Human Remains

Readers with more vivid imaginations may want to skip this post, but it’s kind of a necessary bookend to my previous post on the risks of White Sands. In re-checking some of the links in that piece, I turned up a recent Park Service release on a body found out near 49 Palms in Joshua Tree National Monument. Identity unknown, and I wondered whether the deceased might be the woman who disappeared out in Mohave Nat’l Preserve last summer. More likely the dead person will prove to be a 51-year-old hiker who disappeared in that area in July of 2018. But I was interested to note the Joshua Tree remains were discovered in steep, rocky terrain well away from the nearest hiking trail by an un-named “cooperating agency” examining aerial photos taken this past summer. Curious to know more about that mysterious agency and why it would be conducting a detailed aerial survey of the desert back country, I tried a web search for “human remains” and instead turned up a couple of equally interesting stories on an unrelated subject.

Most recent of these is that of the three mountain lions recently put down by Arizona Game and Fish rangers who caught the cats dining on a recently deceased human about 50 yards off a popular Tucson hiking trail. The rangers don’t believe the lions killed the dead person, but it’s somehow more disturbing they were feeding on the body, since mountain lions are predators, not scavengers. More ominous, the cats “repeatedly showed no fear” in the presence of the officers.

Lions, oh my!

This is not a wildlife site, but since I have been adding posts about coyotes, it’s only fair to add this one on cougars. Just outside the womb of urbanization the world is a dangerous place, a truism unrecognized by too many young people today.

El Tigre

A trail camera somewhere in the Huachita Mountains of SE Arizona recently captured a candid selfie of a jaguar. Though not uncommon in the Amazon Basin of South America and still clinging precariously to a niche in the Sierra Madre, there are no known breeding populations of the big cats north of the border.  The one snapped in the Huachitas is apparently a mature male, which roam further from home than the females, and almost certainly a visitor from Mexico. The largest felines in the Americas and close relatives of tigers and lions, mature jaguars can weigh more than 200 pounds and measure six feet from nose to the base of the tail. They’re “stalk and ambush” predators with powerful jaws who have been known to take down an 800-lb. bull and drag it away.  Beautiful animals, but not one you would want to meet on a hiking trail at night.