“Ghostwalker: Tracking a Mountain Lion’s Soul through Science and Story” by Leslie Patten
One of the many joys of life in the High Plains is our proximity and access to an abundance of wildlife. Yellowstone National Park affords one of the greatest wildlife viewing areas in North America. Tourists who flock to Yellowstone are rewarded by close-up encounters with numerous free-roaming bison and elk. The luckiest might glimpse bears, moose or wolves. But the elusive mountain lion is almost never seen, its existence noted only by tracks, scat and the remnants of its prey.
Leslie Patten, journalist, scholar and storyteller, chronicles her journey to describe the essence of the mountain lion in her 2018 book “Ghostwalker: Tracking a Mountain Lion’s Soul Through Science and Story.” A finalist in the High Plains Book Awards’ Medicine and Science category, Patten’s book chronicles her observations and personal experiences gathered over many years of field research. Focusing on Wyoming and California, Patten weaves legend, science and modern history on her journey to fully examine and share with the reader what it may feel like to be a mountain lion.
Patten stalks her subject through the craggy, tight drainages preferred by the mountain lion, looking for clues regarding their range and possible number in the wild. With a neutral approach she discusses perspectives on the mountain lion with all interested parties, including hunters and trappers, ranchers, management officials and naturalists. Patten shares with the reader ways she has learned to spot the signs of mountain lion activity. By the end of this captivating book, the reader may truly have a better understanding of the elusive mountain lion.
“Ghostwalker” is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in how habitat loss and landscape fragmentation are impacting the survivability of the mountain lion. This informative book shines a light on the uniqueness of our region’s wild places, earning its place as a finalist in this year’s High Plains Book Awards.
Dianna Linder is Director of Grants and Program Development for the Billings Clinic Foundation.