How Not to Get Eaten by a Mountain Lion

A Note From Fatty: Today’s guest post is by Alex, the VP of Sales at the company where I work. He’s also a fast cyclist — the kind who wins races and stuff — and has the kind of sense of humor that lets him include slides like this in the middle of his presentations to the entire company.

What didn’t click for me — until just recently — is that he may well have been separated at birth from Bill Nye the Science Guy (same height, same build, same friendly enthusiasm, same rapidfire delivery). Alex’s Blog — Watching the World Wake Up — is definitely a cyclist’s blog, but it’s full of all kinds of interesting science. He’s made genuine botanical discoveries while riding. He knows all the plants and animals in the area, and interesting stuff about them. And even if you don’t care about those things, you’ll still like his blog: Alex (like his estranged twin Bill Nye) keeps it light fun. I just added his blog to my blogroll. You should go check it out.

I’m not a big worrier, but like most everybody, there are several things that I really hope don’t happen to me. Some of these things are losing my job, or my kids getting kicked out of school, or my wife running away with my next-door neighbor. (Not that I would really blame her; he really is better-looking and much nicer than me.)

But right at the top of my list is this: I really don’t want to get killed and eaten by a wild animal. And the reason I think about this is from time to time I either see a mountain lion, or recent evidence of a mountain lion, while biking.

alex-1.jpgTuesday morning for example, about ½ way up Dry Creek, I saw this- picked over carcass, little left of this deer except for spine and rib cage, which is classic cougar-kill. I think about mountain lions because they’re most active at dawn and dusk, and at this time of year more than ½ of my biking is at dawn, before work. When I go out, 3 or 4 times a week at dawn, I’m always the first guy on the trail. Sometimes I see another biker or a trail-runner on the way home, but I never see anybody on the way out, and oftentimes I don’t see anyone else for the whole ride.

Over the past 20 years, there have been more and more human-cougar encounters across the West, and several of these have been fatal (initially for the human, usually later for the cat as well.) In 2004 a mountain biker was apparently killed and partially eaten in California. And so here’s the uncomfortable reality I’m facing: as quite possibly the most consistent, frequent dawn-mountain-biker on the Wasatch Front, if a mountain biker’s going to be killed and eaten in Utah, it’s probably going to be me.

So here’s what I’m doing about it.

alex-2.jpgAlthough cougar attacks on people are still (thankfully) pretty rare, there’s a place in the world where big cats kill and eat people pretty much every other week. In the Sundarban Islands in India, about two dozen people get killed and eaten by tigers every year. Over the past few decades the local villagers have tried lots of tricks to dissuade tigers from attacking them, but probably the most effective has been this: they wear masks on the backs of their heads. Tigers, like most cats, always prefer to attack their prey from behind. Villagers who wear the masks when out and about in the jungle get attacked way less often than those who don’t.

Now I’m no feline-ologist, but a cat’s a cat, and since I don’t have any better ideas it occurred to me to try a similar approach here in Utah with mountain lions. There is however, a limit to the level of both discomfort and bad fashion I am willing to endure in the name of safety, so wearing a Dick Nixon mask on the back of my head for example, is right out. But I do have some spare real-estate on the back of my helmet, and here’s what I’ve done with it:

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So far I can report 100% effectiveness with this prevention method; I have ridden once with the eyes on the back of my helmet, and been attacked zero times. Now since Fatty’s blog is all about service and sharing, I figure the least I could do is to provide his loyal readers with similar protection. So just print out the eyes below, cut them out and secure to the rear of your helmet with clear tape.

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Of course, not all of you are brown-eyed, and so I have included a blue pair for your convenience, should you prefer.

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And also a green pair.

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And lastly, for you stoners out there, a bloodshot pair.

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Now, It may have occurred to the astute reader that a big, wily cat — like a tiger of mountain lion — might eventually get hip to the mask trick. And sadly, this indeed appears to be the case; over a period of several years, the efficacy of the masks in the Sundarbans diminished. But since the rate of big cat-attacks in the Western US is about 1% of that in India, I figure this one shtick should last me until I’m too creaky to get up and ride at dawn anymore.

And the next generation can come up with their own dumb gimmick.

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