Mountain Lion Cubs (Actually Bobcats) on the Burkhart Trail

[After receiving both public and private feedback on this post, I think I actually saw bobcats.  I assumed they were mountain lion cubs because there were warning signs at the trailhead for bears, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions.  I’m going to leave the remainder of this post as originally written because my belief that they were mountain lions impacted my experience and reactions to our encounter.]  

I haven’t been on the Burkhart Trail for well over a decade.  It used to be my “go to” hike which I did numerous times with my brother and many other times with friends and other family.  Last year, when I started hiking again in earnest, I couldn’t hike this trail because it was closed to allow frogs to breed.

Hiking it felt like catching up with an old friend.  My experience was one of instant familiarity combined with the discovery of notable changes. Enjoying my “reunion”, I was hiking slower and more quietly than I normally would stopping often to take pictures or simply pausing a while trying to remember how things were in the past.  While attempting to take a good photo looking up a tree I eventually noticed I was being watched from above.

Mountain lion cubs watching me try to photograph a tree.

Taking my hand off the tree and making about a 90 degree turn around it, I started to look back down.  I then noticed a mountain lion cub looking down on me from its spot on the high point of a rock formation touching the tree I just had my hand on.  It took a few moments for me to process what I was seeing.  We looked at one another and neither of us moved.  Soon I noticed the second cub further down the rock.  Since I still had my camera in my hands, I reflexively and quickly snapped the cropped photo shown above without even looking at the LCD screen as I thought through what I should be doing.

I really did not want to meet their mother who I fortunately never saw.  I knew not to run. From below, I really couldn’t make myself look taller. The cubs were quiet and they didn’t move. Making loud noises and/or banging my trekking poles together to try to scare them didn’t make much sense as it seemed just as likely that would bring their mother.  Still, I was ridiculously close to them and felt precious time slipping away before their mother might arrive.  Our stare down that probably only lasted between one and two minutes felt unending as my mind raced through options.  For all I knew, mom could be right behind me.  I decided to slowly take one step back.  This caused no response from the cubs.  Apparently I need to practice stepping back because my second step back resulted in a trip that landed me on my butt.  Still, no response from the cubs though–phew!  I got up and continued to move back facing the cubs until I was able to turn the corner and no longer be in their view.  I then stared hiking out looking back every few steps to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

16 thoughts on “Mountain Lion Cubs (Actually Bobcats) on the Burkhart Trail

    • I didn’t know how to tell the difference. Since there were warning signs at the trailhead for bears, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions; I just assumed they were lion cubs. Thanks for sharing your opinion. I think you, John, and my brother are correct.

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  1. Hey bro. Great pic. I remember the Burkhart Trail well. I think you were safe from those cats, though, because I think those are bobcats. They look more like big cats than baby lions. Baby lions and tigers are ridiculously cute, too. Check out this pic from another blog :http://laughingsquid.com/bobcat-sitting-on-top-of-40-foot-tall-cactus/. Also Wikipedia has some pics of cubs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobcat. I’ve never seen a bobcat before so I’m impressed. Next time you see those I think you can hang out and take more pictures, er, if you’re SURE they aren’t lion cubs. I think you’re right that the lioness would know all about you long before you happened upon her cubs unintentionally. You wouldn’t want to piss off the bobcat, but, I don’t think it could take you down.

    Be cautious of the mountain lions and rattlers. Oh, and the bears. I’d add skunks to the list, but I’m hoping you get sprayed because that would be hilarious.

    Eric

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    • Thanks Bro, I think you’re right (except in regards to the skunk comment …). There were warning signs posted at the trailhead for bears, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions so I just assumed they were lion cubs.

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