Category: News

Cougar: A Mountain-worthy Lion

1-IMG_9633For those who are familiar with my novels, you will undoubtedly recognize Cougar. All of the animals in my novels serve a purpose that is richer than mere additional conflict and dialogue. They are vital components to a capricious and delicate natural ecosystem, but all of them are guides, both spiritually and metaphysically, for my main character, Cochiti tribal policeman Peter Romero.

Guide animals in my novels are so named by their proper names e.g., Cougar, Coyote, Wolf, and Bear, etc., reflecting Native Americans’ reverence and each animal spirit’s personality. Historically, all have specific and far-ranging spiritual influence across tribes. Interestingly, dissimilar cultures imbue these animal guides with similar attributes (e.g., Coyote is always the trickster.)

Cougar is one of the most compelling characters of my Peter Romero series. Beautiful, sleek, mysterious, he is also a killer…passionate, unapologetic, and mesmerizing. For those who would like to know the lions of America, and learn more about Cougar himself, I’ll share some facts about mountain lions.

A dwindling species, few of us have had the privilege of seeing one (hopefully from far away) in the wild. They have many commonly-used names: “cougar”, “panther”, and “puma” among them. Regardless of the name they’re called, this majestic animal has been revered throughout the centuries by Native Americans. It is to our detriment that the reverence has faded as the animals now struggle to survive. They’re losing population but, just like his spirit, this is one tough cat.

Physical Attributes: He’s a big kitty.


  • Body Length: 39-59″, Tail Length:24-35″
  • Height: 24-30″, Weight: 66-176 lbs., though there are records of them reaching 250lbs. 1

Coat color varies from buff to reddish brown, to light silver and slate grey. The coat is short, coarse, uniform in color, and essentially unmarked. Cougar’s head is relatively small for a large cat, with dark brown to black patches on the muzzle, and beautiful irises of green gold to yellow brown. The ears are short and rounded, with forelegs shorter than hind legs, and footpads are large. The tail is long and slim. Cats found in Central and South America are smaller than those found in North America.

Distribution: He’s probably watching you now.


Cougar has the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the western hemisphere. They roam from the Yukon in Canada to the southern tip of South America. Population densities have been estimated at no more than four adults per forty square miles in North America, and up to eight in South America. Radio telemetry studies in Chile found Cougar ranging up to forty square miles, with the cats often covering seven miles in just a few hours.


Survival Skills: You can’t outrun Cougar but you can outrun your buddy.


Adaptable and athletic, Cougar has great leaping, climbing, and swimming ability. Sight is his most acute sense, hearing is well developed, but his sense of smell, unlike dogs, is not particularly keen.

The bulk of Cougar’s traveling and hunting is done at night. The cat hunts over a wide area, carefully stalking prey and leaping on its back, or seizing after a short, swift dash. In North America, deer make up sixty to eighty percent of the diet. Cougar will eat whatever is most abundant in any given ecosystem, but seldom eats carcasses killed by other animals.


Cubs (or kittens) are adorable, spotted, fluff balls with dark brown spots over a brown buff coat. Spots fade away as they grow. Brilliant blue eyes change to greenish yellow or yellowish brown by sixteen months of age. These amazing cats can live to twenty years of age

Legendary Influence: He’s got pull.


Many cultures sought the big cats for spiritual inspiration. For example:

  • The Peruvian city of Cuzco was laid out in the shape of Cougar.
  • Peru’s Lake Titicaca (gray-colored puma) is still sacred to local natives.
  • US Great Lakes tribes believed the tail of an underwater panther, whipped up waves and storms.
  • To the Algonquins, the underwater panther was the most powerful underworld being.
  • The Ojibwe traditionally held them to be masters of all water creatures, including snakes.
  • Christian missionaries in Southern California found Cougar to be an obstacle due to natives’ refusal to hunt the cat.
  • New Mexico’s Cochiti Indians (Peter Romero’s home tribe) carved life-sized stone statues of Cougar and created a mesa-top shrine in his honor.

Conservation: Where are they? Can I help?


