In North America, if, like my daughter Rae, you're going to be about black bears, you need to negotiate the cougars, too.
Near the end of Rae’s summer ‘11 field study in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, she texts me:
How is the beach?!? I hope you all are having a fabulous time…this morning I saw my first mountain lion!! Xo
I’m in Delaware with my mother and dear friends Judy and JP, driving inland ahead of a nascent waterspout. The sky in the rear-view mirror is that slate grey, big storm color. Jim and my mother want to stop for fried chicken. I want to dodge a tornado and find out about the cougar without alarming my mother. She’s at the beach she loves the beach Do Not Disturb.
We just left the beach; 1st clear, beautiful day. My mother cried, she was so happy. Excellent news about the mt lion! Where did you spot it?
I was going for a jog this morning and found a lion stalking prey, as luck would have it. It was amazing!
[As luck would have it!]
Please define “found”!! Was the cat doing its hunting near a trail & your sharp eyes and ears picked up the movement? So exciting! Did you stop or slow down?
I was doing crunches and in the distance I saw this tan animal that was incredibly still. I got closer (not too close) and got so excited when I realized!!!
Henri Rousseau painting: behind a screen of foliage, the mountain lion eyes my daughter doing crunches on the trail in her Be Bear Aware baseball cap. No wry words of encouragement – my stock-in-trade – flow to my fingertips. I am in mommy text shock.
Later, out of earshot of my mother, I share the news with Judy and JP. They make jokes, but only because they have to.
Several days later, Rae calls and breaks it down:
- · I got up really early to go for a jog in a state park. There are foothills where the park meets private property.
- · I was doing lunges, crunches, and stretches, listening to music on my headphones.
- · I saw this animal.
- · It was pretty far away.
- · It was so still, frozen.
[Animal behavior asterisk. Animals – like dogs – are always looking around, sniffing.]
- · I thought, What is that?
- · It was totally tan with a white chest.
- · The color pattern made me realize immediately, That’s a mountain lion.
- · There was a creek separating us.
- · I was trying to figure out if it was coming toward the park and me, and it wasn’t.
- · It wasn’t a big lion, probably a juvenile.
- · Then it just crouched real low and did that lion predation move.
[Mommy asterisk: I can picture that move. Bet you can, too!]
- · I didn’t stay for very long, because you never know.
[Mommy asterisk 2: Almost breathing!]
- · I stayed long enough to watch it and to find out where it was going; about four minutes.
- · I don’t know if it saw me and didn’t care, or if it didn’t see me.
- · Mountain lions aren’t known to attack people. They’re more likely to go after your dog or horse.
[General asterisk: Next time take a decoy inflatable dog or horse?]
Now that I see the picture from the Harrah's article, young cougars do look kind of adorable. But they're still wild. A bit of a red flag for me.
Kelley, a field assistant from U Nevada, Reno, invites Rae to help her search for mountain lion kill sites just before Rae bids farewell to the little town of Minden to go back to a may-I-say-grueling year of school.
Here’s why these young women and their colleagues hike way into the wild to do vertical climbs to even more remote areas:
- · When a collared mountain lion’s GPS signal lingers in one geographical space for a long time, the scientists assume the lion is killing and/or eating its prey (usually deer).
- · About 2 – 3 weeks after the kill, the researchers go looking for carcass: a hoof, lots of tufts of fur, basic evidence of a dead animal.
- · They already “know” the cougar because they’ve been following its movements from the signal emitting from its collar.
- · Info from the kill site helps them determine patterns: Where are the mountain lions taking down animals? Which animals? Why are they going after people’s horses, or baby deer?
Rae: I feel like I barely survived it.
Me to myself: Feeling that way right now!
Rae: We get to one kill site and do everything we get to do there, then talk about boys. Can’t talk while hiking, it’s too steep.
Call your mother when you’re back from the kill site, but before you text the photos. Texting, like email, has its limits.
What this is about:
I write Call Your Mother to negotiate the world-unto-itself that is the mother-offspring relationship. There’s something to be said for seeing one’s mother or child as a regular human being (with magic that can make you feel deliriously great and inconsolably distraught). So I say that here.
My two children, Rae (female; professional DNA: wildlife ecology; latent: opera, natural hair care) and Asa (male; professional DNA: patent litigation; latent: sports writing, music) are currently grad students on opposite coasts of the USA. I’m divorced from their dad, (Brad) Curtis Grant, but not because we didn’t have the time of our lives raising these two together. My mother and grandmother (professional DNA: senior Jersey girls; latent: Imelda Marcos & Marcus Samuelsson) rep Union and Middlesex Counties, respectively.
I launched Call Your Mother in autumn 2010. Hi! Thanks for stopping through. As they say at Izzy's in Cincinnati, "Hurry back!"