By Ralph A. Redburn, Ranger Naturalist
OUR GREAT AMERICAN CAT, the mountain lion (Felis couguar), is very seldom seen in the wild state by the traveler to the canyon and mountain areas where it abides. Yet this cat is said to be somewhat prevalent throughout the various Rocky Mountain states and also in numerous others. Along both rims of the Grand Canyon a species of mountain lion (Felis concolor hippolestes) roams freely, undisturbed by man since it is within the boundaries of a National Park where it is well and wisely protected.
It was an unexpected pleasure to me and to the members of an automobile caravan which I was conducting on the north side of Grand Canyon, when on July 14, 1932, we chanced to come upon one of these "cougar cats" as mountain lions are sometimes called. Grand Canyon has long been noted for the numbers of them that apparently live along its rims, yet never before, as well as I can determine, has any large group of visitors here had the pleasure of seeing one running wild through the forest. Very suddenly we came upon this one as it stood in the middle of the road and our first car approached within two hundred yards of it. The cat then ran into the woods, but accomodatingly waited behind a tree some two hundred feet from the highway. All cars stopped, occupants got out and cautiously walked in its direction. The people from the first car, being closer to the animal to begin with, were first on the scene and able to get with in 150 feet of the lion.
It did not appear very much alarmed, but sat upright like an ordinary house cat and casually looked us over. As many members of the caravan were arriving at the scene of interest, the cat became frightened and ran away, and as it left, various people yelled thinking that they might scare it up a tree. It was not interested in such procedure at that particular time, however, but continued on its way toward the great cliffs of the Canyon. The last that was seen of the cat was its log graceful tail waving at us as the animal dropped down over a rock ledge.
When the various individuals in our party yelled, a large deer jumped out from under the foliage of the nearby Aspen trees. The deer was lying down and had not been seen until it started to run. It was a buck, probably four or five years old, with a large spread of antlers, and when scared away, ran in the opposite direction from that taken by the lion.
After investigation of tracks and consideration of the trend of events, we concluded that the mountain lion had been stalking the deer. Probably the reason the cat did not run away when first sighted was because it was loath to relinquish its noon-day meal of venison.
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