American lions and some issues

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Fri Nov 15 06:14:03 MST 2002

Prompted by Juan's very interesting comments on Marxism, just a quick
further contribution to the discussion of mountain lions.  Their range is
obviously extremely extensive in the Hemisphere and thus the names are
myriad.  Although leon  is another handle in Mexico -- and elsewhere in
[Spanish] Latin America -- I've heard pantera used very broadly in the
Mexican setting.

I may post this on another list or two where interest has been expressed.

But this is a strong word of advocacy for  Nashdoitsolbai [a reasonably
accurate transposition into writing of the Navajo name for our good friend.]

I began hunting and trapping -- ever more extensively -- from early
childhood on. [I had my first rifle, a .22 Winchester, at seven.]  At one
point, in my early twenties, I had 200 of the very large Victor No. 4
double-spring traps and an extensive range in Northern Arizona.  [I now have
one trap left and continue to set it with my bare hands, over my knee --
simply as  an exercise. Any vacillation would "lose me" a thumb or finger.]
Out of that came many trapping successes -- I'm not going to elaborate --
and also one of my very first published short stories:  "Last Of The Wild
Ones" which, via an agent [Scott Meredith] became the nicely illustrated
lead fictional piece in the November, '57 issue of Argosy magazine, whose
circ then was almost two million or so. This was under my original name of
John R Salter, Jr. [The four hundred bucks, less 10% commission, joined the
GI Bill in continuing to take me along the "higher ed" trail at Arizona
State University.]

But, more to the point, the focus of the story is on a boy who, acting
defiantly in the face of an elder's plea,  presumptuously kills a very rare
lion -- a reddish lion with an extensive cattle-killing history and a high
price on its head -- in order to secure the bounty money to help buy a
pickup.  The  ethos of the story was immediately noted by my father -- not
disapprovingly -- as a signal shift on my part away from my still-heavily
focused youthful interest. And, by that time, having already been a very
explicit Red  since quite early in '55, I was moving forward to Save the
World on a number of other fronts.

I still hunt on occasion for meat.  I don't trap and haven't for decades --
but I'm not an anti-trapper when that involves individuals and societies
whose livelihood is genuinely based on that. I still faithfully sub to the
old trapper's magazine, Fur/Fish/Game. [For two years, late '50s into '60, I
had a wonderful pet coyote that I'd raised from his first day onward and who
eventually, when I was working one summer in the very wild and rugged turf
of Eastern Arizona, left home and got married -- occasionally returning with
his mate to visit.  I'm probably now related to every coyote in that vast
region.  And I've certainly never killed a coyote since I raised him.]

My take on lions is that they virtually never attack humans.  The greatest
recent lion hunter of them all, Benjamin Vernon Lilly, who began hunting in
the Deep South, then Mexico, and spent most of his career in New Mexico and
Arizona, could cite scarcely an instance where such attacks occurred.  But
in the very rare instances of which he was aware,  all were in the South in
settings where human communities had expanded rapidly into lion turf.  He
noted, BTW, that he had never heard a lion scream its traditional cry.  I
have -- twice -- and it sounds very much like a woman.

There's obviously a little of this lion/human confrontation now in the New

>From the post World War II era, the West has seen, of course, a growing
number of instances of extremely rapid urbanization, often involving tens
and tens of thousands of people in very limited geographical areas and in
very short time periods. This extraordinary population explosion --  e.g.,
myriads of suburbs and many in choice scenic settings -- has played hell
with every ecological dimension,  big or small, covert or overt,  and this
certainly includes the culture of the lions.

 It also very much threatens, among other things, the treaty-guaranteed
water supplies and fish and game of many Native American tribal nations.

And, in several instances like, say, mass-expanding Denver/Boulder, there
are a very few -- very, very few -- instances where humans have been
threatened, maybe even jumped by a lion. Given, too, what's happening
demographically on the California coast, I'm sure there've been or will be a
few instances where humans and lions -- and the cats are certainly
aboriginal inhabitants -- directly collide.  Does that mean I would support
even limited hunting of lions?  Without getting into the "animal rights"
thing,  No.

 Pepper spray -- No again --that's too close range.  Guns?  Not unless one
really knows how to use them for self-defense.

How about waving a copy of Ashcroft's Patriot Act in the lion's face?  Now
that -- I'm sure -- could get one a different kind of culinary experience
indeed.  A quite fast moving one, materially -- and definitely a transition,

I guess I don't have much sympathy for urban America's "personal security at
all costs" fetish -- especially when they come out into the wild and
otherwise rural regions. If anyone's worried about lions, travel with almost
any kind of dog.  That should be sufficient deterrent.

Anyway, as I say, we have lions around us up here with frequency -- and in
no sense feel threatened.  Growth here has been much slower -- Pocatello's
whole metro would have to scrape hard to get 65,000 -- and  the Bureau of
Land Management region begins less than a hundred yards from our back door,
soon joined by Caribou National Forest. All of that -- BLM and USFS -- is
public land.  No further building up here will ever occur.

After I posted yesterday, I went once again 'way up to the base habitat of
our lion buddies.  Lots of fresh tracks of lions -- and many mule deer as
well, and at least one moose.  Everybody's gathering for the winter.

And I'm sure the lions, as they have been for eons, are most appreciative of
the contributions of the others.

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

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