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FACING DOWN A MOUNTAIN LION


Did you know that in the United States, mountain lions are the number one predator of human beings? So says author and naturalist, Craig Childs. On one occasion, he was doing research on the lions in Arizona’s Blue Range Wilderness. As he approached a water hole from downwind, he spotted a mountain lion drinking water, but the lion did not know he was there. When it finished drinking, it walked slowly away into a cluster of junipers.


After a few minutes, Childs walked to the water hole to identify tracks in the mud and record notes. Just before he bent down to look closer, he scanned the perimeter, and there among the shadows of the junipers, 30 feet away, he saw a pair of eyes. He expected the lion to run away, but it walked into the sunlight toward him. Childs pulled his knife and stared into the eyes of the lion. He knew what he had to do. More importantly, he also knew what he must not do. He writes:


"Mountain lions are known to take down animals six, seven, and eight times their size. Their method: attack from behind, clamp onto the spine at the base of the prey’s skull, snap the spine. The top few vertebrae are the target, housing respiratory and motor skills that cease instantly when the cord is cut...Mountain lions have stalked people for miles. One woman survived an attack and escaped by foot on a road. The lion shortcut the road several miles farther and killed her from behind..."


About the incident in Arizona’s Blue Ranger Wilderness, Childs says, "I hold firm to my ground and do not even intimate that I will back off. If I run, it is certain. I will have a mountain lion all over me. If I give it my back, I will only briefly feel its weight on me against the ground. The canine teeth will open my vertebrae without breaking a single bone...


"The mountain lion begins to move to my left, and I turn, keeping my face on it, my knife at my right side. It paces to my right, trying to get around on my other side, to get behind me. I turn right, staring at it...My stare is about the only defense I have."


The amazing thing is Childs actually maintained that defense as the mountain lion continued to try to provoke him to run, turning left, then right, back and forth again and again, until it came to just ten feet away. Finally, the standoff ended. The lion turned and walked away – defeated by a man who knew what never to do in its presence.


(Craig Childs, The Animal Dialogues, New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2007. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, The Way to Glory, 8/13/2011)

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