Mountain lions were not a subject I planned on writing about. Right now, in California, it’s a rather polarizing topic. However, recent events have made it necessary for me to share something with my Readers. A couple days ago a mountain lion attacked the mountain community where we summer our cattle. In an especially vicious attack 9 of our neighbors goats were heartlessly slaughtered, not eaten, but slaughtered. Not only is this terrifying to me as someone whose very way of life depends on the safety of my animals, but as a child, I grew up running wild in this community. This attack could have very easily been on me, 20 years ago, or now, on one of my friend’s children.
Cattlepeople take our environment very seriously. We understand how delicate our eco-system is, because when something is out of balance our animals and land suffer. I also like to say a Rancher is not an environmental activist s/he is an active environmentalist. Sometimes when our eco-system can’t right itself, it becomes the Rancher’s duty to interfere. This is one of those times. – Megan
Howling winds couldn’t distract my gaze. The stillness of their bodies was surreal. Scrape marks in the soil. Hay moving in the wind, that last night was carefully placed in the mangers for these goats. Expecting him to breath, I am transfixed on the body of the large Billy goat. I wait, thinking I see movement but it is only the wind blowing his hair. Glimpses of white and brown dot the area. Looking closer I see their little feet, their soft ears and precious mouths. Just a few hours ago they were romping by their mothers as they made their way to the barn for the night. Leaping, kicking out to the side, landing only to take off again as if they had springs on their feet
“It jumped out over here.” I am startled back to the reality of what needs to be done. The lion must be tracked down and “taken” and it must be done before the rains come. There are new foals in the barn and they may be next on the lions quest. The hounds whine, but there are no bays of chase. It has been too long we will have to wait until the lion comes back.
The few live goats that are left are locked in the barn where the mare and foals are housed. The bodies of the nine (9) dead are piled in one place, so the lion will come to a distinct area. A trick wire is placed on the top goats’ carcass so when it is moved an alarm that the Tracker has, will go off. The waiting begins. At 10:00 p.. the alarm is sounded. Our hound man gets his dogs and as he approaches the barn he sees the lion emerge from the barn and leap over the 6’ 6” fence without touching, loping across the arena and heading toward the mountain. The hounds give chase and soon the lion is treed. It is huge. The biggest lion our tracker has ever seen in his many years. The lion is shot and falls, the wind is howling and the rain is here, coming down is sheets.
Document the damage. Document the results. Document the loss. All are documented, all is legal. The depredation was a success; yet there is no celebration at the Walking G Ranch. The dead are counted and the living are being cared for by the young man, Paul, of 13 years of age who they belong to. The nannies that are alive have lost their young, the young that survived have lost their mothers. Each kid must be fed three times a day and the nannies milked, for they won’t accept another’s young at this point. Chores are a welcome distraction. The filling of water buckets, cleaning the stalls. Chickens to be let out. Horses fed.
It is raining in an area of dust. Welcomed rain, rejuvenating rain. Spring will happen this year. Paul is consoled, he is encouraged and receives many calls of condolence for his loss. He is a tough young man. Practical minded, he plans on getting a loan from his mother and father and buying 100 young goats to eat the star thistle and buy another guard dog, since one was definitely not enough.
“This is my business.” Paul states “and no lion is going to ruin me. “ A smile of hope is on his young face. Yet as we are loading the body of his prized Billy goat, the goat that was raised on a bottle, that he played tag with, I watch his hand caress the goats’ face and give him a little pat with a trembling hand, as the tail gate is closed. I turn away not so much for his sake, but mine..tears were blurring my vision and I felt so angry, so helpless in the midst of this created madness.
Heather Kingdon is a commercial cattleperson, photographer, horsewoman, teacher, artist, mentor, Mother and Grandmother in Plumas County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you want to know more, please watch http://youtu.be/rYY3lTa9G84