I try not to bore my readers with the minutiae of our day-to-day life here at the Rawles Ranch. It is largely a fairly mundane annual rhythm of planting, harvesting, calving and lambing, wood cutting, huckleberry picking, hay hauling, and so forth. But I recently had driving mishap that was noteworthy: I was driving our SUV and hit a mountain lion, in broad daylight. I must first mention that deer collisions are all too common here in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), and that elk or big horn sheep collisions are quite a bit less frequent. Even more rare are moose collisions, and those never end well. (Moose are so tall that they often go over the hood of a pickup truck and through the windshield.) But to hit a mountain lion is about as common an occurrence as getting struck by lightning or winning the mega lotto. I did a web search and found that the popular press tends to spill a lot of ink over these rare occurrences.
Here is what happened: I was driving down the highway minding my own business with the cruise control set at the speed limit and listening to an MP3 of Taj Mahal singing “Queen Bee” (part of my collection of favorite air checks from KFAT.) Suddenly I saw a full-grown cougar bounding out of the tree line, at speed. It ran into the highway in front of me. I didn’t have any time to react. I heard it hit our deer bumper and then felt it go under the two driver’s side tires. So now the large predator population of TUWS has been reduced by one. In doing so, I probably saved the lives of hundreds of deer. It was a little sad to see a pretty kitty get squashed, but so be it.
By the way, I should mention that extra heavy duty “deer guard” bumpers are de rigeur, in this region. These are available commercially and are also often custom fabricated, locally. To give you a sense of their size, these make typical Ford or Chevy pickup factory “brush guards” look flimsy, by comparison. Typically, real deer guard bumpers weigh 300 to 900 pounds. In TUWS, we even see these mounted on a few passenger sedans. That is indicative of how many deer collisions take place here.
I’m sure that some readers were disgusted by the foregoing while others will be ready to send hearty congratulations. (As with other large predators, I’ve noticed that perspectives on the Puma Concolor tend to vary widely, depending on whether or not someone has personally lost pets or livestock to these land sharks.) I’d characterize my own reaction as muted. I felt fortunate that my vehicle wasn’t damaged (and with our bumper, it would probably take an elk to do any damage.) I also felt good knowing that I’d eliminated a predator that is presently a bit over-populated. But in a way I felt cheated. I’d much rather take a mountain lion in season after a long still hunt, from 300 yards, at 9X magnification. Or, better yet at spitting distance from beneath a snarling treed cat that has taken me and the dogs all day to chase down and tree. Somehow, just a heart-stopping glimpse and “whump-whump-whump” was just too easy.
I doubt that you’ll be reading about any other animal collisions from me in the future, unless I have another rare one. (I don’t even bother mentioning deer collisions, which we have every year or two.) By the way I did once almost hit a bald eagle, but thankfully a tragedy was avoided by the margin of just an arm-span.
So now I’m praying that some evening soon I encounter a horribly confused pack of wolves that stands transfixed in my headlights. But somehow I don’t think that is very likely. Bummer.