Justen and Megan Gardner have a consuming and abiding love for their four-legged child, Fyodr (pronounced “fee-o-door”). Fyodr has grown from cuddly puppy to an even more cuddly but somewhat intimidating 120 pounds while the three-member family has been together in St. Charles. He sits on command, protectively sniffs strangers at the door, and sprawls on the floor for naps once he has determined newcomers mean no harm.
Sunday evening as Justen prepared to take the garbage from the attached garage on the east side of the house, he observed Fyodr near the tree in the side yard taking care of “business” before the pair returned to the house for the night. He dropped the lid on the heavy trash can then, inexplicably, Fyodr issued a sharp yelp of pain. Justen immediately rushed toward the sound, yelling at his dog to return to the house and at “you” to get out of the yard! Happening simultaneously but in what seemed ultra-slow motion, Justen began the process of identifying the threat. “Bigger than my dog. Not a coyote. Doesn’t run like a dog. Not small like a bobcat. Long body, sleek coat, long tail. What is that?!”
“Mountain lion!” was his astonished conclusion as he watched the big cat’s long-legged, sinuous exit into the darkness. Buttressing Justen’s conclusion, paw prints that fit an overly large cat’s design but did not match Fyodr were sunk in the snow, and other areas were stripped to the dirt where the two animals had dug in or abruptly swiveled during their scuffle. The mountain lion wasn’t fully grown, Justen believes, but probably a cub of one or two years. Following his Facebook post about the attack, Justen has heard rumors a cat has been seen stalking someone or eating sheep.
After giving Fyodr a quick cleanup on Sunday night, Megan took Fyodr to a veterinarian on Monday, expressing her concerns about possible infection. She was relieved when the vet told her the punctures and scrapes on Fyodr’s face were likely the result of the cat’s paw swipe before Justen intervened to frighten it away.
The vet was surprised Fyodr had so few wounds and no damage to his eye, which was ringed with punctures.
Days later as he fondly rubbed his dog’s ears, Justen said, “If it was my dog’s life or the cat’s, I’ll defend my dog.” Previously, Justen had not seen a mountain lion in the area, nor has he ever seen one in his own yard before. He thinks they were lucky it was a juvenile cat. Justen doesn’t believe mountain lions normally come down at this time of year because they have plenty of food higher in the mountains. Neighboring ranchers have commented that they are surprised and a bit disturbed by the intrusion as well. Justen has seen skunks, raccoons and deer, and “everything else.” He is aware coyotes sometimes come into the fields on the west side of St. Charles to grab a quick snack during rough winters.
The Fish and Wildlife representative contacted by the Gardner’s advised if more reports are received about a mountain lion doing damage in the area, the department will go after the animal. Fish and Wildlife does not like to kill the big cats unless they are very aggressive.
The Gardner’s warned this predator doesn’t mind visiting homes in search of food. Even as Fyodr bravely defended his humans Sunday night, others may not have a husky and determined pet who would or could face down a cougar.