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The Cougar

Description: The cougar is Canada's largest cat. It has short, reddish-brown to grey-brown fur with white on the underside and a black-tipped tail. A cougar's tail may be one third of its body length.

Weight: An adult male cougar weighs between 63 and 90 kg (140-200 lbs), and a female cougar, between 40 and 50 kg (90-120 lbs).

Diet: The cougar's primary prey is deer. It will also feed on wild sheep, elk, rabbits, beaver, raccoons, grouse, and occasionally livestock.

Habits: Cougars are most active at dusk and dawn. However, they will roam and hunt at any time of the day or night and in all seasons.

During late spring and summer, one to two-year-old cougars become independent of their mothers. While attempting to find a home range, these young cougars may roam widely in search of unoccupied territory. This is when cougars are most likely to conflict with humans.

Habitat: Cougars are found mainly in the Rocky Mountain range, but can live as far south as Texas and as far north as Alaska.

The Danger of Cougars

Children:

Cougars seem to be attracted to children, possibly because their high-pitched voices, small size, and erratic movements make it difficult for cougars to identify them as human and not prey.

  • Talk to children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar.

  • Encourage children to play outdoors in groups, and supervise children playing outdoors.

  • Consider getting a dog for your children as an early-warning system. A dog can see, smell, and hear a cougar sooner then we can. Although dogs offer little value as a deterrent to cougars, they may distract a cougar from attacking a human.

  • Consider erecting a fence around play areas.

  • Keep a radio playing.

  • Make sure children are home before dusk and stay inside until after dawn.

  • If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop in the early morning. Clear shrubs away around the bus stop, making an area with a nine-metre (30 foot) radius. Have a light installed as a general safety precaution.

Your yard and home:

  • Do not attract or feed wildlife, especially deer or raccoons. These are natural prey and may attract cougars.

Pets:

  • Roaming pets are easy prey.

  • Bring pets in at night. If they must be left out, confine them in a kennel with a secure top.

  • Do not feed pets outside. This not only attracts young cougars but also many small animals, such as mice and raccoons, that cougars prey upon.

  • Place domestic livestock in an enclosed shed or barn at night.

Hiking or working in cougar country:

  • Hike in groups of two or more. Make enough noise to prevent surprising a cougar.

  • Carry a sturdy walking stick to be used as a weapon if necessary.

  • Keep children close-at-hand and under control.

  • Watch for cougar tracks and signs. Cougars cover unconsumed portions of their kills with soil and leaf litter. Avoid these food caches.

  • Cougar kittens are usually well-hidden. However, if you do stumble upon cougar kittens, do not approach or attempt to pick them up. Leave the area immediately, as a female will defend her young.

Remember
Cougars are a vital part of our diverse wildlife. Seeing a cougar should be an exciting and rewarding experience, with both you and the cougar coming away unharmed. However, if you do experience a confrontation with a cougar or feel threatened by one, immediately inform the nearest authority.
Boy Saves Little Brother

Six-year-old Bryce Forbes was heading inside his Gold River home when he spotted a cougar.

It was crouched by the family’s truck, half parked inside an open shop, and he was only about five feet away with nothing but a hockey net separating him from the big cat.

Bryce could have easily stepped inside the door to safety, but he knew his five-year-old brother Tucker was still outside, playing in the yard.

"Bryce looks out for his little brother...he went back into the yard to protect him," says the boys’ mother Catherine.

Bryce got Tucker and then the two boys ran up the stairs into a back shop, which is separated from the main house. Bryce then called his parents on the office phone.

Catherine and Cam Forbes were nearby on the property, which is enclosed by a six-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

They didn’t think a cougar could get inside but Cam went to get the boys and then searched the property.

"Bryce said it was a baby cougar and then he held his arms out way wide," says Catherine.

"We have a fishing camp and we’ve told the boys about cougars before."

Cam and the boys searched the property, with dad really not expecting to find anything.

"Bryce kept insisting it was a cougar and then there it was. Bryce said, ‘I told you dad!’," says Catherine.

Cam rushed the boys inside the house and then called Gold River RCMP. An officer arrived minutes later and shot the cougar dead.

The cougar was probably less than two years old.

The incident occurred on April 17; B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner recognized Bryce for his heroics.

 

A Surprise Attack

A licensed tracker with the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, seventy-five-year-old Mr. Hall was investigating a report of a problem cougar on January 24, 2000, when a cougar sprang on him from behind.