By the second half of the 20th century the mountain lion population was forced west of the Rockies. The only area where Cougar survived historical extermination and removal is a single population in the Everglades forests of southern Florida.

But all the news is not bad. Cougar is re-populating former Midwest habitats. Since the 1960s, the cats have become managed game species. In California, Cougar is a protected mammal. Populations are now growing and expanding their territories. Breeding programs established in the Dakota Black Hills and Badlands and western Nebraska have been successful. Sightings of Cougar in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois are frequent. Today, the Mountain Lion Foundation counts Cougar’s population in the US as 30,000 animals.

The main threat to Cougar today is deadly highway traffic and rural development. Highway crossings and underpasses are required to prevent further losses. Outside North America, Cougar is shot on sight or subject to bounties. More prudent game management is needed. Despite wholesale loss of habitat and suppression of the cat’s numbers, Cougar is not considered endangered.

There are many programs we can join to help in the preservation of these magnificent animals. Click here to start:

To read about the powers of Peter Romero’s own spirit guide, Cougar, read Animal Parts by David E Knop. Found on Amazon and everywhere eBooks are sold.



Honorable, Indeed

Animal Parts was bestowed an Honorable Mention in the 11th PSWA Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in July 2016!

There were a couple points taken off for Cougar having eaten a couple of spectators and a judge.

The thrilling mystery, Animal Parts by David E Knop, would’ve won First Place at the 11th annual PSWA Writers Conference but having a hungry 170lb mountain lion as your companion tends to complicate things.

Cougar asks that you read Animal Parts…and soon.

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US Review of Books Praises Animal Parts

Animal Parts Book cover-6th final-cropped

A Review of Animal Parts by David E Knop by the illustrious US Review of Books

Animal Parts
by David E. Knop

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

“They dragged the blubbering man off and the door slammed. Silence. Dark silence. Romero knew he wasn’t dead. Death couldn’t hurt this much.”
When it comes to novels, it’s virtually impossible to think about the combination of crime, mystery, and Native Americans, and not think about Tony Hillerman. His Navajo Tribal Police stories gave readers a different way to view people who had frequently been marginalized and too often caricatured in books, films, and television. This author’s oeuvre is similar, yet distinctive in its own right. His third and latest installment of the life and times of Cochiti Pueblo Police Officer Peter Romero is addictively engaging, thoroughly entertaining, even occasionally educational when it comes to events in history and tribal migration seen from a different perspective.
The book opens compellingly with a cougar in the crosshairs of a high-powered rifle. The big cat had recently attacked a couple of hikers, and Romero had been paid to dispatch the animal. One shot kills the beast, but his death is not the end. Actually it’s only the beginning of an adventure filled with danger, brutality, and mysticism.
It seems that poachers are out and about and it’s Romero’s job to find and stop them. But as is generally the case in these sorts of tales, there’s more here than meets the eye. While some poaching is being done to feed hungry families affected by the sluggish economy in New Mexico, there’s also mounting evidence that much of it is being done to fuel the lucrative but highly illegal market in animal parts. Elk and more are being found with their brains and sexual organs removed—organs that will likely end up in very expensive and questionably effective aphrodisiacs. But then the poachers start to end up dead. Not just shot, stabbed, or choked, mind you, but totally eviscerated. One might even say eaten.
Of course Romero must intercede, but things are not going well for him. His wife has left him, and he wants her to return. Local officials have sanctioned him, and he wants them off his back. A thoroughly alluring FBI agent might be coming on to him, and he’s not at all sure he can marshal the reserves to resist. His neighbor is attacked by something that appears to be neither man nor animal, and to top it all off, the cougar he was sure he killed returns. Just when it looks like things couldn’t possibly get worse, they get horrific.
Knop starts his tale in high gear and never takes his foot off the accelerator. He maintains a blistering pace not only with tightly woven subplots that zip from one chapter to the next, but also with prose that is short, sharp, and finely tuned. His exposition is quick and clipped. His dialogue is realistically conversational and spot on when it comes to nailing the way people actually react. This is a confidently written tale by an excellent storyteller.
Not surprisingly, there is even a surprise ending, which will certainly not be revealed here. Some readers may well find it completely appropriate, while others might find it slightly maddening, but whichever camp you find yourself in, you’ll have had an exciting dash to the finish line through the pages of this first rate thriller.
Read the super review here:  US Review of Books-Animal Parts

Buy Animal Parts at or

Please let us know what you think!

