Adapted from Vance Hoyt's novel, a writer's daughter adopts a puma and a deer, but the unnatural friendship is challenged by a hunting neighbor.
Deer run from a puma; but the cougar dies in a trap. Dogs chase deer. Toni Martin (Jean Parker) finds a fawn and a cougar cub. Dogs chase bears up a tree. Toni runs from the dogs to forest ranger Bob Alden (Russell Hardie), who says his job is to kill pumas. Toni plans to raise him with the deer even though they are natural enemies. Toni's father Matthew Martin (Samuel S. Hinds) writes about the unusual friendship and names the fawn Malibu, meaning "rough going." Bob names the puma Gato, but Matthew says that means "murderer."
A year later Bob says some chickens were killed by a puma, and he asks Matthew to keep Gato shut in. Gato goes out to Bergman's ranch to the pigs and returns. Dogs lead Bergman (Paul Hurst) and Bob to Toni, and Bergman complains 22 of his pigs were killed. Bob tells Toni that Gato must go, and her father tells her to let Malibu go too, because they are moving back to town. Toni releases both. Animals survive storms, fire, and snow.
A puma stalks a deer but does not attack. Gato and Malibu come back. Bergman and Joe (Ben Hall) leave hay as bait. Toni sees Malibu captured and helps him escape. Toni faces Gato as Bergman and Joe run in the house. Toni finds Bob and says that Bergman trapped the deer. Malibu battles a buck for a mate, and they have a fawn. Bergman and Joe set up carrots as bait with a rifle, though Joe says it is against the law. The doe is shot, and Toni finds the fawn. Toni ties the fawn with the child Feng Soo while she swims; but they run off. Feng plays with a rattlesnake, which is killed by Malibu. Toni finds Feng and sees Malibu. In a montage hunters kill 20,000 deer. Toni sees Gato and complains to Bergman and hunters. Bergman and Joe trespass to herd deer into their corral. Malibu jumps in and out of the pen, and others follow. Bergman shoots at Malibu; but Gato follows Bergman and attacks him while Malibu falls into a trap. Malibu gets out and pushes Bergman into the river. In the final scenes Bob shows Toni the protected boundary, and in the snow Malibu licks Gato.
Animal lovers will appreciate this sentimental drama showing how human care fosters a friendship between a predator and its usual victim. This tender loving is contrasted to the violence and brutality of hunting.