Mountain lion attacks child in Sandias
On May 19, the U.S. Forest Service closed the Balsam Glade
Nature Trail and campground in the Sandia Mountains while
Department of Game and Fish officers continued to investigate
the May 17 apparent attack of a five-year-old boy by a mountain
The attack occurred at approximately 7:30 p.m. on a hiking
trail. An animal grabbed the young hiker by the head and carried
him off the trail into the forest. The child’s father
followed the animal into the brush, jumped on it and the animal
dropped the child and ran away.
The young hiker was airlifted to UNM hospital, where he remained
in satisfactory condition Monday morning. The boy and his
father identified the animal as a mountain lion from pictures
shown to them by the investigating officer.
On the following day, Department officers and wildlife biologists
searched the area for evidence that would identify the animal
involved in the attack. Tracking dogs specifically trained
to find mountain lions were unable to find a scent Sunday,
despite near ideal tracking conditions. Animals known to use
the area include mountain lions, bobcats, bears, coyotes,
and feral dogs.
Attacks by bears and cougars on humans are extremely rare
in New Mexico, but have resulted in deaths. A mountain lion
attacked and killed an eight-year-old boy in 1974 in Española.
An elderly woman was killed and partially eaten by a black
bear in August of 2001.
Department of Game and Fish officials later set snares after
they found cougar tracks and droppings in the area. They said
that the animal would be euthanized if officials determine
that they have trapped the same animal that attacked the boy.
Earlier in May, a mountain lion killed a poodle in Las Cruces.
Officers set a trap for the lion, but abandoned the trapping
efforts when no trace of the lion was found several days after
the attack. The Department of Game and Fish urges any individual
attacked by a bear or lion to fight back, using any available
objects. Victims are encouraged to strike back by hitting
the animal in the nose or eyes.
For more information about mountain lions and living around
large predators, as well as how to behave when encountering
wild animals, visit the Department of Game and Fish website
At thirteen years and one hundred pounds,
Leopold the dog still enjoys exploring the Sandstone Bluffs
south of Grants.
Forester’s log: Leopold retires from forestry career
He has been a constant companion. For the last five years,
he has lain under my desk at the Tribal Forestry Field Office
or been in the woods on field days. Before we worked for the
tribe in Arizona, he accompanied me each summer visiting forest
ecosystems across the Southwest. He was always a hit at environmental
education workshops for school children. He’s been the
best partner a forester could have. His name is “Leopold.”
Leopold the dog, named for Aldo Leopold, the forester and
author of Sand County Almanac. This book and other
Leopold writings help mold much of the ethical and ecological
underpinnings of forestry and related professions. At the
mellow age of thirteen, my hundred-pound mutt has officially
announced his retirement from a long career of forestry assistance.
I am grateful he has made this decision, as my new job is
located in a state building in Santa Fe, where dogs are not
necessarily daily companions. Otherwise, I might have had
to develop a disability that required dog assistance. Leopold,
though, is the one developing disabilities.
A few weeks ago when we did the pack test to insure we were
ready to fight fires for the season, he tagged along for the
first mile but rode in the back of the test administrator’s
truck for the next two miles. He stood, though, barking his
encouragement as we struggled with our forty-five-pound loads
to demonstrate that we could move the required three miles
in less than forty-five minutes.
A mile is a good distance for Leo, and even with retirement,
he and I sally forth from our woodland home daily to give
the old bones a workout. We used to run for miles and miles.
It was on one of those runs that Leopold found the injured
coyote. The animal was alive, but could not move his rear
end. I would have raced right past his hiding space by the
trail if Leopold had not pointed him out. With the help of
a neighboring veterinarian, we transported the coyote to the
Rio Grande Zoo vet clinic. For weeks, the zoo vets tried to
help the poor animal, but finally determined he would not
survive the paralysis.
Leopold always makes me more aware in the woods. I imagine
that if I could have gone to the woods with the famous ecologist,
I would have been shown many things I would miss if alone.
Since Aldo Leopold died in 1948, and I was not born until
eleven years later, I would have to suffice with reading his
writings and exploring the woods with his namesake. Since
then, the dog has introduced me to hidden fawns, mountain
lion-killed carcasses, bear scat, and innumerable evidence
of animal death in the forest environment. As a forester,
I might have otherwise been content to stay focused on trees
Aldo Leopold never let his attention remain tree-focused.
Although one of the early foresters, he is dubbed the father
of modern wildlife management. Leopold was also a leader in
wilderness establishment, and crafted the basis of land ethics.
In 1924, he was writing about the importance of keeping fire
in ponderosa pine forests.
We have moved home, to the yard that Leopold grew up in.
He seems content to spend his days curled under a juniper
tree, rather than under my desk. Neither of us misses the
daily struggle to get his hundred-pound, arthritis-ridden
torso into the back of my Subaru Forester. Although I miss
the familiar breathing beneath my desk, I am grateful to find
a faithful mutt waiting at the end of the day to take a walk
and see what lessons wait for us.