Monday, November 24, 2008
Okay those that know me, know that I like happy and fun things, so sadly I have nothing happy and fun to say about the Mountain Lion or the Bobcat. My first experience with meeting a Mountain Lion was when I was in school in the second grade, when a person by the name of Floyd Holmes was the government trapper. One day Floyd, the father of my best friend at the time, Charlie Holmes, brought a Mountain Lion to school for the kids to see. The Mountain Lion was quite dead and tied across the hood of an old military surplus Jeep. I couldn’t help but think that it was a beautiful cat, and I was greatly saddened by the experience.
The Cat was killed because it was caught killing sheep. Killing sheep was a capitol offence back in the fifties. Not only was the Mountain Lion not protected, indeed there was a bounty on them. The thinking at the time was that the only good Mountain Lion was a dead Mountain Lion. They were hunted or poisoned with strychnine until they were almost extinct. They used baited “getters” that shot cyanide in the mouths of Coyotes, and they used “compound 1080” to kill meat eating animals instantly. The ranchers didn’t allow meat eaters to be around. If the neighbor was dumb enough to let his dogs run, they were also a casualty. The ranchers thought that was fair, and so did the owner of the offending dogs. Dogs were smart back then and they minded well. They didn’t run off and get in trouble. The ones that did, didn’t come back. I don’t think that people around here today appreciate how smart the dogs were back then. The dogs that people have today don’t mind, and all they know how to do is bite things and crap.
Being raised on a ranch, it was well understood that our livestock was our food and anything that bothered our food died. When it came time to slaughter the animals, the children were not protected from it, and were expected to help with the butchering.
I guess what I’m saying is that I understand why the Mountain lions were killed. The rancher thought of it as “survival”. You’ve heard me use that phrase before.
One of my more humorous experiences with a mountain lion was back when I was in high school, my best friend at the time and I went on a “double date” to the movies, and on the way home we went up to the top of the hill on Old Briceland Road. There was a beautiful grassy point that looked over the whole South Fork Canyon in the Garberville area. The moon was full and we tuned in The Wolfman Jack show on radio station XERB. He was real cool with his wolf howl. And, he played that good old rock and roll music.
It was a hot night and there was a full moon, things were real nice, and both of the girls were leaning on our shoulders. Just when things couldn’t get much sweeter, we heard a blood curdling female scream, It was long and chilling and at the end of it was a cough and a low gurgle, like something had ripped the girls throat out. The girls instantly locked the doors and asked us to roll up the windows real quick.
Well, I thought that it was real humorous that the girls thought that someone was being murdered, and I told them that, no, that was the mating call of a Mountain Lion, and I had heard it before. Contrary to my plan of easing their fears, that only compounded their fears and they had to go home right then. Period. No argument!
My experience with a Bobcat has been similar. Other than seeing them running across a field somewhere. Most of the times that I have seen a bobcat is at the scene of a kill, a chicken, a goose, or a duck. When you find the sign of a cat kill, they are easy to find. Usually you will see their tracks at the scene of the kill. You get your gun and go looking. If you look around near the edges of a log or a rock you will see that they have covered their kill with sticks, rocks, dirt, and grass that they have scratched up. If you go to the spot, you will find that the cat has buried their kill. Then all you have to do is look around yourself in the trees, and you will see a bobcat face peering at you. They will never leave their kill while there is meat on the bones. As soon as they finish that they will kill again. That’s when you take your gun, put the crosshairs between its eyes and drop the hammer.
If you knew me, you would know that I don’t enjoy doing that. But if you knew me, you would know that I have thought these things out, and know that I have to do what has to be done, and accept that I did the right thing, and go on.
So you might guess why I didn’t want to do this post. Cats are not a happy experience for me.
All cats of the north coast are similar in nature, they stay with their kills, and protect it until it is eaten up. Then they hunt and kill again. The Mountain Lion has a range of about a fifty mile radius, and they normally travel a complete circuit once a year. If you see one, chances are you will see the same cat in the same place next year. Cat hunters, that pay attention to those sorts of things usually have no trouble finding a cat to hunt. Due to their speed and agility cats are usually hunted with dogs. The cats will readily “Tree” which means that they will climb a tree. Then the hunter will show up, put his crosshairs on the cats forehead and drop the hammer.
Cats are solitary animals and they call to each other in mating season. The air in the mating season in the country is filled with big scary screams and gurgling, Just like that back alley in the city that’s filled with alley cats. Only the Country cats are much scarier.
We have bobcats in our front yard in Benbow, they live on ground squirrels, cottontail rabbit, jack rabbit, quail, and turkey. Mountain lion live mostly on slow deer, and occasionally a sheep or a calf. Sometimes they will kill a human that is dumb enough to run from them. Running will trigger their “kill instinct”. A cat usually won’t kill something facing them, and looking big, and making noises that convinces them that you will kick the crap out of them. If you look around and see their buried kill, move as best you can, very slowly in the opposite direction. It won’t make any difference how big and scary you look if you are moving toward their kill. They will kill you if you get too close. People are usually attacked when they inadvertently get too close to the cats “kill”. Even a Bobcat will attack you if you get too close to its kill.
So, there you have it folks, the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy, and the sad. Such is the life of a country boy, it’s not always pleasant.
Posted by Ernie Branscomb at 6:35 PM