Cougar At Our Door
Cougars are native to Oregon, and there are approximately 5,000 here. I don't consider that a huge number of mountain lions, considering the size of our state, but apparently there are enough that one of them decided to take a peek in our sliding glass window.
It is a strange mix of emotions when something as wild and beautiful as a cougar is in such close proximity to the place where you feel the safest, your home. You are at the same time awed by the magnificent looks and terrified by the evident raw power. These are not small animals, and I've never seen my husband closer to a heart attack than when he casually looked toward the movement outside our large double sliding glass door to see a very large tan head looking in at him. By the time I had a chance to move to look at what he was yelling about, all I managed to see was the flick of a very long tail as it disappeared into the darkness.
Even though we are only about seven miles outside of town, there have been several cougar sightings in our area. We're thinking he stopped by because we had cooked fish for dinner, and the door was cracked due to the strong smell of the fish. We are quite thankful that we only had the door cracked a few inches.
Then of course you start checking to make sure the two Chihuahuas are indoors as well as the two cats. Cougars have been coming closer into populated areas not only because we are encroaching on their living space, but because their own food sources are either dwindling, or are also coming closer to our homes. We regularly have deer in our pasture and bedding down in the pine trees around the perimeter, and deer are a source of food for cougars.
Cougar Food Patterns
Cougar's primary food source is deer, but they will also consume elk, raccoons, bighorn sheep, and other animals and birds. These big cats are very territorial and their home range is up to 100 miles, therefore the other sightings in our area are most likely the same cougar. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and hunt alone due to that fact that they generally live a solitary life. A mother cat will keep it's kittens at it's side for two years, otherwise you will find them alone.
Many sightings turn out to be someone mistaking a large dog, bobcat, or coyote for a cougar. An adult cougar is quite large with a tail as long as three feet. It will have a consistent tan or tawny coloring, and if tracks are evident, they will be similar to a large dog with some variation if you pay close attention to the details.
Guidelines For Cougar Safety
Things to keep in mind if you live in an area where cougars have been seen:
- Don't leave food and garbage outside. Use animal proof garbage cans
- Feed pets indoors
- Keep pets indoors at dawn and dusk. Keep them inside at night
- Trim heavy brush and large tree limbs away from the house and outbuildings
- Install motion-activated lights outside near driveway and door walk paths
- Deer-proof your garden and yard with fencing, nets and lights
- Fence and shelter livestock. Move them into barns or sheds at night
- Be aware of areas where deer or elk are concentrated
- Do not feed any wildlife - you may attract something larger than you expected
If You Encounter A Cougar
Telling someone they should remain calm in such a situation is surely easier typed than done. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you should come face to face with a mountain lion.
- Cougars will often retreat if given a chance. Be sure to leave an open path for him
- Back away slowly. Do not turn your back to the cougar
- maintain direct eye contact
- Do not run, as this will trigger a chase response
- if the cougar appears aggressive, make yourself look larger and more imposing by raising your arms and by clapping loudly
- "Playing dead" will not work in these situations. If attacked, fight back with anything in your reach, such as rocks or tools.
Woman Killed at Big Cat Sanctuary in Oregon
Sad news two nights ago. A worker at the big cat sanctuary, here in Sheridan,Oregon was killed by one of their cougars.
This was a 36 year old woman, with a three month old baby at home. She had worked at the wildlife sanctuary for eight years, and was found alone in the enclosure with the cougar. No one understands why she had entered the enclosure alone, as it was strictly against the rules, as was the hose that was found inside. She, herself had mentioned to the owners that she didn't want to left alone at the sanctuary as she was worried for her safety.
No one will ever know what really happened, but she apparently was truly loved by the staff, and she loved her work there, despite the dangers. Sanctuaries such as this do an amazing job of caring for the animals that need their help, yet, it is also a tragic reminder that cougars, like all wildlife don't care if a human has been in their world for eight years when instinct kicks in.