Big Cat

When we moved to California over forty years ago, I was occasionally asked  “you’ve been to Yosemite, haven’t you?”  For most of those forty years, I’d respond with a certain amount of shame and sheepishly say “no, but I plan to go…eventually.”

We did finally go to Yosemite, were duly impressed, and most importantly I could then say to others “you’ve been to Yosemite, haven’t you?”

Now living in Ojai and occasionally being exposed to rubes from the Big City, I’ll be asked “what kinds of animals have you seen in Ojai?”  I’d reply like I was Marlin Perkins, the now gone, long time host of the TV show Zoo Parade.  “We’ve seen bobcats, snakes, foxes, coyotes and even a bear or two.”  Then I’d qualify my otherwise impressive array of critters by saying ” but we haven’t yet seen a mountain lion.”

That changed last night.

Sitting in the living room and watching the News Hour, I was distracted by a brown shape moving across our just watered lawn not more than twenty feet from me.  At first I thought “maybe a bobcat or a large dog.”  The shape stopped and looked straight at me.  It was at that point that I was grateful for the wall of glass that separated me from the mountain lion that had decided to visit our home.

I grabbed my iPhone and took some frantic photos, fully expecting the lion to leave quickly once he (I think it was a he) discovered that there was nothing to eat or tear to shreds.  However, he was in for the long haul as he spread himself on the edge of the lawn and proceeded to lap up the water that the sprinklers had deposited on the concrete walk.

The iPhone images were much too small to appreciate the creature’s dimensions so I ran for my camera with the long lens and spent the next thirty minutes photographing a very cooperative guest…through the glass doors, of course.

I was even able to call Harry on the iPhone, start a Face Time session and video the live images to Livermore.  I felt even more like Marlin Perkins by exposing Harry to a sight that for even him was a first.

I estimate that the majestic animal was about four feet long, head to rump, with another two or three feet of tail.  I was tempted to take the bathroom scale out to him, coax him onto it and thereby get his accurate weight.  But I thought better of it and asked Sweetie if she would do it.  In the end, I had to estimate his weight at well over a hundred pounds.

He was with us for about ninety minutes, trying out various spots on the lawn, rolling about, dozing and seemingly enjoying the luxurious respite from his less comfortable digs.  It was nearly dark when he melted away.

National Geographic has this to say about mountain lions…

Mountain lions require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans. While they do occasionally attack people—usually children or solitary adults—statistics show that, on average, there are only four attacks and one human fatality each year in all of the U.S. and Canada.

Both Sweetie and I feel fortunate and privileged to have seen this wonderful animal.  We’re also glad that we avoided becoming a statistic.

If you want to see more photos of our guest, click here…

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17 Responses to “Big Cat”


  1. 1 art vander August 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Fantastic! I have seen only two in my life, and never in California. Art

  2. 2 Lambert Jon August 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Wow! What a privilege to have such a visitor. Sure has our Red Tail Hawk beat as local fauna./ JON

  3. 3 iseebeautyallaroundbyrobpaine August 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    that is an amazing story! What an animal!

  4. 4 iseebeautyallaroundbyrobpaine August 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    fred I just looked at your gallery of these photos, they are terrific.
    congratulations!

  5. 5 Aryna August 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Amazing and so great that he decided to visit you, a great photographer!
    The pictures are terrific.

  6. 6 Molly August 20, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Wonderful photos. How exciting! I think it”s a she!
    Love, Molly

  7. 7 Maureen C August 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Stunning photos…and a great story to share. Nice to have the glass between you and that beautiful animal….which I think is a female too.

  8. 8 Sharon August 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Am I the only one who is freaked out, scared and doesn’t think I’d be thrilled to see this animal on my lawn?!?!?!?

  9. 9 leila August 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    The picture included is marvelous. I could not connect to your folio ??? Not much on the computer but thanx for sharing. Really beautiful.

  10. 10 Sally August 21, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Magnificent! He or she has our bald eagle and foxes beat by a mile, and we don’t have the photographic evidence of “our” eagle. Such an expressive face — posing for a wonderful photographer. Great post. Thanks!

  11. 11 Karen August 21, 2013 at 8:14 am

    What a privilege to have such a beautiful animal so nearby. And Fred, those photos are fabulous. And and and, how lucky Harry is!

  12. 12 Garden Walk Garden Talk August 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

    It is beautiful. I lived in PA most of my life and had horses. The mountain lion would come a take foals at night. One time on a trail ride two of us encountered it sitting in a tree. Luck for us, our horses sensed it first and got us out of there.

  13. 13 Morey and Nancy August 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

    While we’re seeing the sights in Italy you’re seeing the natural sights of the great land of Ojai. Very cool, from Morey Kevin and Nancy.

  14. 14 anne shrage August 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    marvelous photos!!!!what a treat!

  15. 16 k August 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    What an experience,,My favorite is the one with the valley in the background and the one with his face on the ground..thought it was a baby until I saw the one of his full length.. this has got to be the best of the best guest at your home..hope he comes for another visit.

  16. 17 Jill Kozuki August 26, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Absolutely beautiful – what a wonderful gift!


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