LYONS, Colorado — The wildlife obsession started when he was a kid.
David Neils would put dental floss in the woods, and if it was broken when he came back, he imagined a grizzly bear walked through it.
When he was 6, he says he asked his mom "am I the only one that wonders what the animals are doing when I fall asleep?"
When she rolled her eyes and said yes, he took it as a compliment.
But it wasn't until 14 years ago that the obsession with mountain lions began.
While bow hunting in the woods, he became sleepy and decided to lie down for a nap.
He woke up to a wet nose on his face.
“Weird things go through your head right when you’re face bumped by a mountain lion," Neils laughed.
He said the lion had his claws out, but ran away when Neils woke up.
"But rather than being fearful I just became fascinated with mountain lions after that," he said.
Neils has spent at least three days a week for more than a decade setting up trail cameras with permission from private property owners in areas where mountain lions hang out.
He knows how to spot their "scrapes," which is when a male marks their territory, and a female can urinate on top so the male knows her scent.
He's learned their hunting habits, and says once you study them, they are so predictable he can tell "which boulder they are going to go around."
The hobby has turned into a job in the form of his company Wild Nature Media, where he hosts workshops to encourage education and conservation of mountain lions.
“We invest in what we care about and we care about what we have knowledge of, and the best knowledge comes from first hand experience," Neils said.
He spreads his videos in the hopes that people will be inspired to live more respectfully alongside the lions.
After the runner who killed the mountain lion when it attacked him, Neils held a workshop in Lyons and said people "realized, no we don’t have a mountain lion problem, we have a human problem."
He says feeding any wildlife is a large issue, because even if it's just deer or rabbits getting closer to humans, the mountain lions will follow their prey.
Despite the three mountain lion attacks in Colorado this year, Neils said they are still incredibly rare.
“You have a 1 in 35 million chance of being attacked by a mountain lion," he said. "You have a one in 10 million chance of becoming the next president of the United States. So I say don’t run from mountain lions, run for president.”
Neils jokes around, but he takes the responsibility of conservation seriously, and hopes his videos give that spark to others.
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