Guest Post: Active Environmentalist

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

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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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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Heather Kingdon is a commercial cattleperson, photographer, horsewoman, teacher, artist, mentor, Mother and Grandmother in Plumas County. She can be reached at heatherandbrian.kingdon@gmail.com . If you want to know more, please watch http://youtu.be/rYY3lTa9G84

23 Comments

Filed under Ag, food, Guest Post, photos, Rants, Uncategorized

23 Responses to Guest Post: Active Environmentalist

  1. It’s always sad when wildlife and Ag are at odds with one another.

  2. Thank you again Megan….you are so competent and gifted. Thank you for telling the story of our days. As the lion is an issue now, the wolf will soon be coming and if not managed properly our livelihood, our love of it all will be greatly hampered. There is a solution..but we are small, those that make a living, which so many stop to photograph. Our cattle are “range free”…we invented the word and yet our very existence, our environment is threatened by those thinking they are saving it. Heather Kingdon

  3. William

    Wow. I’m sorry for your loss. I know the feeling. This is basically what put us out of the sheep business. It’s like they sometimes kill for the fun of it. That is a HUGE cat! Good riddance to it!

  4. janeokamurasanders

    these imbalances are caused by amateur decision makers. the decision makers are the legally (not morally), people who have hands with smooth skin. the blistered and arthritic hands of those who know how to care for precious lands with harmony are being catagorized and stereotyped. sounds familiar!
    oppression has a history, the new word for this
    environmental nightmare of degree based wisdom could be: RANCHISM.

  5. For anyone who is wondering what the Big picture to all of this is….
    Watch this short movie, done by an 18 year old about the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. It is quite well done and paid for by his 4H steer money with his sister as the camera person…Lions here now…wolves on their way…Why?
    cryingwolfmovie.com. Eye opening to say the least.

  6. I just cried for this young man. I’ve known the sting of losing livestock, although I’ve never had such a sudden and heart-breaking tragedy as this. Paul is a remarkable young man, so driven and determined. Good for him, moving past the pain to a bright future.

    Thank you for sharing.

  7. I was eight when we lost a mule to cougar attack. In Oregon we have a contained cat population. They are managed properly and livestock losses are dealt with by the state. The battle now is over the wolves, which have turned into a national debate.

    I highly advise teaching kids to watch for cats, and how to handle if they smell one, or sense that they are being stalked. I was raised in a rural area where the trees are highly and the grasses is high enough to losing just about everything in. And a stealthy cat knows how to get what they want.

  8. Joe Becker

    Am very sorry for your’s and the young man’s loss of the goat. Brother Nick sent this to me. Yes I am a hunter, conservationist and understand how the lion problem in California is killing many animals both domestic and wild. My wife and I are both H Ed Instructors and active not only teaching classes, but fighting those opposed to animal use and hunting. Yours is a very good article, and suggest that you send to many publications for distrubution. If paying publications will not publish, send to our many non-profit hunting groups. Our organized sportspeople just a week ago beat back the attempt of our state antis in removing one of our F&G Commissioners who this winter bought an Idaho lion tag, killed and ate lion for dinner as the antis attempted to force him to resign. Like the houndsman, lion lost and hunters won also in protecting Commissioner Richards job.
    Thank you for telling the story.
    Sincerely & God Bless;
    Joe Becker
    Paradise, bjoe@ccxncom

  9. Trent Saxton

    The year was 1994, My patient, (that I had just seen two weeks earlier) Barbara Barsalou Schoener, of Placerville was killed by a mountain lion as she ran alone on one of her favorite trail routes, an 18-mile journey that began at Auburn Lake Trails. She was the first person killed in California by a mountain lion in 85 years, I have killed four lions since, I am waiting for the wolf to make it to Plumas county or to be introduced…Heather, I know your family, one of them knows me as a patient too and they know I am as serious as a heart attack. I welcome hunting predators that have outgrown their habitat or do not belong in this area…Canis Lupus, falls into the (SSS)
    grouping along with the cats. Sorry to hear of your loss but I will avenge your loss someday soon. Dr. T. S.

    their normal habitat or just don’t belong in this area…canis lupus is one such animal.

  10. Debbie Grate

    I am so sorry for your loss.. I live on the same creek you do and i too have lost this winter.. 5 out of our 7 outdoor cats disapeared this winter or should i say in the last 3 months.. I am very very happy to see that lion taken down..

