​Snake Dreams and Lion Dens

I’m an athletic sleeper, half walker, half wrestler.

For sure a sprinter rather than a long-distance runner, I might only sleep for a few hours at a time, but once I hit the twilight zone, I’ve been known to leap out of bed or into action while in the middle of a dream. Fear is a common driver; snakes and villains.

A few times, my nocturnal wanderings and fanaticized acts of valor have proven unsettling to the missus and the family cat.

I dreamt once that bad guys had slipped an anaconda into my house. Not a huge specimen, but thick and maybe twelve feet long. The drama grew as it attempted to climb under our covers from the foot of the bed and snatch my imaginary sleeping baby.

You might have seen a similar lump under your covers if you have ever owned a tabby. When I finally leapt into action grabbing the snake through the covers where I felt it crawling up along side of my leg, my wife suggested to my sleeping alter ego that perhaps I was choking the family feline.

A tad embarrassing, but the victim was never certain which one of us had wrestled with it and by the next morning she seemed no worse for the incident. Buford the cat and I silently agreed that the incident, until now, should go unreported.

Hero in my sleep, but total coward during scary movies or TV shows while awake. As far as I’m concerned, a pillow should be standard issue with the popcorn. After being coerced into attendance as a youth, I’ve avoid all horror films for over a generation.

But in a contrary way, I’m not afraid of caves or the large predators that occasionally hide within.

Tracking mountain lions in a fresh snow is one of the most exciting hunting adventures I offer as a guide. But within a few hours, the trail can become confusing. I light wind or a powdery blanket with little moisture can leave an obscured track that leads to false conclusions sending a hunter down a trail he or she shouldn’t follow.

This last weekend I and another hunter were following the trail of a cat along a canyon rim. Tracks left in the shade and protected by fallen logs appeared fresh while those exposed to the elements became obscured. The trail was leading towards a kill site. A fawn whitetail had been discovered but only partially eaten. We had returned hoping to follow the tracks that appeared most fresh.

It isn’t unusual for scavenging fox and coyotes to follow a lion in hopes of consuming portions of their work. When trailing a big cat, a mix of the smaller animal’s tracks generally can be found along the same path. I had to call this hunt off after discovering that the prints we were trailing began to include those of two young lion cubs.

When distorted by the elements, cub tracks can easily be confused with their similar-sized canine competition.

After contacting a warden to ensure I wasn’t breaking any regulations, I returned the next day with a camera to see if I could find the location of the cave that was acting as a den for the cubs. From the size of the tracks I estimated them at ten to twenty pounds and only a few months old.

Lions this age are left behind while the female goes hunting and gathered up when a fresh kill is to be shared. I love exploring the cave network in hopes of discovering more information about their tenants and there always seems to be calling cards left behind, a bone here, an eagle feather there.

I’ve also followed bear into their winter homes, but as with Goldie Locks, never discovered anyone at home. Caves with a second entrance are very popular and I have followed tracks that left through a backdoor when danger came knocking.

Finding a big cat in its cave is much less disturbing to me than the possibility of shooting a female lion with cubs. Keep a close watch on accompanying prints. Claws mean coyotes, but a rounded pad with no noticeable claw could belong to a young lion. 

Columnist: Bob Speirs

Bob Speirs – owner and operator of Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service in Spearfish, South Dakota has been writing award winning articles, stories and poems that entertain and educate hunters for over 15 years. Known for his outstanding whitetail management and hundreds of satisfied customers, Bob’s unique perspectives and insights help to educate and entertain hunters everywhere!

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