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October 26th, 2011
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King of the... foothills?

Next week I will have been in Arizona for nine years. My, how time flies. In that time – the best time of my life – I’ve seen some pretty exciting things: birds, snakes, mammals, insects, you name it. Earlier this year I eventually saw my first and second Black Bears in the wild, which was a major highlight. With that one ticked off the list, there really was only one “big” one left.

Well, this evening it finally happened…

I was driving back to Patagonia from Tucson just after dark, along the gorgeous SR 83. I often see interesting wildlife along this route – Pronghorns by day, skunks and Javelina at night – so I was keeping my eyes peeled. Last week a big ‘Red Racer’ Coachwhip snake wriggled across my path. At around 6:20 I was crossing the Empire Mountains and Santa Rita foothills north of Sonoita, a particularly nice area. Something caught my eye right next to the road, just at the entrance to Gardner Canyon. Pale, sandy… a coyote… no, too big, wrong shape… it can’t be

But it was! An animal that some local naturalists have been searching for in vain for decades – it was a MOUNTAIN LION!

I was, as we’d say in Britain, gobsmacked. Some people live in places where Mountain Lion sightings are regular, but the city dweller, as I’ve always been until recently, doesn’t get those opportunities. Coming originally from a place that has no wild cats, the very idea of Mountain Lions has fascinated me since the moment I arrived. I’d built this up into a very big deal, a major ambition. And it now it had been realized.

I slowed down and began to turn around, but it was gone, slinking ghost-like into the night. I didn’t really know what to do next, so contented myself with continuing home whilst punching the air and screaming a few choice agricultural phrases. A big Javelina sauntered right in front of the car a few miles further ahead, but it barely registered.

Wow! It was brief, no binoculars, no camera. Somehow this made it all the more special, two precious seconds in the presence of the king of the mountains, or foothills as this one was. I’d love to spend some time watching Mountain Lions, preferably at a distance through a scope, and maybe I’ll get to do that one day. I’ll probably be able to appreciate it more. I knew I’d be excited, if and when I eventually saw one, but it’s more than an hour ago now and I’m still buzzing.

So what have I got left? Bighorn Sheep, but somehow that doesn’t get the pulse racing so much. I suppose it’s going to have to be outrageous, something like a Jaguar or an Ocelot. Well, here’s hoping… 😀


3 comments to King of the… foothills?

  • Jain

    Wonderful Richard! And you tell it well.

  • Sierra

    Congrats! Sounds like you’re loving life in Patagonia!

  • Richard

    Thanks Jain, thanks Sierra. Paton’s is a quite amazing place to live. It’s not without its problems – I moved a two bed, two bath house into a one room guesthouse, so it’s a bit cramped, and the wildlife sometimes finds its way indoors, but on the other hand… eight species of hummingbird recorded at the feeder a few feet from my window so far… you just can’t beat it! 😀

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