FROM FOG-CITY…TO…COUGAR-VILLE-BY-THE-BAY…
(…as a mountain lion comes to call)

The streets of San Francisco have long teemed with “wildlife” of the human species (much of it of no great merit), but what many don’t realize is that it also harbors an eclectic assortment of the other kind (mostly with much greater merit) as well, and, which can often be spotted in areas other than just its Golden Gate Park or The Presidio.

For example, we’ve seen birds of prey like eagles and hawks perched on a handy ledge, in full view of some office workers in one of those high-rise office towers that dot the city, nonchalantly waiting for the right moment to swoop down on the multitudes of unsuspecting pigeons cluttering up the plazas and streets below.

Meanwhile, over at the Presidio, others also try to grab a quick snack from the flocks of screeching parakeets flitting from eucalyptus grove to eucalyptus grove, while dodging crows and ravens seemingly bent on protecting those noisy little critters (apparently escapees or abandoned by their former owners). The aerial acrobatics between hawks and those crows and ravens matching anything old early wartime dog fights between opposing flyers displayed, including the Blue Angels of current fame.

On the ground below tribes of mischief-making racoons prowl around scavenging for anything…and everything…bold as brass and completely unconcerned about any nearby human presence, and even quite ready to rumble with any human daring to intervene in their pursuits. There are also a few skunk families making their own rounds of foraging, not to mention the occasional flashy plume-tailed red fox calmly strolling across the lush lawns of the former Generals Row housing areas of the Presidio. Then we have those charming Bambi- legged deer critters here and there among its parks, which are also not shy about happily trespassing into someone’s garden to munch on whatever petunias or daisies might be growing there.

More recently, of course, the ever-adaptable wily coyote has moved in having apparently figured out that city life offers much easier and better pickings than any wilderness might offer (including in-between snacks of house cats and small pet dogs). Meanwhile, on its rocky shorelines, seals loll about, mangy panhandling sea lions clutter up the floating docks at Fishermen’s Wharf, there’s the occasional visiting whale…or we find a stray sea otter stuck in a drainage culvert…or waddling across a traffic-laden street…while trying to find its way back to ocean water.

Yes, indeed, San Francisco has a grand assortment of resident and visiting “wildlife” well beyond anything within the confines of its zoo. But now, the latest addition to that mix seems to be a mountain lion, or cougar, which prowled about the Golden Gate Park for over a week before finally being cornered in the upscale Diamond Heights neighborhood, gently tranquilized, and then decisively given the bum’s rush out of town, by State Game officers who responded to frantic citizens’ calls about it.

It was a fine adult male specimen weighing some eighty pounds or more. The first time in over 100 years that such a large predator cat had been seen within the city. Where it came from or how it got here is unknown, but, since the Santa Cruz mountains to the south are the only nearby semi-wilderness to the city we suspect that’s where it came from, along the natural corridor of connecting parklands which lead up to Golden Gate Park. While mountain lions, cougars, have always been admired for their powerful grace and beauty… they’ve also been much feared because of their extreme ability and wily fiendishness for stalking and ambushing whatever they might view as an appropriate entrée…for dinner…so no one messes with one without having some heavy firepower readily at hand.

Well, if like the coyote, this episode foretells that these big cats may also decide that city life beats anything the wilderness might have to offer…it won’t be long before we’ll see another one coming to call…this time to stay…and if that happens, then they’ll have to change the city’s moniker from…Fog-City…to…Cougar-Ville-by-the Bay.

CENTURION