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Martha and Walt Kilby and their 8-year-old son, Toby, leave the city for the California mountain country. There, Walt's brother Pete offers them a home on his ranch property. Pete tells them of a band of rustlers that plague the area, despite strong security measures. Martha, Walt, and Toby meet Bill, a trapper who keeps a mountain lion caged in his truck. The animal appears docile in Toby's presence but escapes and wanders off when the cage falls off the truck. Toby then tells his father that a mountain lion is prowling outside, and Walt is furious when he finds nothing. As punishment, Walt orders Toby to remain in the cabin while he is out with Pete, but the boy wanders off and witnesses a forest ranger photographing and then fighting one of the rustlers. This man, Art, brutally kills the ranger but sees that he has been observed by Toby. He pursues the boy, who eludes him by hiding in a tree hollow. When Walt returns, Bill tells him that his lion has escaped, and Walt realizes that Toby was not lying. Pete sets out with a search party, and the group finds the dead ranger. Art joins the search party, hoping to find and kill Toby before he can talk. Toby is approached by the mountain lion, who acts quite friendly, and the animal's warmth protects Toby through the freezing night. Meanwhile, Bill has developed the ranger's photograph, which serves to implicate Art, and warns the search party. Art has already found Toby alone while the lion is away searching for food. The lion hears Toby's cries and returns in time to prevent his murder by chasing Art and causing him to fall off a cliff. The lion runs off when the search party approaches. After being reunited with Toby, Walt decides to go back to the city. As they drive off, Toby waves goodby to the lion, who is once more in its natural habitat.