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BEWARE!!! (A True Story)

BEWARE!! The following happened to us in the early morning hours of Thursday, August 8th 2019. I share this true story with you all in hopes of educating and informing everyone who reads it. It occurred on our place in Sweet Grass county in Montana. We purchased this land from Shane’s grandparents, Corky & Clarice Hedrick in June 2016. We make our living based in South Dakota, but we also have ranching interests up here.

We are fifth generation cattle ranchers and half-draft horse breeders. Our once per year paycheck comes in the fall when we sell our calves and weaned colts. Any loss we go through during the year hurts our bottom line. We always have the welfare of our livestock in the front of our mind and we do the best job we can to ensure they are well cared for, safe, and healthy.

With that being said, we encountered something up here last night that hasn’t been seen in the 80 some odd years that Shane’s family has been on this place. I’ll walk you through what happened as I recall it best.

We have been rebuilding corrals up here since Monday, August 5th. We come up as often as we can to check on things and visit. The last few times I’ve noticed our dogs acting differently. They almost acted like we were going to leave them here. Our oldest girl, Pearl, would reluctantly leave our pickup when called. She seemed almost uneasy. Looking back I should have taken the signs she was throwing out as more than I did. Hawk, our youngest dog, isn’t mature yet so I didn’t look at him as much. However, looking back he was acting quite timid and worried also.

Back in July when we were here, I noticed my favorite little mare out in the pasture with a deep, gashed wound on her back. I took pictures of it and figured it was perhaps something to do with breeding season. Our mares aren’t pets so I wasn’t worried about them being stand offish a bit. They didn’t seem scared of me so I left it alone.

Fast forward to this time. I love to walk for miles out in our pastures with our mares and foals taking pictures. The studs are turned out with the mares now so I’m always on the lookout and paying attention. I also always wear boots. We live in rattlesnake country so I’m also alert to that danger as well. Yesterday, Stone wanted to go with me to pet the babies and see the girls. They weren’t in on water as was the usual that time of day (early afternoon) so we ventured out towards them. They took off, which is most unlike them. They also seemed quite snorty and scared. I definitely noted their behavior, but shrugged it off. I decided to wait until later in the day when I knew they’d be in for water. Stone walked back to the barn well ahead of me as I conducted two phone calls. I came in a bit later.

*This is Fancy's back. I took this picture on July 14th, 2019. I'd say it had been healing a couple of weeks at this point.

*This is Fancy's back again, but on August 8th, 2019. It's healing, but taking quite some time to do so.

We worked the day away on corrals (as we have done every day that we’ve been up here). Shane’s mom, Georgi, was helping as was Shane, Stone, and myself. We were digging a tie out by hand (don’t ask). I have never been around rockier soil in my life! I heard a noise. Then I heard it again. Everyone ceased talking and making noise to listen. Sure enough, we were listening to a rabbit being killed. Once you’ve heard that sound you never forget it. I thought it was closer than it was, but Shane assured me it was quite a ways off. I remember thinking to myself…what in the heck would kill a rabbit like that in the middle of the day? The only thing that came to mind was a hawk or an eagle. We continued working. Georgi mentioned that one of our mares was tore up on the back. I asked her which one. She said a blue roan mare. Fancy (my favorite isn’t a roan, she is black). I made note that I needed to check her out the next time they came in for water.

*This is our blue roan mare with scratches and a hole in her back. This picture was taken on August 8th, 2019.

*This is our blue roan mare with scratches and a hole in her back. This picture was taken on August 8th, 2019.

We worked until dark and then went in for supper. We had a little fun afterwards. We drug out our fire pit and placed it on the gravel road in front of the house. We toasted marshmallows and made smores. We all sat around for quite a bit until around 10 pm. Then we decided it was bed time. The first was doused with water. While it smoked and fizzled out, we went to bed.

We are sleeping in a one-room cabin in the yard. It’s pretty warm in there so a lot of the nights we sleep with the door wide open. I got up to go to the bathroom around 1 or 1:30 a.m. I’d say. Just for truth sake I will tell you that I didn’t actually use the bathroom….we are roughing it out here so I basically went over to the grass and answered the call of nature. I went back to bed. I awoke to a ruckus as the dogs tore out of the cabin barking and growling. I was half asleep and figured it was nothing. I laid back down.

