By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
God's first blunder: man didn't find the animals amusing—he dominated them.
Friedrich Nietzsche: A while back, my friend and I were on a trail, and a baby coyote ran by us and into the bushes. My friend went into the bushes and pulled it out by its neck, so it was submissive. We petted the coyote. My friend got nipped on the hand. Then we put the coyote down, and it took off like a rocket. I always thought a mountain lion scar on my arm would be the coolest thing to brag about. It was kind of a quasi joke between the guys I cut trails with because the lion is a ghost cat—you usually don't get to see it, except at night. The first person that would get a scar would be the winner. But since the cat killed the mountain biker, it's not funny anymore.
"Animal chaser" Tom Sherman, San Clemente, operating engineer: We will never know why the lion attacked. There has been more mountain lion activity around here than normal. The same evening, another cat was hit and killed by a car just north of Whiting Ranch. Another lion was killed in Trabuco Canyon on Jan. 27 by a property owner who was given a permit to shoot and kill a cougar suspected of killing a sheep. The problem with the mountain lions is we do not have a good population estimate here in California. California is not a rural state anymore. We don't have as many hunters as in the 20th century. People hunt and fish less, and we aren't as educated about animals. People in general do not show a healthy respect for wildlife. I attribute it to ignorance or arrogance—a little of both. When I worked in Yosemite, people would try to get near the bucks during mating season, when they are very dangerous. Sometimes they would try to put the whole family near a deer or elk, or try to get really close to the animal for a photo. A story passed on to me from a Yellowstone ranger was about a parent putting chocolate sauce on their kid's face to try to get a bear to lick the face for a photo. Another person tried to get a bear into his vehicle to get a picture of a bear trying to drive the car.
Steve Edinger, Portola Hills, assistant chief of the California Department of Fish and Game in San Diego: Before my wife and I boarded a bird-watching boat in Botswana, we had been warned about the dangers of encountering hippos. The animal kills more humans than any other animal, not because they are hungry, but because you are a threat. We were told that if we saw them or got into a compromising position, to get the heck out of the area. I didn't really think about it too much until I began to notice bubbles coming up from the water around the boat. Since the boat's captain didn't notice, I assumed it was a scuba diver, until a big old head that could fit your body in it, with teeth as big as your forearm, came out of the water. I said, "Holy shit!" I remember thinking if his head hit the boat, it would be over for all of us. About that time, the driver noticed the hippo. His eyes got as big as saucers, and he turned the boat the other way and gunned it north. I have no doubt that if we had been two feet closer, we would have been in the water and killed by the hippo. I remember being too scared to cry. It's about as scared as I've ever been with an animal because it happened so quickly, like a car accident.
Hal Pope, Aliso Viejo, engineer: As a helicopter pilot in the first Iraq war, patrolling the Gulf's sparkling waters revealed an amazing profusion of wildlife. Flying just above the surface, we routinely spotted large pods of dolphins playing below, performing aerial acrobatics that would shame their Sea World counterparts. There were turtles, fish and a stunning variety of birds. And, of course, there were sea snakes and sharks. Lots of them—hundreds of sea snakes at a time, floating by our ship in roiling tangles. The sharks were easy to spot as they gracefully prowled the shallows of the many small islands, scores of dark, sinuous shapes in a field of turquoise. It was easy to see this place as the cradle of all life. Fascinated by the animal life, I was also, somewhere deep in my reptilian brain, afraid an aircraft mishap might force us to ditch out there in the water. I imagined awaiting rescue with only the snakes and sharks to keep us company. I didn't have to worry for long, though. Several days after the opening salvo of the Allied bombing campaign, Saddam's minions dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, creating a giant slick that moved inexorably southward. Soon, there was nothing in our area of operation but a sea of black.