Because the news media can only frame stories in terms of confrontations--and because advocacy groups inject themselves into controversies to get some attention--a Boulder group called Sinapu leapt into the recent commotion about a Boulder County resident who killed a mountain lion that attacked his dog.
The group does not purchase habitat nor, so far as I can tell from looking at the site, sponsor scientific research. But it does tell you how to live in lion country -- sort of.
Let's look at some of the Sinapu recommendations:
* Make lots of noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active–dusk to dawn.
Oh sure, carry an air horn. Blow a whistle. Do your best imitation of a four-lane arterial boulevard--your neighbors will love it. I know, ride an ATV everywhere! Even just down to the mailbox!
* Install outside lighting. Light areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one were present.
Isn't that why you moved to the mountains, so you could light up your property like a K-Mart parking lot? Screw that "Dark Skies" stuff. Or you could just carry a good flashlight when you need to.
* Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about why lions are important to Nature, and teach them what to do if they meet one.
=That boy who was apparently killed by a lion by the Cache la Poudre River was taken in broad daylight, I think. But he was alone.
Although I understand the dawn-and-dusk part, I hate to see anyone advising parents to keep their children indoors -- unless, of course, it is for adult-supervised organized sports practice at a designated athletic facility. Ugh..
* Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding places for lions, especially around children’s play areas. Make it difficult for lions to approach unseen.
Sure, make the place look like a golf course. It works in Vail.
* Plant native shrubs and plants that deer don’t prefer to eat–thus discouraging them from coming in close to your living quarters. Predators follow prey.
Let's see: Deer evolved with . . . native shrubs. Those are what they browse. Maybe Sinapu should suggest not to plant ornamentals such as crab apples, a big deer favorite. But if you eat your apples, as we do, then there is a trade-off.
* Keep your pet under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. If you leave your pet outside, keep it in a kennel with a secure top. Don’t feed pets outside; this can attract raccoons and other animals that are eaten by lions. Store all garbage securely.
* Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close doors to all outbuildings since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.
Might work if you have a horse or a few goats, but not practical for actual ranchers.
* Encourage your neighbors to follow these simple precautions. Prevention is far better than a possible lion confrontation.
Do you see what is missing? What do you do if things go very, very wrong and all of these passive precautions fail?
Sinapu likes to talk about "stewardship," but they inevitably slide off into Timothy Treadwell-ism. "Stewardship" includes the power of life and death; it implies control. But they do not want to go there.
(And don't forget, always wear a helmet when going outdoors!)