edited by Marc Bekoff and Cara Blessley Lowe
This is a collection of short stories and essays about cougars (aka puma or mountain lion). Some of them are firsthand accounts- brief sightings, face-to-face encounters on trails, one guy watched a cougar cross a tennis court and then dart through a street, another once found a young puma hiding under his cabin. Other chapters in the book are by biologists or conservationists: reports of studies on cougar population dynmaics, detailed description of the habitat cougars like to use- a variety of these: dessert, mountainsides, rocky canyon. One quite different essay describes a drying-up riverbed, a boy who rescues a fish stranded in a pool, and at the very end evokes the presence of cougar. There are nineteen authors total, plus Jane Goodall wrote the foreword. I have to admit a few of these – especially the scientific ones- were a bit dry for my taste, and I skimmed a lot- thus the rating below. Others went the other direction: writing about cougars and spirituality. In one case this was an explanation of some Navajo beliefs, which I found interesting. In another, it was a woman gushing about what a glimpse of the big cat meant for her soul- the connection and inspiration she got from it- a bit much, for me. Even further out there, but curious in its own way, was an author who wrote about several dreams he had with cougars present in them- then deconstructed what the dreams meant. Very intriguing. Barry Lopez and Ted Kerasote are among the writers featured here. My favorite essay was one of a personal encounter: \”Lion Story\” by Rick Bass- about running into a cougar on a walk with his dog. Vivid. Overall the impression is of the secretive, powerful cat itself: elusive, silent, with its gliding motion and long, floating tail. The few people who report having seen a wild one up close were mesmerized, no doubt. Magnificent animal. End of the book has a listing of people reported killed by cougars over the last century (very few, compared to deaths caused by dog attacks, and minuscule compared to the number of casualties caused by car accidents!) and then some notes on how to live safely in cougar country, and what to do if you encounter one. There are references for further reading, as well.
This book perhaps doesn\’t deserve the number I gave it. I\’m tired, there are other reasons I lacked focus, having nothing to do with the authors\’ various styles or the angle of their writings. Borrowed this one from the public library.
Rating: 2/5 200 pages, 2007