A recent visitor to the Springs sent this awesome candid photo of two cougars just off the Scotsman Trail in Garden of the Gods.
Steffani GreenLeaf of Detroit had only been in town a few days when she took a hike in Garden of the Gods on Aug. 27. She was walking alone at 7:30 a.m. along the Scotsman Trail, heading toward the center of the park, when she glanced up and saw the mountain lions staring at her from about 8 or 9 yards away.
Steffani: "It was my first direct encounter with dangerous wild animals without a fence or the safety of my car to reassure me. Their look expressed curiosity, but I also had the distinct sense that they were contemplating whether or not I'd be ready prey. Even though I had a fear of dying at that moment, I had a belief that God would protect me and I thought, 'This is my opportunity of a lifetime to take a photo of a rarely seen animal.'"
She raised her camera, focused, and took a couple of shots, the cougars still staring at her.
Fortunately, Steffani wrote, she had read a few months prior that she should never turn her back on a mountain lion nor run away.
She didn't have rocks to throw, nor a jacket to raise over her head, so she raised her arms, hands bared like claws, and "started growling softly to see their reaction."
When the cats didn't flinch, Steffani growled louder. After about a minute, the cougar on the left started to crouch down as if intimidated and slowly crept away toward the mountains and the other one followed closely behind.
Folks at the Visitor Center said the mountain lions likely are siblings, about 2 years old.
Steffani: "They looked well fed. I believe that had I met an older starving cougar I would have been in much more danger."
"My hope is that I never see another cougar except from my car, in a zoo or perhaps off in the distance chasing a deer. But I would like to see a fox or a wolf sometime.
"The next time I'm in Colorado I think I'll hike with a large stick and some rocks in my pockets. Oh, and I should bring my husband along."
This is Steffani's zoom shot of the mountain lions:
This is Steffani's husband standing at the spot where the mountain lions emerged from the brush. If you're a regular hiker in the area, you'll recognize it.
This is a photo of Steffani re-enacting her attempt to scare the mountain lions away. She writes: It could "help dramatize the story (or give a laugh)."