Living with Lions

Stillwater Diary, February 5, 2019

A runner was attacked by a mountain lion yesterday in Fort Collins, which isn’t far from here. The man fought back, eventually killing the animal with his bare hands before driving himself to a hospital for treatment of wounds to his face and neck. Not surprisingly, the story made national news, including USA Today.

Meanwhile, the victim has one heck of a story to tell, but I have no doubt he’ll struggle with nightmares and nervousness the rest of his life. Imagine hearing a sound behind you on the trail, and turning just in time to see a lion leaping to attack.

Both man and lion did what they had to do. Cats of all kinds instinctively chase and attack creatures that run away, and the man fought for his life. It was a young male lion, which isn’t surprising. Like humans, young males seem to be the troublemakers of the lion world. (Sorry, guys!)

From what I’ve learned from books and our friendly local game wardens, the youngsters have trouble taking care of themselves once their mother pushes them away and forces them to be independent. They have to find a territory of their own and learn to fend for themselves.

That’s not easy in today’s world, and people like me moving into lion territory don’t help. That’s why we try to stay on the trails we’ve made around our property, leaving most of the tangled, unkempt forest for the wild things.

And yes, this story is a good reminder for me to be very careful when I’m outside. I always get cautionary notes when I write about lions, so I’ll assure you all that I never run (mountain lions are a great excuse for going slow!) and I always have Jesse with me.

The game wardens say the lions rarely interact with humans, especially when dogs are present. They want deer, not people, and they have plenty of their favorite prey around here. I’m told they’re probably here and probably watching me, but won’t show themselves.

Four of the photos and videos in this post were taken on our property with game cameras. We’ve never seen a mountain lion ourselves, but the cameras let us know they’re around, and remind us to be careful. We’re fortunate to share the wilderness with these beautiful animals, and try to treat them with respect.

The top two photos are from Unsplash, an excellent royalty-free photo site. These two were taken by talented photographer Priscilla du Preez. See more of her work here.