Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Cowboy, a border terrier, was romping by the fields of Starwood with his young masters, David and Charlie, ages 3 and 4. Suddenly – whomp – Cowboy’s head was in the jaws of a coyote, and he was being dragged into the tall grasses. Mother Gunilla screamed for daddy Mark, who came running with a shotgun and fired, causing the poacher to drop its prey just before the kill.

Badly mangled, Cowboy lived to tell the tale.

Paul Andersen’s wife, Lu, took their elderly beagle-mix, Heidi, on a woods-walk behind their home in the Seven Castles area of Basalt. On the way back, Heidi was jumped by a mountain lion, her cries bringing Lu on the run in the role of she-bear protecting her cub. Lu clashed her walking sticks together overhead while hollering and rushing the mountain lion, scaring the cat, which let go its hold on Heidi.

Badly mangled, Heidi lived to tell the tale.

Vinnie, a feline resident of the Lincoln-log condos at the conflux of Gibson and Park Avenue, went outside at 5:30 in the morning to check on the dawn. Luckily, his owner was up and about and, hearing Vinnie’s screams, ran out to find Vinnie being carried away, his head in the mouth of a coyote. She yelled; the coyote dropped the cat.

Badly mangled, Vinnie lived to tell the tale.

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There’s a moral here somewhere, but damned if I know what it is. Of course there’s the obvious solution – that if we kept our pets inside, they wouldn’t get eaten – but don’t dogs and cats have the right to step into their own yard without fear of dismemberment? And there’s the argument that the wildlife was here first and that it’s we who have to adapt, but it is only recently that the wilds have grown so bold.

Meanwhile, it’s accepted fact that if dogs chase sheep or other ranch animals, they may be justifiably shot by the ranchers. Predators are guilty; prey are innocent – that’s been the law of our societal jungle. Have we gotten too lax in enforcing it?

Another generally accepted fact is that coyotes and mountain lions are sometimes heard but very seldom seen. In all my years here, I’ve never seen a coyote, but now if they’re coming into our backyards and killing our pets – grabbing them by the heads and dragging them off for the kill – I feel less tolerant and bucolic than I used to about our local wildlife.

My dachshund Freddie and his buddy Huckleberry no doubt asked for it when they got a snootful of porcupine quills the other day, but Freddie still bears the scars of a nasty encounter with a raccoon invader right in my backyard.

One lesson to be learned here is that if you hear your pet screaming, don’t hide under the covers thinking it’s too late to do anything. Cowboy, Heidi and Vinnie were saved because their owners took action. You can scare off a predator. Keep a baseball bat next to your door. Bring an ear-splitting whistle on your walks. I have an enormous flashlight, purchased after Freddie’s raccoon attack, the idea being that it could be used both to illuminate the conflict and to bash the attacker.

I have some mace, bought from Ralph Jackson back in the ’70s. It might have exceeded its shelf life, but it gives me confidence, and confidence (and adrenaline) is what you need most in life-or-death situations.

If it’s going to be a predator or Freddie, call me a NIMBY.

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