Not long after, we heard the weirdest noise. It sounded like a shrill bird noise or kind of like a loud squeaky dog toy. Shane sprang out of bed and ran to the door. I heard him mutter, “What the hell is that sound?” The noise continued. I had my eyes closed laying in bed, but was listening closely to that noise and to the dogs. I’d never heard anything like it. About that time, I heard some scuffling and Shane busted out of the cabin. I heard him yell, “Holy Shit!!! “Then shortly afterwards, “Cheyenne get out here!! You’ve got to see this! I yelled at him, “What is it?!” He said, “It’s a damned mountain lion. It’s in the tree in the yard. Get out here!!!”

I remember thinking with disbelief and thought “What the hell?!” I threw on my crocs and ran out the door with my phone. He told me to turn on the flashlight of my phone. There he was with his phone shined up at the tree. I shined mine up there too. I could see fur…and lots of it. We were both scrambling around. About this time Stone came out to see what was going on. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing either. Shane told me to keep my light on it as he ran to get a gun and a better flashlight. I held my phone light on him. After he went in the house, the cat turned and stared at me. It was the most eery feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I told Stone to get in the pickup. I had an uneasy feeling and couldn’t shake it. I didn’t want my son to be in harm’s way in case something happened.

After what seemed like forever, Shane came back. He had called the game warden, neighbor, and his folks. His mom was on the way up with a better flashlight. Shane’s grandparents were also both up by this time. It was sort of a frantic situation. We knew we couldn’t let this cat get away. We have a responsibility out here to protect our livestock and ourselves. A cat that came in this close was unsafe. The area is well lit with plenty of traffic around.

Long story short…Shane shot the cat. It was a female that was probably 1-2 years old. It took 3 shots to totally kill it. It fell from the tree and laid in that exact spot until we could get the game warden out to look at it this morning. It didn’t fall and lay though. It kept trying to get up and was making terrifying growling noises. it seriously scared the hell out of Stone and me.

The bottom line is we didn’t go looking for this cat and we certainly weren’t hunting it.

As we talked about how weird this happening was, we started to play out different scenarios in our minds. The fact that Shane’s grandparents are in the mid 80’s and quite slow moving was a big factor. Our dogs were another as they are easier prey. Our colts and horses were on the top of our mind also. Our renter’s cattle came to mind too. We lost a mare this past winter to a predator. We have had two others cut/scratched/bitten up. We’ve already lost enough to the storms that raged on this spring. We sure as heck don’t need to feed mountain lions our stock. The more we played things back the more things made sense. This isn’t the first time they (yes, they) have been around. There was another cat also. Shane heard it across the draw. The mountain lion in the tree was chirping back and forth with it…communicating. This scares the hell out of me. The fact that my son and I were walking through the grass yesterday chills my blood. That rabbit being killed near the house in broad daylight is frightening. What would have happened had we not had the means to end this story where we did?

*Note where the cat is located in our yard. Pearl is sniffing it.

The game warden said we were justified in what we did. Whenever an animal threatens you, your family, or your livestock you are allowed to take care of it. No, we won’t be mounting it or anything like that. This was a survival situation and not a trophy type deal. We have disposed of it. The story is over, but as Shane said…we have a heck of a story to tell our grand kids and great grand kids.

I wanted to write this out in great detail for everyone. Please be safe when you are out in the wild. Heck, be safe in your own back yard. It’s not uncommon for wild animals to invade populated areas too. You must be aware of your surroundings. If something feels off it’s off. Trust your gut instinct. Let your animals tell you when something isn’t right. You may not know what it is, but it may just save your life or the lives of those you care about (animals included). We are thankful things turned out the way they did. As I told someone earlier today, above all else my family and our livestock’s safety comes before everything. My husband and I have learned how to be as tough as the land that made us. We know without a doubt that we did the right thing. Stay safe out there! ~Cheyenne Glade Wilson *Please feel free to share.



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