A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
There has been a marked increase of media items lately concerning cougar sightings in various states and provinces.
When this happens, the panic level goes up, misconceptions abound, and suddenly the big cats are newsworthy. Soon everyone is reporting a cougar sighting, even if many of them turn out to be house cats, coyotes or bobcats.
Why are so many of these normally elusive felines are being seen now?
Every fall, young male cougars leave their mother’s range, and strike out on their own for the first time. They are seeking a home territory of their own, and along the way they have to find enough food to survive, and figure out how to capture it. In their search, they must avoid the home ranges of adult male cougars, who don’t take kindly to interlopers, and will kill any youngsters they come into contact with.
This is a tough time for a young cougar. The farther they wander, the more chances they have of coming into contact with danger in the form of predators, roadways or housing developments. With the unrelenting development of their habitat, human/cougar encounters are bound to be on the increase.
I live in a city of over a million people near the Rocky Mountains, and there was a young cougar reported in one of our city parks a few weeks ago. A group of mothers had their children out for a picnic, and when one of them spotted a large cat, she yelled everybody run. I cringed when I read that.
If you see a cougar, running is THE WORST thing you can do. Back away slowly, look them in the eye and make yourself appear more threatening. Running can initiate the hunting response in a wild cat, and if you run, he is likely to see you as prey instead of a threat.
Fortunately there were no incidents in that encounter, but it illustrates how misinformed some people are about these cats. If you live in cougar country, do yourself and the cat a favor, and familiarize yourself with this Cougar Safety article.
The roaming cougars this time of year may just be youngsters, but they still come equipped with some mighty impressive teeth and claws. Be prepared, but if you do see a wild cougar, count yourself lucky to have witnessed one of these magnificent cats!