Here’s a story that we get several versions of here in Colorado each year: Mountain lion snatches dog from owners’ bedroom. Sometimes it’s a story about a not-so-cuddly bear that breaks into an unsecured kitchen and rips it up looking for food. More frequently, it’s an item in a local newspaper about house pets being carried off by coyotes, foxes, or cougars. In every case, these stories come from the zone known as the urban-wilderness interface that surrounds Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins–people who live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just outside of cities they can commute to daily.
Is there something about having a mountain home that makes people stupid? Is it the thinner air up there at 7,000 or 8,000 feet? Urban people would never leave the French doors to their bedroom wide open in the city (as the aforementioned poor doggie’s family did Sunday night before bed), for fear of thieves, kidnappers, or peeping toms–why do they so often assume that life in rural areas is safer? (My other favorite idiot move: people who feed the wild animals, like they’re the spectators at a zoo exhibit on the fauna of the Rockies. Don’t be surprised if the local bear or mountain lion family expects the same hospitality!) So many city people cherish utterly ignorant fantasies about rural and mountain life. They should just stay home, and visit on the weekends instead of moving into the bears’ and cougars’ neighborhood and then kicking back, suburban-style, letting their housecats roam free (and being shocked and distressed when Fluffy doesn’t come home for dinner), and leaving their backyard grill outside (and being surprised when the cooking grease left on it attracts a bear to dinner).
These are only the animal hazards of living in the mountains and foothills. I don’t know about you all, but I never felt unsafe jogging the streets of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., or Boston/Cambridge at all hours of the day and night, but I surely have my guard up when jogging in rural America. In cities, people can hear you scream, and may witness an attack on you and respond to your call for help. In the country–well, good luck with that. More people around make you safer. Fewer people, and more not-cuddly animals, makes you less safe.
UPDATED 8/6/08: Via the Denver Post again, we learn that the 130-pound mountain lion above has been caught and killed (H/t to Fratguy, who’s working for the man back in Colorado). The dog in question was a twelve year-old, so that’s a pretty good run for a family pet. According to the article, the homeowners have owned their home for 32 years and have seen mountain lions in the area before, making their decision to leave their bedroom doors open like barn doors even more bizarre. One of the homeowners quoted in the story said, “It was pretty bizarre to wake up at 4 a.m. and find a mountain lion in your bedroom.” Yeah? Not as weird as if you had actually closed your doors before you went to bed–you might have thought you discovered a species of wildcat with opposable thumbs!