A few days ago a mountain lion attacked a 70-year-old man in a state park here in Northern California, near where I live. I've been reading the reports because this is something I've spent a lot of time worrying about. I live in the center of the Klamath National Forest where there are mountain lions all around our town, Happy Camp. I've seen one on my front porch, and had a neighbor tell me she saw two young ones on my porch one night, probably looking for our cat food.
Plus, I too am a hiker. I've hiked all around this town, on my own and with my boyfriend. I feel safe when I'm with him, but he takes precautions. He always has a knife, and gave me one too. And he always takes along a hiking stick which would be very helpful in case of an animal attack. The woman whose husband was attacked fought him off with a large stick. They weren't carrying knives, apparently, because her husband got her to attack the mountain lion with a pen that had been in his pocket, which broke.
Here's what happened the night I saw the mountain lion on my porch:
I was sitting at my computer late at night, writing, when I heard a loud ker-thump of something big jumping onto the table on our porch, and then I heard the annoyed, screeching protest of one of our cats. I got up and went to the front door, and turned on the light just before I opened it. Because I turned on the light, the mountain lion was frightened and jumped off the table. I saw only the rear end of it going by in a blur as it leaped down the porch steps. My stupid dog, Mairi, a border collie mix, forced her way out the door and chased it down the driveway, barking. She was lucky not to be attacked. My gray cat, Socks, had his hair sticking straight up. He walked in the door to the safety and warmth of our living room with a terrified, horrified look on his face.
A neighbor had an even closer look at the mountain lion. He walked outside his trailer at about ten pm one night to smoke a cigarette when he noticed the mountain lion looking at him from a distance of only about six feet. Terrified, he went back inside his trailer and phoned his father-in-law who lived in the house next-door. Another neighbor told me he saw a mountain lion in his driveway. Yet another neighbor said he saw one walking calmly through the center of the property he lived on, and when he yelled at it and tried to frighten it off, it showed no reaction whatsoever.
A few months later, the mountain lion was back. In fact, we got used to hearing its odd cries from the woods near our house. It would make its rounds, visiting our area for a few days about once every couple of months. One of our cats disappeared and I still think it may have been killed by the moutain lion. Another neighbor's cat disappeared at around the same time. A third neighbor saw the mountain lion walking through the back of the property he managed with a cat hanging from its mouth. Even though the mountain lion was killing pets, the understaffed Fish and Game department couldn't send a warden to help us by tracking the creature. There were too many reports in more populated areas that they were working on, with actual livestock being killed, not just cats.
My crazy neighbors next-door won't believe there's been a mountain lion in the neighborhood. They're from the city and think they know everything. Even when we've heard the mountain lion calling from the back of their property and phoned to warn them, they disregarded it and laughed at the idea that there could be a predator here in the forest near our homes.
One night, driving home from Yreka on the Klamath River Highway, I passed a big mountain lion standing in the middle of the highway, looking at me over his shoulder. I should have stopped and taken a picture, but I was afraid he might attack my little car, so I drove slowly by.
I won't stop hiking, but I'm definitely taking a knife and walking stick with me whenever I go into the forest. This was their territory first; we humans must adapt to living with them if we want to be forest dwellers.