I was reading about the sighting of mountain lions near Copper Hill in Valencia. This has destroyed my whole perspective on wildlife in the SCV. I thought all the cougars were in the various bars and bistros of our fair valley.
OK. Not my best joke. Let’s face it. We do have various forms of wildlife all over our valley. Guess what? They were here first. We have invaded their homes, and now we get scared and angry when they come near our homes to visit.
It is odd for three mountain lions or cougars to travel together. A friend of mine who knows such things says they must have been three young males that have just started out on their own. They are usually solitary animals except for mating.
Solitude is not found in another critter we see in our valley. Lewis and Clark, the famous explorers, thought it was related to the wolf, just a small version. We know it as the coyote.
We see them often around town. Very adaptable. Travel in packs. Ask the folks in the Summit area of Valencia. Or Stevenson Ranch. Or downtown Newhall. They are adaptable to the urban environment and have been spotted in all areas of the lesser valley to the south, named “San Fernando.”
On the fringes of our valley, once in a while, a bear is discovered raiding a trash can or wandering around, looking for food. Local lore tells us a gentleman named LeBeck (aka Lebec) was killed by a grizzly bear at the location of Fort Tejon a few years before it became a fort. He got a town named after himself. He didn’t know it.
Local lore also tells us one of the largest grizzly bears ever killed was shot right here in the SCV. It might not be true, but it was a big bear. Of course, there aren’t any grizzly bears living in the area now. They went north with the Sasquatch as people moved into their home. Must not have like the commute on the 14 or the 5. Maybe they saw the backup on the 405 over Sepulveda Pass one day and left for less crowded environs. Many do.
Some stay. Like our local and native “little black kitties” with the white stripe down the back. They aren’t too social and will let you know it by offering some of the perfume they love. Don’t accept it. If you see one and they start to turn and show you their backside – run away fast. Of course by that point, you’ll be too late. I hear tell that tomato sauce and juice help take the smell off. Never had to try it myself.
Have you ever heard a noise like your trash can is being taken apart? In the morning, you notice the contents have been spread all over your side yard where you so carefully put them so they are hidden from view. Well, that didn’t work. A raccoon or two spotted the can and sent in a raiding party.
Word to the wise: They normally attack the cans at night. If you see them during the day they might be rabid, so stand back and call Animal Control.
Did I mention snakes? We have a whole bunch of kinds of them. Gopher snakes and others that are not dangerous, and the various forms of rattlesnakes that can kill you or at least give you a real nasty bite that will make sure you spend a lot of time in hospital.
Snakebite isn’t pretty. And now in the fall, as the weather gets a little cooler, they don’t see so well and tend to strike more often instead of slithering away like they do in summer. So beware. Snakes and politicians are much the same. Well, they are exactly the same except you know that a rattlesnake is your enemy at first glance. It takes a little while to learn that from a politician.
The rattler was just minding its own business.
We also have rats. And mice. And bats. (Some rabid bats.) Cute little bunny rabbits and deer. There are bobcats and all kinds of birds. If you’ve got a very small dog and it goes out at night, keep a close watch on your yard. Some of the large types of owls like to have such little dogs and kittens as a midnight snack.
We have moved into the homeland they once had to themselves. The environment was fairly balanced, and what few native humans were here, were able to fit in quite well. Along about 1769, that all changed as Mr. Portola and his little band camped in Castaic Junction.
The human population has been growing ever since. We added cows, horses, mules and sheep. There were even pigs and chickens and turkeys. Then we added the railroad and automobiles and motorcycles and aircraft and more people and roads and red light cameras and – guess what? The wild critters adapted. Just like they had been adapting for thousands and thousands of years.
We should be surprised when we spot cougars in the northern reaches of Valencia or Saugus? I’m not. They are checking out the home they always had. Want to make sure the new neighbors are being good stewards of the land.
They won’t stick around. Too crowded. Except for the coyotes and such. Most of the others will leave and try to follow the Sasquatch.
As for the other kind of cougars? I’m far too old to notice any more. They don’t look at me. The wild kind don’t, either. I respect them and give them wide berth. They do the same.
As long as we keep our trash cans tied closed and don’t have ready-to-eat meals for the large cats, they will leave. Sure are pretty to see when we do. Now that I think of it, the human cougars are right pleasin’ to the eyes most times, too.
Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].
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