Sunday, April 3, 2011

a biologist's nightmare ... here, kitty, kitty, kitty

Last night Bear, upstairs reading, called down to me: "Are the chickens put up for the night?"

"Yes. At five o'clock."

And then I added, 'cause this was unusual of Bear, "Thanks for double-checking."


"I wondered 'cause I'm hearing some dog noises outside." The window upstairs was open a crack.

Oh, great. Now my biologist/chicken-protector brain was off and running.

Dog noises.

Around here that could mean:
All of which I imagined trying to get into the coop, in the dark, and kill my hens.

Anyhow, assuring myself the coop was secure, I returned to my book.

An hour later, lying in bed in the dark, waiting for sleep, I heard a single, sort of tortured coyote cry. (To hear something close, go here and click on the #11 clip, coyote barks and whines.)

Then, silence.

Like my brain needed ANY more encouragement to explore the carnivore threat possibilities "out there in the dark."*

I did, however, eventually fall asleep, and this dream unfolded:

I was wandering around the back part of our property, pre-dawn, in the dark.

Don't remember why.

Might have been barefoot, definitely unarmed, no flashlight.

Feeling vulnerable and painfully aware of my less-than-powerful build.

Then, I see this:

(photo by Bardrock)

A black jaguar.

She was just on the other side of our the flimsy barbed-wire fence that backs our property, and had three offspring with her.

Of course, my biologist brain translated this to: mother with babies = Especially Dangerous Animal.

She did not look happy with me.

I backed away.

She walked toward me.

While backing away I tried to shout for help. And, of course, nothing above a tiny squeak escaped my lips. An old nightmare standard.

It's a classic for a reason.

However, she only followed me for a short while, so I did eventually get out of there, unharmed. My lucky day.

But, wait, there's more!

Next, while moving eastward, I was crouching low among the shrubs, I looked to my right to see this, mostly just its huge face:

(photo from

Of course, my heart stopped. And my lovely biologist brain KNOWS Bengals eat people. Great.

Fortunately(?), it didn't seemed particularly disturbed by my appearance. I was terrified.

Again, I back slowly away.

Eventually, turning back toward the house, I prayed my back (an "Attack Me Now" sign for many predators) would not suddenly sport a huge-Bengal-tiger-as-toothy-backpack.

Home free, now?

Oh, no, not yet, silly.

Biologists have unusually long lists of potentially lethal creatures they can quite easily conjure up for a dream.

A factually accurate Scary Dream Speed Dial.

No problem.

So, picking my way carefully back to my house, I look to my right, and under the thick, low hanging canopy of a huge oak I see this animal, lying comfortably, watching me:

(photo by US Department of Agriculture)

Yes, a mountain lion. This species is an actual resident of our neighborhood (vs. Bengal tigers and black jaguars).

I stopped.

I stared, frozen.

It gazed mildly, almost benevolently, at me in a way that said:

"I've been watching you this whole time, and you had no idea I was here. What are you doing out here?"

Like Maria Callas in a recording studio when an untalented rank amateur stumbles in and wants to sing along.

Clearly, I was WAY out of my league.

Per usual, at this point, trying not to panic, I again retreated carefully. But, this time, with the house coming into clear view, my self control weakened, and I soon broke into a trot.

This was probably unwise.

However, this time my brain, and its understanding of predator attack triggers (like, say RUNNING AWAY), apparently decided to cut me some slack.

I got safely back to the house which, of course, was not my house and had extra rooms and people, but they all were sleeping, safe, totally unaffected by the crazy danger I'd just been in. Nice. So very helpful.

Anyhow, a hallmark of my scary-dream-encounters-with-predators is silence.

During my entire foray out into the dark, through all of those frightening face-offs, not one cat made a single sound. There is no soundtrack.

Cats are good at that, being silent. It's important to their success.

I thought about this recently when I saw documentary footage of a tiger attacking an ever-so-briefly unaware monkey.

In 4 seconds, the tiger sprang silently from its hiding place, galloped across the space between them, and took that monkey's head INTO HIS MOUTH.


Holy crap.

That freaked me out.

Four seconds. I counted. Y'all know I'm a compulsive counter.

So, I thought about that.

That monkey was unaware of that tiger and had 4 seconds of NO SOUND as a warning that the jaws of death were racing toward him.


So, that may have helped "inspire" that dream, along with the coyote visit.


Kinda extra glad to wake up and get some coffee, this morning.

And stare outside.

And wonder.

One of those cat species DOES live on our property. We get reports from neighbors seeing them in our neighborhood every year. Just got one 2 months ago.

How much you wanna bet this little monkey's been watched and had no clue?

"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty."

Kitty here?


*Sunset Boulevard quote from Norma Desmond.


  1. Yeeeek! That is a seriously terrifying dream--or dream series! I know we humans have pet cats and everything, and I'm not saying I'd feel calm when faced with wolves, but I do think there's something hardwired into our very primate-ness that screams DEATH!! whenever we see large cats.

  2. If Bear puts you up in your little house every night at 5 pm, you should pretty much be safe.

  3. Your post made me laugh out loud as soon as I saw the panther photo. You're a good chicken mama, I imagine...a worrier. I can totally identify.

    One time I was walking Maggie our Corgi, out on the's next to the property line the forest side. I heard rustling AND a mountain lion sound, kind of a scream-cry. I hurried inside to look up mountain lion sounds on the computer to confirm it. Yipes. We heard the cry for a few months every few nights, but haven't heard it since. Freaks you out.

    Have you visited 'the nature of man' blog. This is my favorite post of his so far My husband says he doesn't want to know how many animals we have prowling around.

  4. @ Olivia: I couldn't agree with you more. Yes, I just watched a compilation (thanks to SFG's link to the nature of man blog) of remotely triggered camera shots of wildlife and saw all kinds, including big bears but the MOMENT the mountain lion appeared I GASPED. WOW our primitive brains KNOW that animal = death giver. YOWSA.

    @Cindy: YOU are so cute. =) Yes, with Bear around, I do feel safe.

    @SFG: THANK YOU for that link! TOtally following him now and wondering just how close he is to my house--I'm thinkin' pretty close! AWESOME blog and those pics freaked me out! Amazing.

  5. My nightmares always feature elephants not cats. Way more scary, face to face...

  6. @Lynda: WOW. And YOU would know. Super interesting. I had a friend who worked at the San Diego Zoo with elephants. She said you had to NEVER show any weakness 'cause they could crush you like a grape with no effort what so ever. Can't imagine what elephants could do when truly angry.

    P.S. How tall do you have to be to be "face to face" with an elephant?


Cool people write inside rectangles....