An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of October 10, 2004

issued from California's Sierra Nevada Foothills

MOUNTAIN LION AT DAWN

Early Monday morning one of my friends appeared at the trailer door with the news that a Mountain Lion, PUMA CONCOLOR, had just sauntered before their bedroom window. My friends were as excited as I, for they've been watching wildlife for 40 or so years and had never seen one before, though several of the neighbors have.

Naturally I had to go looking, but when the little trail the big cat had been following entered a thicket, the hair on the back of my neck stiffened and I figured it might be smart to stay out of there.

My friends do occasionally hear one or more of the big cats, though what they hear is not the classic roar or snarl, but rather the short, high-pitched squeals you can hear at www.wildaboutcats.org/apacry.wav.

When my friend described what she saw, she said it was about the color of the drought-killed grass around the house, but a bit darker, and the long, thick tail had a black tip. When she told how tall it was, she put her hand about mid-thigh. That's a scary size. It's known that the males get eight feet long and longer, and generally weigh 130-150 pounds.

Then on Thursday morning as I jogged at dawn I rounded a corner and there was a Mountain Lion scrambling away from me, about 50 feet away. But this one was only about knee high and I could plainly see hints of spotting in its coat, at least that part near the belly. Since my friends are sure that their cat had no spotting and was larger than this, I'm guessing that they saw a mother and I saw one of her kids. Baby Mountain Lions bear black spots and the spots gradually disappear during the next 15 months. The young stay with their mothers until the next litter is produced two years later.

A government website says that more than 2,000 Mountain Lions lived in California during the 1970's, but today's population is estimated to be between 4,000 and 6,000.

There's a lot more information and pictures at a web site called "Living with California Mountain Lions" at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lion/ and the Mountain Lion Foundation's webpage is at www.mountainlion.org/.