  11. Erin Hess

    Interesting the feelings involved. The loss of animals cared for and loved. It is sad, yes. The investment, the care, the attention we invest in our pets and in our livestock, and then to lose them in such a sudden manner. I am very sorry for the loss, truly, I am. But the animal that is killed, for habitating an environment that was once his (or her) domain, where is the sadness for them? They did not intend to cause us harm, it was not a personal attack, they are following their predatory instinct! I don’t believe it is fair at all to demonize them is such a manner. How many people know that predators must practice their predatory skills? How many people know that predators cache their kills, to return later to feed? It is tragic when one’s pets or livelihood is lost, but yet I cannot warrant the removal of a predatory species, simply because of fear or for reprisal and revenge for a loss. Management of a habituated predator, I admit, is necessary to maintain ranchers’ livelihoods, but I admit, I am deeply surprised at the response this has evoked. Would you declare such respose to a harsh winter which has resulted in similar loses, or is it because a person feels more control over an animal than over the weather that a person can declare that predators should be removed from the ecosystem? It is even harder for me to fathom why people would support the mandated extirpation of a species. Perhaps because I believe they deserve just as much to live, to rear their young, and to grow old and die as I believe I have a right to do. After all, I’m living in their homeland. They do not know better, they are not staging a personal attack against humanity. They are not ‘out to get the rancher.’ To anthropormorphize a predator in such a way is, well, irrational. If you want to remove a species from this earth, admit that it is for selfish reasons and don’t make it the predator’s fault like they deserve it. Don’t expect them to deny their nature, to adapt their behavior because you want them to. We were discussing just the other day how depressing it is that we have an animal on our State flag that has been completely extirpated from our state! How hypicritical, to celebrate and eradicate a species at the same time. And did you know, wolves were once here too! And one lone wolf crosses the border, looking for new territory (again, a natural behavior), and it seems that people, even those thousands of miles away and completely unaffected, want to immediately go out and shoot it. Never mind that it takes more than one wolf to make up a pack… I think there is just a little too much over-reacting here to Mother Nature. It is sad that such a struggle must occur, but I am always reminded that the natural ecosystem here has already lost so much that I can’t get angry and vengeful when I feel it is trying just trying to survive in the world we have manipulated for our own purposes
    .

    • Erin Hess

      Sorry about some of the spelling errors. My computer was having some difficulties allowing me to go back and edit the errors while I was writing.

      • Erin Hess

        To clarify before assumptions are made, yes, I was raised on a farm in the foothills, yes I’ve had my dairy goats stalked by lions (and by the feral dog pack too), and yes my neighbors and friends and I have lost animals to lions, dogs, bobcat, and coyote. Thanks again Megan for allowing alternative viewpoints to be voiced! I thoroughly enjoy the differnt points of view knowing I’ll probably be in the minority on this one!

  12. Well living here all my life I have seen this happen many times and it will happen again, that is whats sad. When I was a young man there was a $50 dollar bounty on mountain lions and not all that many hunted them but enough to keep the population in some sort of control. One of the main lion hunters around here lived right up by you so he kept the lions in control. You can talk to fish and game personel and they all agree with us that something needs to be done. The sad part is that all of your population is in the big cities and they control anything that is put on the ballot and they are the ones that voted to protect the lions. They will tell you that a lion will kill at least once a week and admit that wee have almost 10,000 lions in the state now so do your math. Now you see that they not only kill once a week to survive but kill for the fun of it. I have talked with many sheep herders that used to run sheep thru our area and they all feared the cats, then just the bobcat mainly, much smaller then the lion. They told me a coyote will come in at night and kill a sheep and they will all eat it and he said a bobcat will come in and kill 12 or 15 in one night and not even eat one of them. I am sure with all the animal lovers and non hunters in the state you will never be able to reverse the vote, but thank god we have wardens that realize the problem and will not hesitate to give out a permit, but whats sad you have to lose something first.

  13. Linda Langerwerf

    Great writing of a sad story. I often stop to ask “why don’t we just quit?” when these things happen…then I remember that in this life we have chosen the better road.

    • Linda..nice to hear from you..I just wish it was under better circumstances. Give my love to the grown-up kids…I hope all is well for you and thank you for your comments they are so true.

  14. Janice

    In South Dakota many farmers donkeys with their sheep to keep them safe. Perhaps purchasing just one would help you solve this sad problem.
    Sorry for your loss.

  15. Powerful writing, amazing pictures- and holy cow, that is a big cat. Chilling. -kate

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