On Jan. 17, The Orange County Register published a letter from Huntington Beach resident Larry Pugh, who accused Mark Reynolds and Anne Hjelle, victims of the recent mountain lion attacks in Whiting Ranch, of having no respect for wild animals. "It was not the lion's fault it was looking for food," Pugh concluded, "the fault is Reynolds' and wilderness region bikers. It is easy to accuse a wild cougar that was hunting for food."
Although Pugh contends mountain bikers are at fault for increased encounters with lions, Reynolds was in fact the first mountain biker killed in California, and before his death, only one other biker had ever been attacked in the state—in 1995 in the Angeles National Forest. And while Pugh is right that the animal is not at fault, his assertion that it is "easy to accuse a wild cougar" is simply wrong. Even the most mild form of complaint—say, the lion ate your last Twinkie or roommate—would be difficult to deliver given the cat's aptitude for stealth. Even if the puma did present itself, it's questionable whether it would do so long enough to "hear you out" given that it prefers ambushing its prey from behind, which is why it has come to be known, along with Linda Tripp, as "Nature's Backstabber." With a 110-pound male lion on one's back, its powerful jaws driving fatal teeth into the base of one's skull, thoughts of perceived cougar slights would no doubt be replaced by the very real and sudden lack of oxygen to one's brain and the soon-to-be-harvesting of one's organs. Ironically, you'd be well within your rights to accuse the cat of being a big pain in your neck, but you'd be in no position to tell him.