Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bobcats & Mountain Lions: Living With Predators

I went for a run this morning in the rugged hills northeast of Santa Fe. Gnarly and dry as these hills look, they conceal narrow canyons with running streams like the one I photographed above.

There is snow on the mountains, and more on the way. I was looking for signs this morning that the mule deer are making their way down to their winter territory. I saw only a few fresh tracks. At the end of my run, just across the street from the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, I saw a bobcat leaping above the two-foot high grasses; all four paws off the ground, four legs stretched straight out.

I have seen only two other bobcats, both of them within a couple of miles of the Audubon Center, one dead, the other disappearing into heavy brush. This one, floating above the grasses, with autumn foliage in the background, was stunningly beautiful. Now I know why I haven't seen the doe and fawn, who have been hanging out in the same bushy area all summer, in a month. A bobcat has moved in.

I saw a mountain lion, my 7th, in the same area a month ago.  It exploded out from its place of concealment a few yards away from me and was gone almost before I realized what it was.  I guessed that it might have been a youth.  It was not as large as the others I have seen, and I doubt that a mature mountain lion would have betrayed its hiding place only to run off in apparent confusion.   

When I see these beautiful predators, I feel conflicted. I feel fear for the deer I've gotten to know in the area, and I know that the predators need to be there in order for the deer herds to stay healthy. I'm glad there are places where big predators still roam. I’m glad that I live in one of those places.


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