the cat of
many names." The
scientific name was changed
from "Felis concolor" in recent decades.
Mountain lions once ranged more
extensively than any other mammal in
the Western Hemisphere. Historically,
they could be found anywhere from
Canada to Argentina and from the
Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean.
As a result, each native tribe and
group of European explorers gave us
a different name. Today, we mountain
lions are listed in dictionaries under
more names than any other animal
in the world. Writer Claude T. Barnes
listed 18 native South American, 25
native North American, and 40 English
names for the same animal."
"Hey, thatís impressive," I
said. "What brings you to my neck of
the woods?" "Your neck the woods?"
she said. "You live in my territory."
"Oh," I said. "I thought you lived up in
the open space." "I do," she said. "My
territory is roughly 50 to 100 square
miles, for crying out loud." "Wow," I
said, puzzled. "Do you really need that
much space?" "Well, letís see," she
said scratching her chin and looking
skyward. "I need to eat, therefore
I need to find food, which means I
need to track deer who browse over
many miles, or Iíd starve. Soooo---
yeah. I need the space." "What about
eating grass or other vegetation to
supplement your diet?" I said, hoping
she was still full. She suddenly started
to laugh, rolling on the ground kicking
her furry, tawny-colored legs up in the
air. "Whatís so funny?" I asked. "Weíre
carnivores like all felines," she said.
"We only eat meat---deer, coyote, feral
hogs, raccoons, rodents. We hunt alone
and attack from behind, breaking the
neck of our prey by biting it at the base
of the skull. After killing our prey, we
bury it and come back to feed when
weíre hungry." "Oh," I said, swallowing
hard. "Weíre also good climbers, too,"
she went on. "We can leap more than
15 feet up into a tree from a standstill,
bound up to 40 feet running, reach
speeds up to 50 mph, climb over a 12
foot fence and travel for miles at 10
mph." She continued to roll around in
the dirt similar to a house cat. "How
cute!" I said. "Just like a kitty." "I had a
kitty once," she said. "It was good."
She got up to stretch her legs
and then proceeded to use a tree
trunk for a scratching post. "Wait--
what are you doing?" I asked uneasily.
"Youíre not getting ready to hunt again,
are you?" "Nope, still full," she said,
rubbing her belly. "Just sharpening
my claws and marking my territory."
"You mean there are others?" I asked,
warily, looking around. "I thought you
mountain lions lived a solitary life?"
"We do," she said. "Obviously, we
have to meet up occasionally or there
wouldnít be any kittens. I usually have
two to four kittens, which I raise alone.
The kittens nurse for two months, and
then start to travel with me at which
time I teach them to hunt. Theyíll
remain with me for 1 Ĺ to 2 years."
She got up suddenly and stepped on
my toes. "Ow!" I said rubbing my foot.
"Oh, yeah," she said casually. "We
females weigh 80 to 130 pounds."
"What else can you tell me?" I
asked feeling pretty comfortable now.
"Well," she said. "We live about 10
years in the wild, if weíre lucky. We eat
a deer every 10 days or so."
"Well, itís time to nap and
digest. I think Iíve given you quite a
bit to think about," she said, feeling
pleased with herself. I was hoping
to get more information out of her
when another mountain lion suddenly
appeared. "Oh, thatís Thor," she said
walking away. "Great!" I said, excitedly.
"Maybe Iíll ask him some questions."
"Go ahead," she said over her shoulder.
"He hasnít eaten in a week."
Bless the mountain lions~ Joanie, Annie and Molly