Tops among Cops

Animal Parts, a mystery by David E. Knop, was awarded Honorable Mention at the prestigious Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest held in Las Vegas. PSWA members include police officers, civilian police personnel, firefighters, emergency personnel, security personnel and others in the public safety field.

It was a high bar to pass the scrutiny of judges who have spent most of their lives in the field keeping us safe. I am deeply honored.

Save the Date! Animal Parts Book Launch, April 10


Sunday, April 10th from 3:30-6:30, I will be celebrating the launch of my latest novel, Animal Parts, A Peter Romero Mystery.

There will be a reading from my novel, Animal Parts, an art show, and music by The Silver Spurs.

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Location will be at the Coronado Community Center, Boathouse Club room. You can find the address and directions on their website,

Hope to see you soon!

People of the Pueblo de Cochiti

Peter Romero’s home and people are a proud tradition.

Please visit their site for more information:

The Pueblo de Cochiti, (Cochiti), is located 55 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico and is contained within 53,779 acres of reservation land that sustains 1,175 Pueblo members according to the 1990 BIA census. Cochiti, the northernmost Keresan Pueblo in New Mexico, is located in Sandoval and Santa Fe Counties, approximately 13 miles northwest of Interstate 25 and 35 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The topographic elevation varies from 5300 to 6800 feet above mean sea level and is characterized by the Rio Grande, which flows through reservation lands.  The principal land use includes farming, livestock, recreational, economic development, and agricultural and Pueblo home/residential construction purposes.  The demographic breakdown includes: 880 acres for agricultural; 4,443 acres of lake areas and wild river Bosque/wetlands; 7,042 acres dedicated to economic development consisting of residential and commercial lease properties and a golf course; and 41,424 acres of rangeland, pinion/juniper woodlands and Pueblo and residential use lands.

The people of Cochiti continue to retain their native language of Keres.  They maintain their cultural practices and have instituted programs dedicated to teaching and educating the younger generation Pueblo traditions and cultural practices emphasizing the native language.  Cochiti is well known for their craftsmanship in making jewelry, pottery, (storyteller), and drums.

Water in the Rio Grande, flows through Pueblo lands and is intermittently stored behind Cochiti Dam, which at a maximum capacity stores 502,330 acre feet of water known as Cochiti Reservoir. Cochiti has recently developed a Farm Enterprise Plan, which included the restoration of large acreage’s of traditional farmland inundated by seepage caused by the storage of water behind Cochiti Dam.  The reclamation of these lands, in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers, (COE), was completed in September of 1994.

The Santa Fe River which headwaters in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of Santa Fe NM flows downstream through Santa Fe NM, La Cienega, NM and finally into pueblo lands at the mouth of La Bajada Canyon.  The river flows through Pueblo lands and discharges into the Rio Grande several miles hence.

Historically, Cochiti has had no private employers or economic enterprises.  This was changed with the Pueblo’s acquisition of the Town of Cochiti Lake and the creation of Cochiti Community Development Corporation, (CCDC) in 1995.  The Town of Cochiti Lake was established under a 99-year lease agreement with private investors to establish residential housing units under a strict building code and relative covenants.  The property has been under the direct management of Cochiti since the early 1980’s and has been a primary revenue source for the community.

Of primary importance to the Pueblo de Cochiti are the land, air and water on and adjacent to the reservation, which is the lifeline of the Pueblo Traditions and Culture. The Pueblo is located in the heart of the traditional homeland and it would be impossible to retain peoples and culture if the environment is impacted to the point where the Cochiti decide the land is dangerous to utilize for habitat, farming, fishing, hunting, and maintaining Cultural Tradition.