Dec 13, 2019

Heart of a Lion

A Lone Cat's Walk Across America
by William Stolzenburg

In 2011, someone driving on a parkway in Connecticut hit a mountain lion. Cougars had not been seen in that state since the 1800's. People thought it was a pet gotten loose, but DNA testing showed the mountain lion came from the Black Hills in South Dakota. It was a young animal, travelling probably in search of a mate and territory, who had trekked two thousand miles across America. The trail was patched together- hair and scat samples from various locations it had passed through matched perfectly- and camera trap photos showed further proof of its passage. This book traces the big cat's journey, through news reports (full of local uproars about safety) and firsthand accounts of people who glimpsed the lion or found its tracks. Also accounts of other dispersing young mountain lions- mostly found and recorded because they met their end at the hands of law enforcement panicking when lions were found skirting backyards in towns, or ranchers claiming to be protecting their livestock. Those wanting to protect the cougars claim that shooting mountain lions only exacerbates the problem (leaving untutored young ones prone to going after easy prey) while those wanting to see lions populate the Eastern part of the states again talk over and over again about seeing lions in the landscape that simply aren't there, and spending tons of hours out searching for them. Unfortunately it sounds like all the mountain lions that ever tried to move east into habitable land (swarming with deer populations that could really use some natural control) met with frightened or trigger-happy people who shot them on sight. A few chapters look at the history of mountain lions in North America- going all the way back to prehistoric times- explaining the deep-seated fear most people have upon encountering the big cat. The language gets kind of flowery at times, and it can also be repetitive, and the blow-by-blow conversations between different people trying to find the mountain lions, or deny their existence, or fight for/against protecting them, got a bit tiresome. Still, pretty interesting overall.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5                    245 pages, 2016

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