The woods north of Goleta, California are full to the brim with wildlife. Some, like the frogs, bunnies, deer, owls and wily foxes we saw during our time there pose no threat to man (even at his most vulnerable, i.e., drunk and confused and wandering back towards the Adventure Yurt without a flashlight at around 1:15 am). But some creatures of the forest stalk man with impunity, and should be feared, respected and documented, so that we may learn how to better defend ourselves.

Puma concolor, better known as the cougar, catamount, mountain lion, mountain cat or puma (depending on geographic colloquia) is the unquestioned top predator of El Capitan Canyon, more fearsome than even a startled Nick Cho at the peak of his hibernation cycle. All week long, the imminent threat of mauling hung over the camp like a choking terror fog. was threatened by a real live ferocious feline, but we lived to tell the tale – and snap this exclusive shot.