Puma - Ghost of the Night


.August 25, 1997


It was just another beautiful morning in the Wet Mountains last Sunday,
August 24th. My day started with a cup of coffee, watching the
hummingbirds swarming as usual at the feeder. They love the early cool
mountain mornings to feed and we often have over a dozen feeding at a time.
They have been drinking 48 ounces a day; busy little birds!

Our entire family was off to a lazy start, no need rushing into town and
work. The kids and I were trying to get ready to head into town and stop
by the motel to do a "little bit" of work for the day and then to see
Grandpa before he headed out for the Front Range for the week. Of course
rounding up these little doggies can be a lot of work - no easy task by any
means.

We were just about ready to load up and I sought out Dylan, now age
one. Of course I found him in a most likely spot, on top of the dining
room table eating cereal. (A good reason to push those chairs in). He had
a cut finger and putting a Band-Aid on an infant’s little squirming finger
proved quite a task which delayed our exit by yet another five minutes.
Soon we had the cut bandaged, the kids in the car, and I headed out the
drive, (Dylan working diligently to get that damn thing off his finger
while in his car seat.)

A mile down the Grade, past the cattle guard just at the second culvert we
rounded a curve in the road and what I saw caught me by surprise! I
stopped the vehicle quickly to take it all in. I wasn't the only one
surprised. On the left side of the road were three full grown mountain
lions! The first, second and third that I have ever seen in their natural
habitat.

They all looked up and began to move at the same time, their
tails swinging into the air as they moved quickly off. Two moved up the
slope to the south and the other crossed the road behind our vehicle and
headed up the north side of the road. I shouted to the kids to look
quickly to see them, Carrie and Cody each saw the two traveling off
together. I turned the vehicle around and watched the last cougar watching
me from above the road.

After a few more seconds it traveled off into the
trees and we drove back to the house and told dad. David and I went back
down and walked around near the ravine where I had seen the lions. We took
a look at the large paw prints in the bottom of the sandy ravine and then
went back to the house - still excited by what we had seen!

It rained Sunday night and again tonight, so no chance of casting a print
for posterity now. Dave Hoart of the Colorado DOW explained this morning
that we probably saw a mother cougar with two full grown offspring that
have not left her yet. He said that a tom cat will kill them when he comes
to mate with the mother if they do not leave her then. They reach their
sexual maturity at two to three years of age. Mountain lions have a high
mortality rate - killing each other mostly.

I always knew they were here - but how spectacular to see three! The sad part of this story is that
sightings in Custer County are up this year, as humans continue to encroach
on their remaining habitat. While its an exciting experience to see a
lion, I wonder what their futures hold in store.

By Cindy Howard

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