Let's get closer. Those of you familiar with this kind of signs will recognize them. The brown one just tells you not to enter this area in order to protect natural features. That area is closed because they're restoring the habitat. So please don't climb over the fence.
The lower is a bit more severe, a warning that shouldn't be taken lightly. Those of you in the West know what I am talking about.
Cougars. Mountain Lions. Pumas.
Around where I live these signs are pretty common. We see them in every state park, every part of wilderness. Mountain lions live here. Sometimes they even come into urban areas. A couple years ago a cougar was seen by the security cameras at my husband's company's work site. One was roaming a golf course (it might have been the same one). A few more years ago a mountain lion was seen in the neighborhood where I live now. As they say - where there are deer there is a cougar. At least here in the West.
Notice that the sign advises to avoid hiking alone. Well, I often hike alone. So far I've never seen a cougar - but I'm pretty sure that the cougar has seen me. More than once, probably. I remember a few years ago, when I was hiking in Annadel State Park on my own I suddenly got this really weird feeling - like someone was watching me. The hairs on my back literally raised! When I saw mountain lion scat on the trail before me I knew that I better had to turn around - which I did, and after a couple hundred yards the weird feeling stopped. I'm pretty sure that a cougar had been close by, and it probably was wise to turn around.
I didn't really want to make the acquaintance of these paws.
Nor of those teeth.
One day I was talking to one of the rangers in the park, asking him how very likely it was to run into a mountain lion. He told me that they are around but usually don't get into the way of humans. I shouldn't tie my shoe under a tree - the cougar might rest up in there (after that I found myself scanning every tree next to the trail). Then he said "Mountain lions are cowards. They usually attack from the back".
Now that put my mind at rest!
These last three photos I took a few years ago in the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson.
Interested in mountain lions?
I have a set of photo cards in my Etsy store.