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A Conversation with a Mountain Lion

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 lizard.

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, retracted.

"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 referred to 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

Talking with the Moon

On a recent warm night, I went out on the back porch to look for an owl hooting close by. I couldnít really find it, but I did enjoy sitting there listening to another owl answering in the distance. "Whatís so interesting?" a male voice said. I jumped a foot in the air and looked around. Not seeing anyone I quickly headed for the back door. "Whoa, whoa, come back here! Just curious is all," said the voice.

I looked everywhere and still couldnít find where the sound was coming from. "Up here," the voice said

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East Bay Times Article

Attracting birds and bees to our yards and gardens is simple, if we provide what they like and need.

Joanie Smith, owner of East Bay Nature in Walnut Creek and Dublin, says there are five essential elements for success ó water, food, cover, nesting and safety.

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