Magnificent creature, isn't it?
Yeah, maybe. In a zoo. How about in residential areas of cities, near schools and businesses? Or along your favorite walking trails?
In the past week or so, there have been three mountain lion or cougar sightings in town. The first two caused a lockdown at some area elementary schools, and children were not allowed outside for recess. The third sighting was along a trail near our grocery store.
Should I start a freakout? I scoffed at the first sightings, thinking someone saw an overweight Maine Coon. But this third sighting has me fearful. We have wooded trails near our house. These are trails I run on several times a week. And Tim shares a bit of info with me. "If you see one, don't run. Act really big and make roaring noises."
Well...what if I'm already running and come upon one? Turn the bend and...HELLO, CAT. Don't RUN AWAY? That goes against every ounce of self-preservation I have.
From the Internet:
As with many predators, a cougar may attack if cornered, if a fleeing human stimulates their instinct to chase, or if a person "plays dead". Exaggerating the threat to the animal through intense eye contact, loud but calm shouting, and any other action to appear larger and more menacing, may make the animal retreat. Fighting back with sticks and rocks, or even bare hands, is often effective in persuading an attacking cougar to disengage.
When cougars do attack, they usually employ their characteristic neck bite, attempting to position their teeth between the vertebrae and into the spinal cord. Neck, head, and spinal injuries are common and sometimes fatal. Children are at greatest risk of attack, and least likely to survive an encounter. Detailed research into attacks prior to 1991 showed that 64% of all victims–and almost all fatalities–were children. The same study showed the highest proportion of attacks to have occurred in British Columbia, particularly on Vancouver Island where cougar populations are especially dense. Preceding attacks on humans, cougars display aberrant behavior, including: active during daylight hours, unafraid of humans, and stalking humans. There have sometimes been incidents of pet cougars mauling people.
I'm all for animal rights and everything. You know, when the animal is either my pet or is very far away from me. Like on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. In this particular situation, I'd like to invite area hunters to grab their guns and go on an expedition. The World Conservation Union currently lists the cougar (aka puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region) as a "least concern" species, which I suppose means it's not endangered and, therefore, up for grabs by shotgun-wielding sportsmen.
It's certainly not a "least concern" in my community.