Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UFOs and Mountain Lions

Some Iowans down here in the southern hills believe in unidentified flying objects, others in mountain lions. The UFOs I doubt, but so far as mountain lions are concerned --- I’m a believer.

So it was a mixed blessing to read in this morning’s Des Moines Register that the Department of Natural Resources, always nervous when a natural resource presents itself, has acknowledged the presence on Monday of a 125-pound male mountain lion near Marengo. That’s the good news.

The bad news, as you might expect, is that the deer hunter who spotted it, 48-year-old Raymond Goebel of Cedar Rapids, after thinking about it and going so far as to investigate the legality of it all, shot that sucker dead --- just because he could (it’s not illegal to kill a mountain lion in Iowa in large part because the DNR insists there are none, or at the most one or two).

Same thing happened down on the South Chariton near Promise City in January 2004 when a hunter spotted another mountain lion lunching on a deer carcass. I happened to be in the general neighborhood at the time, saw the pictures, heard the stories.

When in doubt about what it is, kill it --- that seems to be the prevailing approach.

After that 2004 sighting, and shooting, there were and continue to be a good number of mountain lion reports in Lucas County. I generally take the fleeting glimpse and big paw print stories with a grain of salt, but there’s really no reason to believe we do not have mountain lions here. There are, after all, those thousands of acres of state forest; more thousands of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program; plenty of wooded and wild river and creek valleys --- Chariton, South Chariton, Whitebreast, Otter, Cedar and more --- to serve as wildlife highways; and plenty of game come supper time.

Nor do I have reason to doubt my friend Suzy, for example, who lives out in the hills near Lucas and whose daily commute takes her into the hills as evening settles in. Driving home this fall, her path was crossed by a big cat --- bigger than a bobcat and without its distinctive look. Most likely, she thinks --- your guessed it --- a mountain lion.

So like I said, I think the big cats are living among us although very quietly, sparse in numbers, causing little fuss. They were native to Iowa, you know, until killed out and chased out during the 19th century. So it’s kind of like a homecoming, although the welcome so far hasn’t been very warm.

I like the idea, even though it does give me pause when several miles down the Cinder Path and fairly deep in the woods near or after sunset or on the trails through the woods elsewhere in the evening. And I’m willing to live with uncertainty. Surely it isn’t necessary to shoot the critters just to prove a point.


Ed said...

I would have shot that mountain lion too. My ammunition of choice... a nice digital camera!

I think that says a lot about our culture as a whole when we feel we have to shoot something just because we can.

Frank D. Myers said...

According to a televised evening news report, the shooter --- who watched the mountain lion for an hour before blowing it away --- plans to spend about $1,500 to have the carcass stuffed and mounted. You could buy some pretty good camera equipment with that amount and be better off in the long run, so I'm with you --- but i'd want a really good telephoto lense.

Frank D. Myers said...

It's "Marengo" not "Maringo." In all fairness, I need to acknowledge that I misspelled "Marengo" in the original version of this post. Thanks to K.B., an old friend now a shining star in the DNR firmament, for pointing that out. Said he'd been waiting 25 years to catch me on something like this, and now he has. Glad to oblige.