So enough about the cuddly new cougars born in the Santa Monica Mountains, whose photos have made the world smile and warmed its ecological heart. I do not share any enduring sweetness of the moment because I know that these precious little darlings with big eyes and piquant ways will someday become big and strong and eat your dog.
I quite obviously do not join those who consider these predatory beasts as symbols of an environmental movement meant to honor all living things. By seeing lions as, well, "pets," animal lovers have crossed the line from loving wild life to a disturbing penchant for letting the man-eaters run loose to feed on our stupidities. To the cougar---its other name---we are not saviors but T-bone ecologists, bone-in liberals, hamburger housewives and leg of man. We are, alas, easy dinners.
Whenever I see humans trying to interact with predatory animals, I think of Timothy Treadwell, the Malibu bartender who came up with the publicity-gold gimmick of saving grizzly bears, possibly the most fearsome creature on Earth, whose taste and temperament are not dissimilar from those of the great white shark or the Bengal tiger, both of whom are known to feed on humans with neither remorse nor pity.
Treadwell, by the way, and his girl friend Amie Huguenard were killed and partially eaten by a bear he thought he had befriended.
It Is said that only seven cougars live in the Santa Monica Mountains, but that number is bound to grow as we protect them from hunters and other killers, tend to their medical needs and encourage them like devout Catholics to have as many babies as they desire. They have a right to our mountain trails, our back yards and our edible pets, cougar defenders tell us, because they were here first. I may be second or even third behind the Chumash Indians, but I'm the one paying the mortgage.
OK, I know there have been only 16 cougar attacks in California since 1890, but their population is growing and so is the number of hikers and bikers who use mountain lion country for recreation. You may not be a deer, but you'll do until one comes along. So will your dogs, cats, pet rabbit, goats and chickens as side dishes to a dazzling selection of entrees.
We live in Topanga in the heart of Cougar Country, and they have been seen on the streets after sundown. We have grandchildren and I'm wondering what to do if a lion follows a deer, of which they are plentiful, into my yard on the edge of Topanga State Park. I may revert to my old Marine Corps days and react with force to that which threatens us.
I promise you, I will be no cougar's meatball sandwich, and certainly not its chili con Martinez.