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Mountian Lion in the wild

Discussion in 'Other Animals' started by Slingher, Jul 24, 2007.

  1. Slingher


    Jun 30, 2007
    Titusville FL
    I had always dreamed of seeing and photographing a wild cougar. When I lived in California, there was a small 750 acre city park tucked into the foothills of San Jose. The park is not even 10 miles from downtown San Jose, yet there is a myriad of wildlife there, including mountain lion. I used to go every chance I got, always taking my camera. I would walk the trails, find a secluded area and sit and wait for whatever would come by. I saw many things: deer, jays, deer, hawks, deer, bobcat, deer, weasel, deer, too many different birds to list and did I mention deer. I had been to that parks 100's of times, and EVERYTIME I would see deer. There wasn't one time that I hadn't. I didn't see mountain lions, but I did see signs. One time I found a half eaten deer carcass with its neck broken. Was looking around for mountain lion but didn't see one and I really got the the willies sitting there by the deer, so I quickly left.

    One day my friend called and asked if she could go with me to Alum Rock Park. I said sure but was thinking there is no way I will see a mountain lion today. We hiked up the hills and saw many things except we saw no deer which was very odd. I joked to my friend that there must be a mountain lion nearby.

    As we made our way down the hill on the switchback trail, I saw a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked and staring straight at us was a mountain lion that wasn't but 25 ft from us! I gasped and immediately grabbed my camera from around my neck and started taking pictures( Nikon 4004 w/ cheap 70-300mm lens).

    So many things were racing through my mind as I looked at the lion through my lens. First thought was "holy &^%" there is a mountain lion 25 ft away from me. Second thought was hurry take a picture before it runs away. Next thought was don't be afraid, they can sense fear. Third thought was "yeah right!, how do I not be afraid." Next thought was what a gorgeous animal. And finally I was thinking if I looked away for even a brief second I would have trouble finding it again, it was as if it was a ghost and I was looking straight through it. All these thoughts went through my head as I snapped two pictures.

    Then he moved toward us. He wasn't slinking or cautiously walking toward us, he was walking calmly and casually towards us. As a pet cat might walk up to its owner to rub on his or her leg. At this time my friend and I employed all the tactics that the cougar experts say to do when encountered by a mountain lion; yelling, waving arms, making ourselves look bigger. To no avail. They had absolutely NO EFFECT on the lion. He just kept coming. He got to within 12 ft, maybe closer, before I did what I told everyone I would do if confronted by a lion out there. I growled and snarled. (Now I have a very convincing snarl, something I learned to do when I was young. I have scared people, dobermans, and once even a burglar with my growl). As soon as started to growl the lion immediately stopped and I saw his focus shift from my friend to me. Now I wasn't too worried about the shift in focus, because the main thing was that he was no longer moving closer! I tried to be louder and more convincing with my growl and I made a mock lunge at it. The lion took one huge leap, 30 ft or more, and disappeared into some thick brush. And all went quiet.

    My friend and I were not out of the woods yet, though. The lion had landed in some brush that was between the two switchback trails, whichever way we went it would take us by the bush. We were terrified. We gathered some weapons, never letting our eyes wander from that bush. After what seemed like forever, we decided to make our way down the trail. Now this would put the lion in good position above us, but the way out was down. Civilization was down the hill. As soon as we started down, out of nowhere, came a man on horseback. We ran over to him and told him what happened. When it was obvious he thought we were just a bunch of hysterical women, I pointed into the bush where we thought the lion still was and it jumped out and bounded up the side of the mountain. It was finally over.

    I had taken two pictures, the first was done under duress, I thought the lion was gonna take off, so I wanted to at least get one shot. It did not come out. I was a camera dummy then, and just used my auto mode. It was under thick canopy, so the shutter speed was very slow. Luckily, for the second shot I took a little more time and thought about the canopy and instinctively flipped up my in-camera flash. Still not a great shot and I didn't frame him well in the photo, but it is a picture of a wild mountain lion.


