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MOUNTAIN LION - THE GHOST OF THE FOREST by Chris Vargas, Warrior's Society

Most mountain lion attacks happen with stealthy surprise. The mountain lion
did not get a reputation as "The Ghost of the Forest" from Native Americans
by accident. They are skilled predators and well suited for deadly attacks
that seem to come from nowhere.

Yes, there usually are sightings before an attack, but when the lion
actually attacks it does so by surprise, by ambush coming from behind its
prey.

If you are by yourself, and a 100 - 150 pound lion leaps and attacks you
from behind, wrapping its claws around you and biting into your neck in an
attempt to severe your spinal cord - you will have the wind knocked out of
you, pounded into the ground, and be confused if not unconscious. I doubt
you will have much time to react.

Do I blame the lion for doing what our creator intended him to do - be a
skilled and deadly hunter?

NO. 

The "Ghost of the Forest" holds an important place in my heart for many
reasons. I have only spotted one mountain lion in my travels in the
Cleveland National Forest and it was from a vantage point about 1/8 of a
mile away. He was a majestic creature.

In my own Vision Quest the mountain lion was my spiritual guide. But because
I have an affinity for this creature does not mean I do not believe they
need to be managed for both their sake and ours.

Amidst the panic we need to evaluate how to prevent such attacks in the
future. The question that needs to be asked is this: what unforeseen
consequences have we created in our rush to create interconnected habitats
and in stopping past mountain lion management practices?

We want to build reserves and wildlife corridors around communities. These
corridors are intended for mountain lions to traverse interconnected
habitats. This will bring them into increasing contact with humans and
acclimate them to our presence, causing them to lose fear.

Over the last few years the Warrior's Society has had numerous reports of
lion sightings in Wilderness Parks adjacent to the communities of Laguna,
Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, etc. Aliso Woods was
temporarily closed late last week because of reported sightings and Whiting
Ranch, where the attack happened, remains closed.

Mountain lions tend to be more wary of humans in areas where lion hunting is
permitted. Wildlife managers are able to monitor, track and keep lion
populations in check and in balance with natural food sources and existing
habitat when regulated hunting is used as a scientific management tool.

When Californians were influenced by an emotional media campaign and voted
to close lion hunting seasons, wildlife biologists predicted an increase in
serious confrontations between mountain lions and people. Sadly but not
surprisingly, the predictions were correct.

Mountain lions are always potentially dangerous and unpredictable but are
seen by the environmental movement as necessary "natural" predators to
control deer populations.  However, the frequency and likelihood of
confrontations between lions and humans can be reduced if lion populations
are controlled and other methods are used to control deer populations.

When professional wildlife managers are allowed to use all available tools
other methods of management can be used to control deer. For example, in
some urban areas where expanding deer numbers have caused increased vehicle
accidents and other problems, archery hunting seasons have helped to bring
the deer population under control in the absence of predators such as lions.


Since we made the emotional decision not to control cougar populations, and
we want them to traverse in close proximity to our communities, we will have
to live with the reality that pets - and people, including children, will be
subject to more attacks in the future.

The environmental movement is pushing to return large predators, such as the
Grizzly Bear, to what was once its former range. I am curious as to what
methods of management they hope to apply to the same type of interaction we
are experiencing with mountain lions.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times titled "Election Becomes a Fight
Over Sierra Club's Future" reported on how animal rights activists are
trying to gain control of the organizations board. The environmental
movement has increasingly embraced the extreme animal rights agenda (in
contrast to animal welfare) and in the process has moved to marginalize the
safety and needs of people with an approach bordering on malice.

This courting of animal rights organizations to solidify political strength
has resulting in disastrous results. To quote from the article regarding
humans and animals:

"Moreover, club officials argue that members of the two insurgent groups
share fundamentally anti-human views, in their opposition to immigration and
in their belief that people should take a backseat to other species."

When animal rights activists succeed in controlling the board of the Sierra
Club, it will complete the Sierra Club's ongoing transformation from what
was once a mainstream and well respected conservation organization to a
militant ad agency with a $100 million a year budget devoted to telling us
that the life of a child is considered on par with the life of a rat.

Credible science and professional natural resource management is no longer a
foundation for the Sierra Club and other so-called mainstream environmental
organizations; they have embraced a consensus based pseudo-science that has
as its goal a focus on successful fund raising and changing public policy to
suit their emotional and almost religious beliefs of how nature should be -
rather than encouraging scientific debate and science based management.

People are an integral part of nature with the ability to do great harm to
natural habitat or to enhance the future of wildlife living adjacent to
urban areas. It is up to us whether we will decide to place our mutual
future with wildlife in the hands of professional resource managers and
biologists, or continue to follow a radical agenda which fails to address
the conflicts that occur in the urban/reserve open space interface.

This is the question we should all be asking.