(Photo by Maya Sugarman)
Here is the final installment in my wildlife series. It’s all about the hunt for mountain lion F95.
I have to say this was the single greatest reporting experience I’ve ever had. There’s something about being in the wilderness with a mountain lion close by. I’m no conflict reporter – don’t have the stones for it. This was as close to danger as I get.
It was pitch black as we walked in to find her. The only light came from stars and the LED headlamps the scientists were wearing. I had an old Maglite, and while it was enormous and heavy, I didn’t feel like it would provide much protection should we stumble across an angry cougar.
See, at this point, she’d already avoided the traps twice. It was one a.m., and we’d been at it for more than 12 hours. This was kind of a desperation act – a chance for me to get audio of our failed attempt. We knew it was very possible she wouldn’t be inside.
But then, if she wasn’t in the trap, where was she? I was a clumsy, half-blind human; she was the top predator in her natural habitat.
Happily, she was inside. Happily? We were all ecstatic – me, because my story was saved, the scientists, because they really needed to capture her. Also, she wasn’t going to kill us.
Staring wide-eyed into the darkness, trying to get a glimpse of her was incredibly humbling. When I did finally pick her out (after much pointing and explaining by Winston), I realized she was just sitting there calmly, staring right at me. With the lights on our heads, we couldn’t have been clearer targets. This was her domain. We only got to be there, because we’d fooled her into going inside a trap.
The scientists were all so calm about there being a lion right f*cking there. Here’s a bit of audio of me and photographer Maya Sugarman providing some perspective: