A Mountain Lion’s Death
Last night or early this morning a landowner shot a 13 month old mountain lion cub, a lion that had recently been pushed away from its mother and was out hunting for himself. Only four nights before I had watched scientist Quinton Martins’ team trap this lion, sedate him, and then collect biological samples of his blood, feces, and DNA. They weighed him, took his vital signs, measured his tail and body, studied his teeth and claws, and then collared and tattooed him. They would follow him over his lifetime to understand more about the habits of this creature for which I have come to have great respect.
I didn’t always feel this way. I really was tested on my balance with nature philosophy! Only hours before, my main objective was to get rid of Jupiter, the name that I was privileged to confer upon him. He had killed one of my dear goats, Dasher, and the images of the grisly death still lay before me. I wanted to protect the rest of my goats and llama, all traumatized, and I wanted to protect my grandchildren who also live on the property. I had spent the morning getting a trapper through the game warden and Fish and Game. By state law this ends in euthanizing the lion. I thought this was the only alternative until a friend insisted that I talk to Quinton and his organization, Living with Lions. Quinton arrived with his team, set up his trap. By 12:51 am Tuesday morning, Jupiter, or P15 as they called him, was trapped. The trap set off a camera, sending a photo to Quinton’s phone. Within the hour, the team arrived. My son and I watched as the lion was sedated and studied.
As Quinton worked, he reassured me that there are measures to take to secure my goats and family so we are safe. To kill this lion would do no good whatsoever, he insisted. Studies show the same lion seldom returns to the same spot to kill after the carcass is eaten. They seldom bother humans. Lions are a keystone species, necessary for keeping a healthy balance in the deer population. Their presence is a reflection of health in an ecosystem. Our main defense with our domestic animals is to keep them inside a secure area from dusk to dawn. The fact the lion killed Dasher was not the lion’s fault; it was mine for not securing her that evening.
We cannot continue to pursue a policy of killing these magnificent predators. There are a number of mountain lions out there with wide ranges. We need to learn to live with them, not kill them off. Should you encounter a problem with a mountain lion or should you want more information about how to live in our county which has a number of mountain lions, please contact Quinton’s team at 707-721-6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org of the Audubon Living with Lions.
I feel such sadness: first, for the death of Dasher. Now for this death of Jupiter. One of Quinton’s team, Alex, texted me a quote the day after we watched Jupiter’s collaring:
“Again and again, I am reminded that the wild, like the human spirit, cannot be managed or reproduced, it can only be recognized, protected, and honored.” (Rick Bass, “Wild Berries”)
Perhaps the best tribute I can make to Jupiter and Dasher is to understand the importance of learning to recognize our fellow creatures and their habits so we can protect ourselves and those we love, while honoring the natural flow of what can also be a brutal world.