We Got Cougars


Quite recently, I had debated the issue of owning and using a gun out here in Cerrillos, in particular because of the prospective threat by mountain lions to our ourselves, pets, and children.

Well, tonight we had a startling incident that made the matter all the more urgent and all-too-close to home at Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms.

Chelsea, myself and our two youngest had debated for some time whether or not we were going back to Reunity Resources to watch and listen to the Balkan Brass Band I was excited about.

Whereas Mama was on the borderline and could side either way, Olivia was gung-ho about the prospect and Milo was “no-no,” stating he just wanted to relax at home this cool summer Friday night. I tried to convince him and myself even, as we all exhausted by 5:30, with a list of five compelling reasons to make the effort and go:

1. It was at the same place where the kids attended permaculture farm camp all week, and so this would be a great opportunity to prospectively meet other likeminded people. We had moved to Cerrillos after all, to farm, as well as learn and apply land conservation practices.

2. Milo and Olivia loved the camp, and so they might see their new friends there.

3. It was a cool and beautiful night and so a great reason to spend it outdoors.

4. Chelsea mentioned over lunch that she was “ready to be a tourist” in Santa Fe, meaning we we’re eager to participate in events and see the sights NM has to offer.

5. Finally, I love Balkan Brass Band music.

I asked for some good reasons to “just stay home,” and all I got was “I don’t want go.” Then I suggested we go back to the park at the Railyard, where they were having a funk band play and where we could picnic and enjoy the salad Olivia Luz had just made.

Alas, a party one still wasn’t buying it and being that we were all pretty tired already, we just took showers, ate dinner and watched the original 1955 version of Lady and the Tramp, as we had promised the kids last week.

As a consolation prize for valiantly trying to sway the family out and about town, Chelsea suggested we go for a “midnight stroll” on our new promenade that we had built…the one leading to the cactus garden and where we heard the cougars.

I both loved and balked at the suggestion a tiny bit. “That sounds great, you and I and the machete.”

When the movie was over and everyone was feeling sleepy, warm and cuddly, as the romance of two dogs falling in love will often do, we put the kids to sleep after they brushed their teeth and got ready for our little hike.

It was a perfect night for it too. That said, I couldn’t just go without allaying my anxiety by suiting up like Indiana Jones or Crocodile Dundee. So, I put on a belt, so I could put on the machete holster; took a walkie-talkie just in case we needed the emergency call function, and also the high powered LED work light.

Admittedly, it felt slightly silly, but I also felt far more safer as well.

Thus, at 10:30 or so, we stepped out the door and onto the path. Albeit the cool night air was perfect for a romantic walk with my wife, I vigilantly tried to stay fully aware of our surroundings, flashing the light behind places where a predator might be lurking, such as in the recess of a Juniper or behind the chicken coop.

About two minutes in and half way along the trail, Chelsea asked half-laughing, “Is that your stomach gurgling?” In response, I asked the same of her, if only because she planted the idea and that very moment both of us thought “Oh shit, that wasn’t gurgling - that was growling,” which was coming from our immediate right.

Laughably, we practically did the opposite of what we had read we are supposed to do in this situation. Albeit, we didn’t run, it was a brisk scurry and turnabout back to the house. I kept telling Chelsea, “ Don’t run, don’t run, it will think we’re defenseless prey.”

What we’re supposed to do is boldly stand your ground and slowly walk backwards, while maintaining eye contact and doing everything you can to seem larger than you are. But being that we could not see our formidable foe, we essentially ran for it, while I flashed the light everywhere and extracted the machete, gripping tight onto it in case I had suddenly swing it.

Luckily, we made it back with no need to use the weapon, but we were both scared into believing we got cougars.

We spent the next hour reading about cougars and trying to figure out our abatement strategy, or at least how to keep them from crossing our property line. I suggested a standard five foot fence, but we learned cougars can jump thirty feet. One guide suggested a 10 foot fence with barbed or electric wire, but we both laughed thinking about what our new neighbors would think about the New Yorkers moving in and making the Hacienda an extension of the state penitentiary up the road.

Ultimately, we settled on the passive flashing red lights as a deterrent which we immediately bought on Amazon, and are now seriously considering a gun with rubber bullets as Adam had astutely suggested.

Funny, how literally a second of sound from a presumed invisible enemy can spur you into life-preserving action.