Answering a call from a couple being stalked by an emaciated cougar, an experienced wildlife instructor found himself in a life and death struggle outside the couple’s home as the cougar attacked.
During the attack, the wildlife instructor was able to kill the cougar with a knife. “A necropsy revealed a piece of running shoe wedged in the opening of the cougar’s stomach,” reports Mary Roach in her book Fuzz, “blocking it and starving the animal.”
Over the years, Chuck and I have occasionally enjoyed boondocking in our campers –that is settling our camper down in the forest or BLM land or anywhere where we won’t disturb anyone or be disturbed by anyone. These spots are not official campgrounds, and they don’t cost a thing. Of course, there are no amenities, but we are fairly self-sufficient.
Recently, we headed to one of these areas in our camper and drove up a small hill to a secluded location to spend a couple nights. On previous occasions in various sites, we might encounter a beer can or two and perhaps some shell casings and/or tissues, but on this occasion, we found ourselves surrounded by trash on all sides.
Picking Up Tras
For 20 minutes after parking, I picked up enough trash to jam-pack two Walmart bags, and I could have filled even more. Tissues, cardboard, shoe soles, bottles, plastic cups, straws, broken glass, zip ties, pieces of stuff I couldn’t identify, and much more littered the area, not to mention a huge pile of dirty clothes under a mesquite tree and a firepit loaded with cardboard boxes ready to burn.
We shouldn’t have been surprised by all this trash because as we left the highway and drove down the dirt two-track, we noticed trash everywhere, like part of the landscape. “It would take a team a whole day to pick up all this stuff,” Chuck commented.
This area is conveniently close to town and is not far from the highway, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised at the amount of debris scattered across the desert landscape. But is that an excuse for careless (or uncaring) behavior on the part of those who visit? Since the pandemic, more people have escaped into nature, and the result seems to have been overused, trashed, and abused natural resources.
We cleaned up what we could around our campsite, but declined to pick up used toilet paper and filthy clothing. We lit the cardboard pile in the firepit to rid of that trash. And, of course, we packed out our own trash.
Effects on Wildlife and Natural Resources
Then we left after a couple days, wondering not only about the ecology and esthetics of this land, but also what impact the huge load of trash left behind would have on wildlife. The starving cougar who had ingested a piece of running shoe is likely one of many animals harmed or killed by garbage that should have returned home with those who use (not merely visit) natural areas.