February 8, 2013
There are few things that heighten the senses when dragging the garbage bin out to the corner, after dark, more than reports of mountain lions in the neighborhood. Every rustle in the trees gets the hair on the back of the neck standing up. As first reported here, a couple of dogs were attacked by mountain lions in Woodland, right in their backyards. One of the dogs was killed. There have been other reports about lions around livestock elsewhere in the neighborhood. After the dog was killed, the Wildlife Resources people decided they needed to do something and, in the end, three lions were killed.
The official term was "euthanized," which is kind of misleading. That suggests that the lions were ill and were put out of their misery. They were actually tracked down by hounds, treed, and shot. The CIA might call that "aggressive euthanasia," or maybe "proactive euthanasia." They were going to die anyway, someday.
The response has been mixed. A lot of people (who mostly do not have lions in the backyard) have said that there are plenty of dogs and not so many mountain lions. They said putting them down seemed like an overreaction. If you are going to live in a very small town like Woodland, you should expect to find animals that will eat you in the backyard. They suggested the lions ought to have been tranquilized and relocated. No volunteers have come forward.
Hauling them up into the Uintas doesn’t accomplish anything. The lions were prowling the neighborhoods of Woodland because the deer herd has moved to lower elevations. Dumping the lions at Mirror Lake just guarantees that they starve, or migrate back down the canyon in a very bad mood.
We might have been able to relocate them over into Pinebrook, maybe letting them out by the school-bus stop. But somehow, I think the reaction might have been less than welcoming. And that was the problem in Woodland.
My house is far enough out in the sticks that seeing lion tracks is not particularly unusual. I’ve only seen one on the hoof a couple of times in my life, and that has been from a pretty good distance across the hay fields. But they are around in a general way, if not right in the backyard. They are unusual right in downtown Woodland, where the houses are as close together as Jeremy Ranch, though not so many of them. Sending kids out in the early morning to wait for the school bus would be problematic. "Have you got your lunch money? Remember your homework? Don’t get eaten by a lion."
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From a selfish perspective, I’m sorry to see the lions dispatched. They had made a lot of progress thinning out a deer herd that eats about half of my hay crop every year. I figure three lions eating the deer were probably worth the equivalent of a ton of fertilizer, and it’s all free and organic. I’m not sure how many deer a lion will eat over a winter, but the usual kamikaze herd running across the highway is gone.
Compared to lions lurking in the woods, the Super Bowl was not such a big deal. It was the most-watched power outage in history, with play-by-play coverage and announcers filling 34 minutes saying, "We don’t know anything at all." They maintained the banter as if there were a football game going on. If I remember right (and there was some napping going on), they brought us the entire 34-minute blackout without commercial interruption. The game, on the other hand, never ran more than about two minutes without a break. I’m surprised the network didn’t get on the phone to the sponsors and offer to run their ads again for a reduced fee during the outage.
As football goes, it turned out to be an exciting game. It’s the only football game I watch all year, and it’s done from a sense of social obligation rather than real interest. I’m not sure I even remember who was in it, and didn’t care which squad of chemically altered freaks of nature won. But it’s one of those rites of popular culture that is hard to ignore. One team apparently had an accused murderer who found Jesus. They could have used the power outage to explain that.
A few years ago, the world was knocked off its axis by a nanosecond flash of Janet Jackson’s nipple. There were Congressional hearings and fines imposed over the famous wardrobe malfunction. This year, we were invited to Beyoncé’s gynecological exam, and the only outrage was PETA objecting to her wearing a postage-stamp-sized piece of leather. I thought the music was terrible and the presentation something from a low-budget strip club. The power failure could have come sooner.
But no lions were killed in the production.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.