Sunday, August 2, 2009

Western Mountain Lions (Utah)

During my recent trip to Utah, I was walking around grassy brush to stumble upon this scat. I immediately thought it to be a mountain lion's, (although it has a small chance to be coyote). It did not appear to be fresh, but I carefully swept the area for the presence of the mountain lion.

Western Mountain Lions are just as elusive as those which live in other parts. Although without dense trees, or jungle mountain lions in the west are still difficult to spot because of the secretive nature and because of their coloration blends into the rocks. People who live in the western states may never see a mountain lion, even if they live in prime Lion country. But, it is not unheard of the have an encounter.
Photo by: Jessica "wordridden" on Flickr

A family we met while in Utah shared a few stories of Mountain Lions. The husband while on a camping trip was hiking back to camp at dusk. When he passed a bunch of bushes, a growl was emitted and his dog was barking at it. Another time he was driving in the same region to see a Mountain Lion run across the road in front of his car. A third encounter was on the same mountain that my Aunt and Uncle live on. He was out at his car in the evening when something growled from the nearby hill. He couldn't be positive on the identification of the animals in the encounters which he did not see, but he was pretty sure it was a mountain lion.

At any rate it is rare to encounter a mountain lion in the west. There are many secluded areas where they prefer to claim as territory, but they are easily adapted to living right next to human development. Hikers who are alone and out at dusk and dawn are most likely to be vulnerable to attack. But it is not assured that you will be attacked, as there have been very few lion attacks within the past 100 years. Especially if you compare that to car crashes and even shark bites. Here (What we should be afraid of) is an article which highlights the factors to what leads to most human accidents deaths while camping.

As for encountering a mountain lion out west; be alert and look large to the animal, but above that, be grateful to have seen such a powerful symbol and icon of the Western United States.

Photo By: Josh More"Guppiecat" on Flickr