I don’t believe in mountain lions.
This surprises me as much as, I’m sure, it surprises you! I had no idea that I didn’t believe in mountain lions. It never occurred to me to seriously contemplate whether or not they existed, until now. Now, I live in a land of mountain lions. I hike on trails posted with signs that say “mountain lion territory.” And yet when I read these signs, my mind automatically replaces the words “mountain lion” with “unicorn.”
I’m very fond of the word catamount. It rolls off of my tongue so sweetly, so naturally. I decided that I wanted to go to Middlebury College when I was ten because of the bronze catamount statue in their sports center. (Spoiler: I didn’t get accepted, but I went to a different small liberal arts college that tried very hard to be Middlebury, only in brick instead of marble.) I wrote a moderately good poem in college with the lines:
A catamount behind circus bars
cannot carry off your children and chickens
to kill and eat.
And yet, for all the word rolls off of my tongue so sweetly, so naturally, I find myself firmly believing that catamounts, real live cougars, are figments of one’s imagination. Here’s why:
Vermont’s last resident mountain lion was killed in 1881.
I found an article from 2012 that says Vermont’s division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets 45-50 cougar sightings a year. That’s 45-50 people a year who don’t know what a bobcat/deer/large dog/fox/Maine coon cat/etc. looks like.
So, pardon me for being suspicious of anyone who says they’ve seen one. I also never believed in the toothfairy; I just played along as long as I kept receiving cash deposits under my pillow.
Mountain lions are, apparently, a serious thing out here with several verified attacks on human and even human fatalities around these parts. I even picked up a book specifically about the mountain lions who are my new neighbors, The Beast in the Garden by David Baron. It’s quite good, reading like a fast paced crime novel and cautionary parable. I biked by the trail where a woman my age was treed by two cougars.
Apparently, they wander into town fairly regularly. Or they lounge in the trees off of popular hiking spots just out of town.
Reading The Beast in the Garden was supposed to cool my enthusiasm about the possibility of running into a mountain lion. The accounts really are frightening. But. I can’t help it. I get a little excited thinking…
I get to see a real live unicorn someday.