Ghostwalker: Tracking a Mountain Lion’s Soul through Science and Story

Mountain lion research explored at the library

Local author Leslie Patten will give readings from her new book Ghostwalker: Tracking a Mountain Lion’s Soul through Science and Story.  Along with current research, her presentation will include photos and video footage.

This free event at the Cody library is open to the public at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10.

Patten will share findings from the sixteen-year Panthera Teton Cougar Project in Jackson, Wyo. and Yellowstone National Park’s trio of multi-year studies over the course of 30 years.

Cutting edge research in these two areas reveals the social structure of mountain lions, how they are adapting to the introduction of wolves and the impact of a growing grizzly bear population on the cats.

To understand an animal no one ever sees Patten conducted over fifty interviews with biologists, conservation groups, state wildlife managers, houndsmen and professional trackers.  “Ghostwalker” gradually took shape as a tracking tale.

Patten documents her journey as she wandered winter after winter along a rocky peninsula near Yellowstone Park that she dubs “Cougar Flats.” She learned where to find lion kills, what these kills look like and how to discern the tell-tale signs of lions.

“Mountain lions are hunted in all the western states except California and, with that in mind, I traveled to California to use the state as a yardstick against which to judge the effects of hunting,” Patten said.

“However I soon discovered that mountain lions in California have their own unique difficulties—problems that are creeping throughout the larger landscapes of the West: human overpopulation, fragmentation, genetic bottlenecks, rodenticides, urbanization, and road density. California has already begun to address these issues, and the way in which the state is trying to tackle these problems could be a blueprint—and a warning—for other western states.”

“Ghostwalker” is a book for the general public, relying heavily on compelling teaching stories told by professionals, along with the author’s personal tales. History, lore, science, are all seamlessly combined to unclothe the mysteries of America’s most elusive, secretive predator.

Harley Shaw, renowned cougar biologist, writes in the foreword, “[Patten] engagingly interwove her experiences with the science and lore to create the best popular treatise on pumas that I’ve read in decades.  Her scholarship is impeccable, she tells a good tale, and she writes with a journalist’s eye for clarity. Asked to recommend a book that summarizes the current state of the puma, I’ll choose this one for some time to come.”

Her books Ghostwalker: Tracking a Mountain Lion’s Soul through Science and Story and The Wild Excellence: Notes from Untamed America will be for sale. A book signing will follow her presentation.

The Friends of the Cody Library will provide the refreshments.


Ghostwalker is a rare blend of poetry and scholarly insight, concealed mystery and revelation. This book is a journey through the eyes of a woman who, having never seen a cougar, has actually seen him better than most: with a heart wide open to receive the tales and lessons these cats hold for all Creation, especially mankind.

– Cara Blessley Lowe, Co-Founder, The Cougar Fund

To know the essence of the lion—that is the quest of Leslie Patten as she tracks and ponders the life of America’s mountain lion—a quest that will leave you yearning for the high country, on the trail of the ghost cat.

– Will Stolzenburg, author of Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat’s Walk Across America

I learned more about the elusive lion in four hours curled up with this book than four decades hiking the Greater Yellowstone.  Patten seamlessly knits together personal experiences, scientific research, archaeology, and legend to reveal the very essence of the lion.

–Tom Carter, author Day Hiking Yellowstone

Ghostwalker is an enthralling and informative journey into the lives of one of the West’s most enigmatic inhabitants, the cougar. Patten deftly braids legend, biology and her own experience to guide readers through a stunningly beautiful exploration of these amazing animals, and their myriad meanings to the ecosystems and communities of which they are part.

–Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, Jackson Hole, WY


Leslie Patten grew up in the Los Angeles area and went to college at the University of Santa Cruz. In Northern California she raised a family while working as a horticulture and habitat specialist. Her garden designs have been featured in Mill Valley’s Outdoor Art Club Garden Tours, Marin Art & Garden Center tours, the Garden Conservancy, and many other tours.  In 1998, she became involved in the Marin Tracking Club of Point Reyes. After years of backpacking in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, Patten decided to take the plunge and move to Wyoming. There she remodeled an old log cabin adjacent to the eastern edge of Yellowstone National Park as her full-time home. Shortly after moving, Patten began volunteering at The Buffalo Bill Museum of the West where she prepared bird and mammal specimens, completed an herbarium of Shoshone National Forest plant material, and measured wolf skulls for scientific research. Patten is the author of several gardening eBooks, and paperbacks BioCircuits: Amazing New Tools for Energy Health, (H.J. Kramer 1990) and The Wild Excellence: Notes from Untamed America, (Wordsworth 2014).