young mountain lion kitten

It started out as just an ordinary commute, one of many he had done over the years.  Yet as he pulled out onto Boulder Canyon Road, something startlingly different happened.  Out of the corner, Bryon sees something moving on the right hand side of the road.  There are two of them. As he spots the black tips of their tails, his brain thinks first of foxes.  That wasn’t so uncommon around here.

As his car pulled up along side of  them, he realizes it is something much larger, and much more extraordinary.  While his initial impression of a black tipped tail was in fact correct, that black tip was connected to a long, tubular type tail to a cat.  Two young mountain lions, so young in fact that they still have their tell-tale spots on their faces and their body.

Bryon pulls over and turns around, pulling out his iPhone, hoping to capture this moment.  But as quickly as he grabs his phone, the lions are gone, heading up the hill into the forest.  There is no adult, no mother to be seen anywhere.  Hopefully, their mother wasn’t killed by a speeding car!

Still, as he continued on with his drive, he felt exhilarated by his rare sighting.  Something about seeing a mountain lion in the wild filled him with awe and helped him to realize just how much wilderness surrounded his mountain home.  Arriving at work, he felt the urge to share this magical moment — and decided to call Leslie before she left for work.

“You’re never going to believe what I saw this morning at the bottom of the summer road!”

Leslie thought for a moment — “Did you see a bear?”

“No, when I pulled onto Boulder Canyon, I saw two mountain lion cubs along side the road!”

Leslie feels a moment of envy.  She has wanted to see a mountain lion in the wild since she started living in the Sierra twenty years ago.  Despite working as a Park Ranger for many years, she never has.  Damn, that’s the second time Bryon has seen one — I want to see one!

“That is really cool, that must have been amazing.”

Mountain lions or Cougars, love the montane and subalpine life zones as much as I do.  The forest provides cover for them while they sneak up on their preferred prey to stalk and ultimately kill deer and elk.  It’s not even unusual to find their cache of a dead deer around these parts, which they will feed on for days at end.

I’ve long admired mountain lions as to me they represent the symbol of wilderness in the Rocky Mountains.  They are the ultimate athlete of the forest — with abilities to jump 30 feet in a single bound, and up to 18 feet high.  They can sprint as fast as 45 miles per hour, and have the strength to take down a 600-pound elk with such force it will drive its antlers straight into the ground.

Reading of its abilities, you’d think a mountain lion to be a large animal.  But the truth is it is about the size of an average man, weighing around 160-170 pounds.  The kittens of the mountain lion are adorable, born with intense blue eyes and spots.  In fact, one could easily confuse a baby mountain lion with a bobcat — with the exception of the tail, they look very similar.

But, oh that tail, it is the dead give away to knowing you’ve spotted a mountain lion.  That long, tubular tail with its black tip — no other cat in the wild has that tail.

Their strength, their grace, their ability to hunt, and their quiet cunning ways leave me awestruck.  They are the king of the animal kingdom here in the Rocky Mountains.