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R ions in the Streets eg Saner Traversing our front yard, a mountain lion. Across the street, three toddlers, playing. Events not simultaneous, but with little enough distance between. In quest of its next hot meal, that prowling Felis concolor did so by night, the Carrigan tots safely abed. Next morning by the clear light of a January sky I found its moves easily legible in three inches of new snow and set off to see where they led. From our place the big cat had, leapt up onto a low terrace and padded westward to the Wurmans'. Briefly nosing among swings and kiddie-colors of the playset in their yard, it had then veered due north and downhill for about a quartermile , passing through several other unfenced yards till blown snow filled all traces and I lost track of it. Yet I'd a hunch where it might have been heading. Till recently, all our neighbors were grownups. Then the Carrigan, Wurman, and Quereau offspring moved in to rejuvenate us. Oh, I know. Charm is only one of a preschooler's vocal effects. From my across-the-way perspective, however, squabbles and piercing shrieks of toddler anguish are a mother's cue, not mine. Freed by the span of blacktop between us, I find the lilt of little children at play wonderfully listenable. I say more. To my ear, no other music comes close to the spoken melody of small children overheard. On lions in the streets, I'm mindful of what might befall, but conflicted. As a forest-worshiping, clean-camping, soft-walking, savethe -salmon type, I hold that homeowners encroaching on lion habitat have asked for whatever they get. That was before the big cats started cruising our neighborhood. Once youngsters showed up, I got what I hadn't asked for: perplexity. Houses like ours sit at a human/wildlife interface which the Denver Museum of Nature and Science illustrates with an exhibit titled "Edge of the Wild." It's where buffalo don't roam but night coyotes do, Reg Saner yipping and caterwauling all too often about fifty yards from our bedroom window, and where a mountain lion's main prey, deer, browse in abundance. Well, choices do have consequences, 3:00 a.m. coyotes included, though when we chose our spot those deer were much warier of humans. Lion sightings were, therefore, few and far between, since they and deer are separate halves of one circle. Historically, it has been very much in the Euro-American grain to kill or displace every last, least thing getting in the way of our gun sights and "growth." Less than two generations ago our Western "ethic" on big cats, bobcats, bears, and wolves amounted to slaughter more befitting Attila and his Huns than a so-called civilization. Absolved by our birth dates, we who came later remain righteously appalled at that trigger-happy past. Back then, the imagined West was a horse, a herd, and a handgun. To many Easterners it still is. However, even we seminatives of Colorado prefer ranches with wildlife on the side to mall miles and urban sprawl. The "growth" routine is familiar. First, ecological lip service. Then the word "compromise ." Then the word "regrettably." Then bulldozers. But my wife and I got here from there. A bulldozer did the excavating for our house, whereas we prefer seeing ourselves as part of the solution. Are time and ignorance any excuse? When forty years ago Anne and I moved close as we could to open space no one foresaw our increasingly compromised boundary between large carnivores and humans—to say nothing of mule deer using our lawns and landscaping as second homes. Back then, a rancher's cattle did the browsing on our mesa slopes, not deer. Table Mesa Drive was gravel, not blacktop, with actual cowboys on horseback looking for the occasional loose steer or heifer. Then the rancher sold out and Odocoileus hemionus, our mule deer, moved in, with mountain lions right behind. In Shakespeare's day, any topsy-turvy turn of events blurred lines fixed by nature, such as the line between the orderly life of towns and the lawless wild. Thus...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-2651
Print ISSN
1553-1775
Pages
pp. 2-14
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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