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A decade or so ago, when my children were toddlers, a neighbor asked me why I let my children play in our backyard on Walnut Canyon.
She felt they were in grave danger of being attacked by mountain lions.
I had already lived and hiked in Los Alamos for a long time by then so I told her that i believed the benefits of outdoor play were greater than the risk.
A year or two later, there was a story in the news about a jogger in California who was mauled by a mountain lion.
An expert discussing mountain lions said that an adult lion was capable of jumping a 12-foot fence carrying a 40- pound object. This really caught my attention . My children were about 40 pounds each by then and the chain linked fence around my yard wasn’t anywhere near 12 feet tall.
I decided to learn more about the big cats in Los Alamos County. Through the years, I mostly learned how elusive these beautiful animals are. With the past winter being so terribly dry, though, a mother lion with two kittens appeared in our North Mesa Canyon yard.
The kittens seemed desperate to get a drink from our neighbor’s drip irrigation. We scared them away by pounding pots and pans.
They were very easily frightened.
When I saw the photograph of the lion kitten in the Los Alamos Monitor recently, it broke my heart.
I’m pretty sure the kitten pictured begging on a deck is the same animal I saw so thirsty six or seven weeks earlier.
I don’t feel this kitten’s behavior could have changed drastically without something awful having happened.
I believe what probably happened was that this mother and her kittens became acclimatized to people ... people who wanted a good photograph or a really cool video of the animals to post on the Internet.
We all know when camping that keeping our area clean will save us from meeting furry visitors in the twilight hours. We realize a fed bear is a dead bear. Mountain lions who relocate to North Mesa neighborhoods in search of a tasty house cat, a yummy small dog or a drink from a pet’s water bowl are doomed.
If you see a lion in your yard, scare it away immediately. A friend who works as a lion tamer suggests using a fog horn. The lions’ survival depends on their staying wild. There are at least two mother lions with kittens visiting North Mesa. Please, Los Alamos, keep your pets inside and your property tidy so all our children and wild kittens can grow up in peace.