As it sank its teeth into his neck and began to shake him, Mr. Hall remembered advice he received years ago: when attacked by a dog, place your hands behind the bottom teeth, which renders the animal helpless. "I immediately placed my right hand over the lower jaw of the cougar. My thumb, forefinger and index finger were behind the canine teeth. Very easily, I pushed downward on the bottom canine teeth and released them from my neck and then I pushed upward, releasing the upper canine teeth as well."

Mr. Hall was attempting to squeeze the creature to death against his chest when the man who had originally sought his help shot the cougar. Mr. Hall required more than 100 stitches in his neck and cheek, but was most upset about the fact that the cat chewed his right hand so badly that it left him with a permanently rigid "Trudeau finger."

Incredibly, he adds, "when I lifted the tooth out of my head [and] looked into the face of the most beautiful animal in North America, momentarily I had a genuine sadness for this creature." Nevertheless, he believes that with four human deaths from cougar attacks in B.C. between 1998 and 2000, "this is just the beginning" and it is time for action.

"We have too much protection on predators of all types, including wolves and bears," Mr. Hall contends. "My family has lived in this valley 34 years. I took three cougars in 33 years and 10 in the last year. Predators are exploding and the deer diminishing. We have been protecting the predator--the varmint--and we're getting what we deserve."

cougar
Cougars are not tame animals, they are vicious and unpredictable creatures.

After California banned sport hunting of cougars in 1990, cougar-human encounters skyrocketed. After only one deadly mountain lion attack in a century (another two died of rabies contracted from a cougar), in 1994 California suffered two fatal maulings less than nine months apart at opposite ends of the state.

After the first victim, 40-year-old Barbara Schoener, was mauled to death while out jogging, a fund was established for her three children. At the same time, a fund was established for the cougar's three kittens. It came as no surprise to many that the kitten fund garnered five times the donations that the human fund did.

"It's the Walt Disney syndrome," scoffs Mr. Hall. "People have all seen the little Lion King. But we've gone too far with our namby-pamby attitude. We've got to manage all God's creatures, the predators as well as the prey: bears, wolves, cougars, even the coyote population is clearly out of shape. Authorities are baffled as to why human attacks occur? It's simple. Cougars are killing machines; that's what they're designed to do. They enjoy killing for the sport of killing. In the past they were afraid of man, but that's diminishing."

What To Do If.

You meet a cougar:

  • Never approach a cougar. Although cougars will normally avoid a confrontation, all cougars are unpredictable. Cougars feeding on a kill may be dangerous.

  • Always give a cougar an avenue of escape.

  • Stay calm. Talk to the cougar in a confident voice.

  • Pick all children up off the ground immediately. Children frighten easily and their rapid movements may provoke an attack.

  • Do not run. Try to back away from the cougar slowly. Sudden movement or flight may trigger an instinctive attack.

  • Do not turn your back on the cougar. Face the cougar and remain upright.

  • Do all you can to enlarge your image. Don't crouch down or try to hide. Pick up sticks or branches and wave them about.

If a cougar behaves aggressively:

  • Arm yourself with a large stick, throw rocks, speak loudly and firmly. Convince the cougar that you are a threat not prey.

  • If a cougar attacks, fight back! Many people have survived cougar attacks by fighting back with anything, including rocks, sticks, bare fists, and fishing poles.

cougar
Cougars are beautiful but fierce creatures, and close contact should be avoided if at all possible.
Boy Attacked by Cougar

Members of a 7-year-old boy's family drove off a mountain lion that attacked him on a trail on Flagstaff Mountain on April 15, 2006.

The boy, who was not identified, was walking last in a single file of eight family members and friends near the Crown Rock trailhead about 6 p.m. when his father turned and saw the lion on him.

The lion seized the child by the head and dragged him toward the woods, family members told Jason Blumen, a supervisor with Pridemark Paramedic Services, at Boulder Community Hospital.

They shouted and struck the lion with rocks and sticks, said Tyler Baskfield, a spokesman for the state Division of Wildlife. "They did everything possible to defend the boy from the lion," Baskfield said. "You've got to fight back with everything you have if you're attacked by a mountain lion."

Authorities said the boy had injuries consistent with a mountain lion attack including claw marks on his leg and puncture wounds on his jaw and head.

"The family showed unbelievable courage and bravery," said Blumen. "It was the family that ultimately scared the animal away, and I am 100 percent sure that they saved his life."


Blumen said the boy, who was later transferred from the Boulder hospital to Children's Hospital in Denver, recovered "remarkably well."

Dean Paschall, division manager of visitor environmental services for the city of Boulder, which owns the popular recreation area, said the boy suffered facial lacerations and bite marks on one leg.

"This is something that is extremely unusual," Paschall said. "The mountain lions here are very accustomed to human beings. They don't look at humans as their natural food source."