Maleik Wright stepped outside his aunt’s Lafayette home to capture a picture of a squirrel romping in the trees Saturday. But it was what was in the background of the picture that made Maleik’s brush with nature so meaningful. It was big. Perfectly camouflaged. And it was watching him.
When Maleik’s photo was developed he could see a rather large mountain lion sitting in the tree where his squirrel was playing… and the hair stood up on the back of his neck.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is crazy,'” the 14-year-old Lafayette resident told the ABC News team that came out to take a picture of his picture.
And, like, yeah, it was kind of crazy that he would be so focused on that squirrel that a much bigger, much more elusive critter was making a rare appearance – almost posing – for his camera.
Maleik’s cat was in a tree on Sweet Drive near Woodview Drive, studded with oaks and a perfect place – experts say – to move unseen from one hunting area to the next, living off the occasional deer common to our area. His photo made the rounds of neighbors who gathered up kids and pets and promised to be more vigilant while outdoors.
Locals say they have caught glimpses of the cats as they move from time to time, usually at dusk when the deer are out and beginning to feed. They are elusive animals, stealthy and not eager to be in the spotlight. Best admired from afar, naturalists say the animals are part of a resurgence of local wildlife once common to the area but nearly hunted to extinction.