Greenhorns, please stay home in your cities


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!

0 thoughts on “Greenhorns, please stay home in your cities

  1. I’ve seen bears both in the woods near my house (in Southern New England) and sitting on folks’ front lawns having a snack of their shrubbery. Apparently they have returned from a long exile. The problem is not knowing when you’re going to see one. Sure is scary.


  2. It isn’t just the mountainous regions. Anytime city folk move to rural areas, these things happen. It’s sort of like how people blame sharks for biting people when the people have invaded shark habitat.


  3. I come from city folk who moved to the country and never lock the house—although mostly it’s just turkey and gophers around. My sister, in the foothills of central California, lives on a road with a “tame” fox. BBQ with some 30 people, plus music, and the fox showed up to beg some food, eventually came right up to the edge of the patio, later came back with a friend….


  4. Beautiful pic!

    And yes, the coyotes (if not usually the mountain lions) come right down into the suburban areas to snack on cats out here every drought year (rainy year = lots of deer in the hills and canyons, followed by a drought year = for god’s sake why do you think you can have an indoor/outdoor kitty in CA?)


  5. I hadn’t heard that bears are back in Southern New England–that’s great (I guess?) unless they’re back because the feeding is good at suburban blueberry bushes? Bears are actually very reasonable animals in the wild–so long as they know you’re coming, they generally don’t want to mess with you.

    Thanks for all of your stories about the urban-wilderness interface from all over–I agree it’s not just the mountains. I guess for me, there’s a lack of respect for the animals and their animal nature when people try to semi-domesticate them, or (literally) leave their homes open to them.

    I had a close encounter with a cougar once–terrifying, but what a magnificent animal! Her tail was so long and as big around as my arm–incredible. (The photo is not mine, BTW–just something I found via!)


  6. We get your occasional puma, or more accurately, an occasional puma REPORT, here in the Philly ‘burbs and the media just love it (especially if it happens during a sweeps month) as local law enforcers and Tri-State wildlife agencies roll out their humor-the-locals teams. But nothing lately about any pets getting carted away. I got caught between a momma Wild Turkey on one side of the road and her entire brood on the other a few summers back, and quickly got that “about to become prey” sensation. Fortunately, there was a drainage culvert right under where I was, so a “breaking news” headline was avoided!


  7. So the old boy had a 12-gauge ready to hand? It’s lucky there wasn’t even more carnage in the neighborhood, with some groggy exurbanite crashing over backyard fences and dodging woodpiles at 4 a.m, tracking a rogue cat. The story said he “grabbed” the piece, not that he unlocked his triple-secured gun cabinet, so you’d have to wonder how safe his kids are in the house at night. Back here, in a situation like that, we like to grab the infrared video equipment instead!


  8. The comments that follow the Denver Post articles are very interesting — at first it looked like a split between the animal rights group and the wild west crowd. But now that the lion has been killed the comments have turned against the family that left the door open. Reminds me of the kids who jumped into the polar bear cage at a zoo back in the eighties – did they expect the bear to cuddle them? But then if this family had lived out there 32 years, and they had a shotgun ready, why would they leave the door open. Something is odd.


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