Here, Kitty Kitty Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry. William Blake Bobcats eat quail like popcorn. And field mice. And squirrels. And rabbits. I've lost goat kids to bobcats, and lambs, and turkeys, and chickens. They're fierce little predators. Not many critters mess with bobcats. I've read that, pound for pound, bobcats are the most ferocious fighters in North America, punching WAY above their weight. Smart dogs don't chase them. They're beautiful too. A number of times at dawn I've seen bobcats up quite close from our kitchen window as they silently hunt among the grasses in the pasture. They're usually so alert and shy to be seen that I'm thinking there must be a reflection off the window glass which prevents them from seeing me. I think of bobcats as "four wheel drive house cats," because they're really not as big as their reputation, but they are jacked up on long, long legs with big, big paws. In the canyon below my house every willow tree has a trunk that shows the slashes and scars from the bobcats reaching up to scratch and sharpen their claws. House cats are fierce too, when they're not being cute, adorable, lazy or spoiled. Was it Victor Hugo who said, "God made the cat to give humankind the pleasure of caressing the tiger?" Have you ever watched house cats play with their prey and felt glad that they aren't as big as tigers? Our cat, Samson, slays gophers and rats, lizards, flies, and mice with abandon, and it seems to be his dream to murder a hummingbird. But he spends lots of time snoozing in the sun or rolling in the catnip. Samson needs his rest and relaxation, because he lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Several weeks ago Maria, who was working in the garden near our packing shed, reported that she saw a "gato montes" chasing Samson out of the canyon and across the field. "Gato Montes" means "bobcat" in Spanish. I wasn't happy to hear this news. Samson got away, but I imagined he was in a panic. Our poor, fierce, vulnerable, house tyger. I spent last Saturday cutting limbs on the willow trees that had fallen onto the deer fence that surrounds the little field below my house. Miguel and Maria stayed behind, lopping the smaller limbs off the branches and loading the trimmings onto the truck which I'd left parked along the fence line. I was in the zinnia garden when I heard Miguel calling up to me. "Maria sees the cat that chased your cat last week," he yelled. "You gotta look at this." He seemed insistent so I walked back down the slope. "There," he said, pointing into the brush just through the fence. I looked, expecting a bobcat. A fully mature mountain lion looked back at us; calm, quiet, and entirely at ease in her perch atop the food chain. "Holy $#*!," I said. "Have you taken a picture? "No," he said. And I didn't have my own cell phone with me. "Well, take one now!" He took a shot. We looked at the picture. The image was blurry compared to the clarity of this cougar a mere 25 feet from us. You can also call these big cats "pumas", like they do in Spanish." The mountain lion, or "Puma concolor" to the scientists, is a feline with many names, but "gato montes" isn't one of them. Maria is no zoologist, apparently, but I see now why she felt that it was important to share with me her observation of Samson being pursued. It's clear to me now as well why Maria seemed puzzled that I wasn't more impressed by here initial report. It IS VERY impressive to encounter a mountain lion at close range. I've seen them a number of times from a distance, and the most impressive thing about them has always been just how fast they moved, how fluidly they melted into the landscape, and how effortlessly they bounded over fences. Miguel took several more pictures. Before he had a shot that entirely satisfied me the big cat got annoyed with us mere paparazzi. She stood up, stretched and turned. With a dismissive flick of her long, long, tail, she faded from view like a Cheshire cat, leaving only her dark eyes to gaze back at me in my mind. "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright" indeed! In the forests of my own back yard! Sometimes reality is closer than you think. Happy Thanksgiving.