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Wildlife of the Desert Southwest -
Cougars or Mountain Lions

Next on my personal list of potentially dangerous animals is the mountian lion, a.k.a. cougar. I have yet to actually see or even hear one, but this does not mean they haven't seen or heard me. In fact, on one trip in particular, Spike Naughton and I were in the little-visited upper part of Hatch Wash near Needles, on BLM land. This part of the canyon had abundant, running water as well as very large ponds and some of the largest beaver I had seen in years. We came across a set of tracks that appeared quite fresh and were heading in our direction, so we followed. After a while we realised that there were two sets of tracks, then three. We were following a mother with a cub and a yearling. At that point we both began wondering if our tracking exercise was the best idea, but we kept it to oursleves. Finally we stopped and found ourselves standing back to back looking up at the ledges above us. We quickly agreed that our tracking exercise should end and that we should leave the cats to themselves. We did not know for sure if the cats were anywhere near us, but we both felt that it wasn't worth the potential danger involved to continue on. This is the closest I have ever felt to the big cats.

Over the years I have come across many sets of tracks, some fresh, most days old. It is always a treat to see them, but personally, seeing the tracks and knowing they were made days before is enough for me.

Living in Colorado, we deal with cougars coming down from the mountains every year to feed on people's cats and dogs. In recent years we have had a number of children attacked and killed on the Front Range, and adults threatened by cats as well. Obviously this has to do with our encroachment onto their territory- we continue building and developing and forcing them into smaller and smaller ranges. Violent cat encounters in back yards are now just a fact of life. Always included in the news reports of attacks are tips on dissuading cats from eating you and even how to fight back.

The experts claim that the best way to dissuade cats from attacking is to make yourself appear as large as possible, to make noise and appear threatening. If a cat continues to approach be prepared to fight back. A recent encounter with a cat near Golden, Colorado found a mountain biker being stalked. Unlike a more recent cat attack of a biker in California where the biker was pounced on and eaten, he stopped, got off his bike and assumed an agressive posture- standing tall with arms out and yelling. The cat continued to advance so he hurled his water bottles at the cat- this did not deter the cat. Next he picked up his bike, making himself an even larger threat, preparing to throw it on the cat and fight back. This finally made the cat decide to retreat.

The lesson in the above story, the same for all survivors, is to never give up, fight back, and use whatever you have at your disposal to protect yourself. The biker above used the tactics that the experts recommend and they worked for him.

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Page 1: Rattlesnakes
Page 2: Cougars
Page 3: Coyote
Page 4: Lizards
Tamarisk Beetles

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