What do you do if you find a mountain lion on your bed? While you were already occupying it?
This is the question that a Socorro man had to answer late one Saturday night recently.
It was close to 1 a.m. on Sunday, June 7, and Gregg Platt of Texas Avenue was drifting off to sleep when he became aware that he wasn’t alone. That night he had decided to retire under the ceiling fan in an outbuilding he was refurbishing into an efficiency apartment.
“I was 90 percent of the way to falling asleep. My hand is hanging off the bed,” he said. “All of a sudden I feel something brush by me. And I knew it was fur. I was sober as the Pope, but I got more sober. I wasn’t sure what it was but it was big.”
His first reaction was that it might be a dog.
“But then, what the hell is a dog doing in here? How could a dog get over my seven-foot fence?” Platt said. “It can’t be a dog.”
He didn’t move and listened to the animal’s movements.
“I know the animal is in this space and I want to hear what it’s doing,” he said. “I sleep with a breathing machine, an oxygen concentrator.”
The machine’s tube was draped across the floor between the bed and the opposite wall, and he was concerned about the connection. But he wasn’t expecting what happened next.
“Pretty soon, whatever it was gets up and lays right next to me on the bed, half on and half off.”
Even though there were only a few inches of empty space, Platt said it lay down right across the corner of the bed, right up against him.
“Its head was hanging off, its legs were hanging off,” he said.
Even in the darkened room, by now he began to think it couldn’t be anything other than a mountain lion.
“It was a big animal. It had to be 70 to 80 pounds and maybe three and a half feet long,” Platt side. “I wasn’t able to get a look at its head and couldn’t see its tail.”
His left arm had been hanging off the bed and now the cat was across it.
“All I felt was this big creature lying down next to me, and it’s lying across my arm, so my arm is trapped,” Platt said. “At this point, I figured out there’s no question that its a cat. I don’t want to startle this thing because it’s lying right here. Right. Here.
“So, I’m like, okay, what do I do now?” he said.
A delicate situation like this required careful movement on his part, he figured.
“I thought, what do I know about these animals?” he said. “I know that, like any animal, they tend to be shy of humans. I thought ... I don’t want to startle the animal because it can be dangerous if startled. But I had to do something.”
Although the animal was lying on his arm, his hand was free on the other side of it.
“So, I very gently started pulling on his coat with that hand,” Platt said. “Then, I moved over, very slowly. It didn’t take very much moving before the cat was not going to be able to lie there anymore.”
He said it only took a moment before the creature must’ve realized there was not enough space left on the bed.
“Then it just got off. The door was still opened. It went right out the screen door,” he said. “By the time I got up all the motion sensor lights on the outside were on. But it was gone. It must have leaped back over the fence.
“How in the world it figured how to get that screen door open I don’t know, but it wasn’t latched. It could’ve just nudged it open,” he said. “In this case, I’m not sure that he hadn’t been in here before. That it was familiar with the bed.”
Platt called the police department to report the incident but said no one showed up. He learned later that officers were sent over and did a thorough check around the neighborhood.
“But really, there’s no reason to send anybody because the cat’s not here anymore,” he said. “I figure the animal was foraging for food.
"Or, it may have been wanting a place to take a nap. That’s what Michelle Blake, Western Region I Coordinator at the Mountain Lion Foundation, said in a telephone interview with the Chieftain. She said Platt’s experience was very unusual but not unheard of.
“They are shy and elusive by nature, and they really do want to avoid a confrontation with humans,” she said. “Which is why they would just quietly travel at night when they’re unlikely to bother anybody.”
Blake said that they have received calls from people that think they’ve seen a mountain lion, but many end up being nothing more than a large feral cat.
“We do occasionally hear of cases that sometimes show up on the news, especially in hot weather, that a mountain lion has wandered into a cool place to take a nap. We of course know that cats do sleep a lot,” she said. “There was one recently in Colorado where a mountain lion fell asleep on the concrete floor of a garage. The garage door was open and there was an SUV parked in there. The mountain lion walked in and just laid down under the car.”
It was a young male and it was fairly easy for agents to tranquilize it, she said.
“And there was another case in California where a mountain lion came in and took a nap on the cool tile floor of a bathroom. It was photographed lying next to the toilet,” Blake said. “In all of these cases, the mountain lion that came in was definitely not coming in for something to eat, it was looking for a cool safe place to take a nap.”
Blake said since there was no photographic evidence in Platt’s case, “We would need to see something that could confirm that it really was a mountain lion.”
As for Platt taking matters into his own hands that night, “It was nonthreatening,” he said. “That’s why I did what I did.”
He indicated he would make sure the screen door was properly fastened from now on.