    Oh also I would like to know the best way to get my negative put in digital format. I have done this before but lost the CD. I had it done again and the guy did a lousy job, as you can see from the second picture. Actually was never happy with either version.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2007
  2. Wow - a rare experience. Especially to be that close! S/he knew you were there long before you saw him/her. I hear of sightings around my village, but I've never seen one in the wild. I suspect they are mostly noctunal. Thanks for the great story to go with the photos. Yeah, they are not frame quality, but they are proof!!
  3. Wow, what an encounter. I can attest how hard it is to think clearly about photography when you encounter a bear, moose, etc in the wild!

  4. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    That is pretty neat:>))

    Do you know the way to San Jose:>)))))
  5. WOW! Talk about being frozen in tracks! I don't think I'd have the sense to do anything but freeze! What an experience and story! Sure, the 2 photos may not be "frame on the wall" quality, but they're definitely proof of your encounter!
  6. Baxter


    Jan 8, 2007
    Clemson, SC
    You're very lucky in more ways than one. Great job getting the photos and even more so in extracting yourself from a potentially dangerous situation.
  7. Slingher


    Jun 30, 2007
    Titusville FL
    Yes Hunter, I was very lucky. A "dream come true" and at the same time a scary nightmare. Not sure what the lions intentions were but I joked with my friend who was there, "that I didn't have to outrun the mountain lion, just had to outrun her." :) )

    Thank you and everyone for viewing and reading the story (I know it was long). And thank you for the kind comments.
  8. Slingher


    Jun 30, 2007
    Titusville FL
    David this encounter happened at 1:00 pm on a very nice January day. So while they are nocturnal, it is not written in stone. Also, I have now realized that although I had not seen a mountain lion the many times that I had gone to the park, mountain lions saw me. They can be right next to you and you would not know it. When we saw him, he was 25 ft from the bottom switchback where we were, but only 5 ft from the upper switchback. We had passed within 5 ft of him on that upper switchback and had not see him (and I am good at spotting wildlife). So don't think just because you haven't seen one, they aren't there.

  9. Baxter


    Jan 8, 2007
    Clemson, SC
    When I was hiking in Glacier National Park almost 15 years ago, a bear jumped from behind a tree onto the trail about 20 feet in front of me. It was facing me and huffing. I saw immediately that it was a black bear and lunged toward it with my arms up, shouting. It turned and ran (shockingly fast - don't try to outrun a bear). I knew what to do because I studied up before entering grizzly territory, just as you did before hiking in mountain lion country. Everyone who hikes in the domain of large predators should inform themselves, not just to protect their own lives but because the animal always ultimately loses in a hostile encounter with humans. Unfortunately a lot of people go to these places uninformed. You're to be commended for knowing what to do and doing it. As for the lion's intent, it was obviously curious and probably would have taken advantage of an opportunity if you had presented one. Because you knew what to do, you prevented what would have been a double tragedy - injury to one or both of you and almost certainly the destruction of the cat.
  10. I have yet to run into a Mountain Lion here in California. We live next to the Santa Monica Mountains & I ride our horse up in them all the time.

    Anyhow, I have had deer leap off the mountain sides - scaring both me & the horses. I've seen does with fawns. A little cute skunk - which turned his/her hind end towards us. We stopped & let it on it's way. My horse was most amused. I've seen & ridden over plenty of rattlesnakes as well.

    But the Bobcats - - yes I've encountered plenty of them as well - - are the amazing ones. I use to have one sit down and watch me practice Dressage with my horse in an arena.

    Bobcats are pretty as far as I'm concerned.

    This is an amazing experience for you to share with us.


  11. StephanieHelen


    Jun 9, 2006
    Wow Jessie, you did great, using your brain and camera too :) 
    I don't think I could react as well as you did.
    Congrats on getting the picture and leaving with your hides intact!
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