Sheepherder Recalls Chilling Encounter with Mountain Lion that Killed Half His Flock

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Joseph Redhair demonstrates how he killed a mountain lion that killed 13 of his sheep and goats Saturday at his home in Black Mesa, Arizona.

BLACK MESA, ARIZONA – Joseph Redhair said what happened to his flock on March 29 hurt him deeply.

Redhair started his day with a good breakfast and cooked for himself and his father, Amos Redhair. His aunt, Pauline Begay, 81, came by for a quick visit.

Redhair, who retired five years ago, then took food to his dogs at the sheep corral. As he got close to the corral, he noticed that the sheep were tightly huddled into the northwest corner.

It didn’t look right to him, he recalled.

When he got to the gate, he saw a lifeless lamb lying next to the entrance.

“I stopped and took a harder look,” Redhair said.

That’s when he saw dead sheep everywhere, bloodied, some with their necks torn open.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Lambs belonging to Pauline Begay wait for their mothers to return from grazing on Saturday in Black Mesa, Arizona. Begay said she lost 8 of her sheep to three mountain lions on March 23.

“I opened the gate and walked in,” Redhair said in Navajo. “I closed the gate behind me…trying to figure what had happened.”

He could not understand but something very terrible had happened.

He walked through the corral and heard the sound of something eating. That’s when he saw it, about seven feet in front him.

Lying amongst three dead baby goats was the culprit – a mountain lion.

Redhair said he grabbed a knife.

“Oh, my goodness, are you really doing this?” He remembers saying to the mountain lion.

He crouched into a defensive position welding the knife, ready to defend himself if the mountain lion attacked. They stared at one another until the lion suddenly sprinted past him and leapt over the corral fence.

Redhair said his aunt, who left their house a few minutes prior, heard her dogs suddenly start yelping and barking, running towards the tree line, chasing something, which turned out to be the lion that he had encountered.

A photo taken by Crystal Lee, the niece of Amos Redhair, shows a mountain lion that was killed by Redhair’s son, Joe Redhair, Wednesday night about four miles east of the Black Mesa Chapter in Black Mesa, Ariz. Thirteen of Redhair’s sheep were killed.

After the confrontation, Redhair said he left the dead sheep, 13 in total, where they lay. He used to have 26, he said. Redhair called the Navajo Nation Rangers and the Navajo Nation Fish & Wildlife.

“It took them forever to arrive,” he remembered. “I started taking photos when one officer showed up. He brought a small hound with him.”

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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