Mountain lions, cougars, pumas, catamounts — whatever your favorite name for the big cat — have been caught on camera again prowling around in good ol’ Chase County in the famous Kansas Flint Hills.
A nice lady, out in the field recently with her trusty long-lens camera trying to get photos of birds in the prairie, got the surprise of her life when through her camera she spied a mountain lion in the brush near the Chase County fishing lake west of Cottonwood Falls.
I saw a copy of her photograph and it is easy to identify the critter as a mountain lion. It’s sighting, while not the first in the county, is a bit unnerving. I’m not used to looking over my shoulder while I’m out in the Flint Hills. Maybe I ought to start carrying a pistol with me. Frankly, I know the possibility of getting attacked by a cougar is remote in the extreme, but it’s still something that nestles in the back of my mind.
While I’m on the subject of mountain lions in the Flint Hills, a few years ago a friend of mine near Lamont, Kan., caught a clear picture of one of the big cats with the trail camera he’d mounted in the timber to identify the big bucks prowling the area he wanted to hunt. Again, the identity of the big cat wuz unmistakable.
And, also a few years ago, the son of my friend, ol’ Lon G. Horner, reported spying a cougar crossing a gravel road near one of his cattle herds. He saw the big cat once, and never again, and didn’t lose any cattle to it.
Now bobcats in the Flint Hills are common, but not seen all that often. However, I’ve seen two bobcats myself this summer on the gravel roads near Damphewmore Acres. One wuz 3 miles south and one mile west. The other wuz just a half-mile north of where I sit writing this column. That one wuz too close to my chicken flock for comfort, but I’ve never lost a chicken that I know of to a bob cat, something I can’t say about coyotes and hawks.
My favorite all-time true story about cougars wuz told to me in the mid-1990s when I traveled to Baggs, Wyo., to do a Milo Yield gig at a banquet being held by a group of National Farmers Organization cattle ranchers who’d just finished shipping their fall calves.
After my speech, I wuz relaxing with one of the ranchers — my belly full of porterhouse steak and my hand full of my favorite relaxing and intoxicating beverage — when he told me this cougar story.
In addition to his cow-calf herd, the rancher also ran a big flock of sheep on BLM land in the mountains not far from Baggs. He hired a Basque sheepherder to stay with his flock during the summer, living sparsely out of a sheep wagon.
The rancher had for years ran a rank old male llama (what’s the proper name for a male llama — bull, stallion, ram, or as Google says, stud?) along with his sheep flock because the critter did a good job of keeping the coyotes from killing sheep. But the cantankerous old stud llama wuz a pain in the butt to catch and load in the trailer to bring him home for the winter. The rancher dreaded the task.
Well, the rancher said that a cougar had moved into the area where his sheep were grazing about a week before time to load them out of the mountains. In fact the big cat had killed a couple of the sheep.
When the rancher arrived with the livestock trailers, the Basque sheepherder reported the cougar sheep kills and noted that the old llama had become highly agitated after the first sheep kill.
So, it wuz much to their surprise and amusement that when they opened the rear gate on the first livestock trailer, the very first animal to voluntarily hop into the trailer wuz the old stud llama.
The rancher said it wuz like the llama said to him, “Get me off this mountain, boss. I don’t wanna become the next cougar kill.”
I don’t know what this cougar story proves except that maybe llamas are smarter than we give them credit for.
A kindly reader noted my fondness for fishing and sent me this little story about fishing:
Two Minnesotans are sitting in a boat fishing and drinking beer.
Ole asks Sven, “Vhy do scuba divers always fall backwards off ‘dere boats?”
To which Sven replies, “Vell, you know Ole, if they fell forwards , they’d still be in ‘da boat!”
Here are five great truths that most adults have learned:
1) Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.
2) Wrinkles don’t hurt.
3) Families are like fudge … mostly sweet, with a few nuts
4) Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.
5) Laughing is good exercise. It’s like jogging on the inside.
6) Adulthood is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy.
Here’s my e-mailed wisdom for the week: The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning many, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning blood-sucking parasites. Have a good ‘un.