Monday, November 14, 2011

On Cougars.

About 2 weeks ago, the day after our friends B & K left after being here a week and a half, and the day before my best friend A was due to arrive for a bit over a week, my husband filled his cougar tag. It sounds more exciting than it was (for us at least!). The local game agent, who my husband knows fairly well through work, called my husband to say he had just shot a problem cougar, did my husband want it to fill his tag? My husband, always eager for more skulls (yup, I married the right guy!), eagerly said YES! Before really telling me what was going on (on our one night to ourselves in the midst of a month of madness mind you!), he was on the phone with a close friend who lives nearby. My husband convinced K (and his wife and their son who is the same age as Little M) to bring the whole family over so the guys could process the cougar while the girls played with the kiddos.

Sigh. I love, absolutely love, hanging out with them, but really? Our one night off? Sigh. Of course, and as usual, us girls had a great time chatting and hanging out with the kids inside (and briefly outside watching the game agent tell the guys how to go about skinning the cat, before the kids got too cold). And the guys were quite successful in skinning the cougar and cutting the backstraps off to put in our freezers (apparently cougar backstrap tastes like pork - who knew!). All told, it was a good night, although not the night I had envisioned.

So the story with the cougar is this. It had been hanging around a lady's house for a couple days, she had kids and livestock around and when the game agents went to check out the cougar it approached them, so obviously fairly acclimated to humans. There wasn't a good spot to put the normal livetrap, and leaving the cougar there just wasn't a safe option, so the game agent had to shoot it. Knowing that my husband wanted a cougar skull, the game agent gave us a call, and that was that!

Now, on to the more recent and personally more exciting cougar story. On friday, my husband and I (and Little M and the dogs of course) were on a ramble around our property and wandered back through the field next door. I had been seeing crows, ravens, and magpies flitting around and was wondering if there was a deer dead in there or something. We came across a spot where there was a lot of blood and the stomach contents of an animal, presumably a deer, but no other sign. It seemed strange, but after some searching around the area didn't reveal anything further, we shrugged and walked back home.

Fast forward to last night. I had just put Little M down to bed, and one of the dogs started barking from the sun porch. I went out to see what Lily was barking at, stepping over a sleeping Tia to do so. I figured there mustn't be much happening if Tia was sleeping through it, then realized I was hearing noises outside. I told Lily she was ok and stuck my head out the patio door. My first thought was, that sounds like a cat. Then I heard deer thumping away as they moved through the field next door, and thought, oh, it must just be deer mating or something. Then I heard a brief strange bleating sound. Again, I thought, oh, I guess that is what deer mating sounds like, there is no way there is really a cat next door.

I let Lily out, keeping a close eye on her in the floodlights, and called my husband, who was at work. He had talked to the game agent earlier, who had told him that blood sign like we saw in the field is often a sign that a mother cougar and her kits are in the area. They kill a deer and the blood and stomach contents is all that is remaining after they eat their fill and carry off the rest of the carcass to munch on later. Hmm, I thought, as I urgently called Lily to come a bit closer to the deck. But I thought, no, there is no way there is really a cougar in the field next door.

Fast forward to this morning. I had to be in at work early for a day that I also have to take Little M to daycare. The house was still shaded by the hills to the east when we left, and imagine my surprise to see the head, just the head, of a young deer on the road as I drove down the road to daycare, right as I passed that field next door. Hmmm, I thought to myself, as I started to laugh. I guess those weren't deer mating last night. My next thought was, COOL - I heard a cougar kill a deer last night!

After talking with E, the lady who watches Little M a couple days a week, I called my husband and convinced him to check under the back deck for cougars before letting the dogs out, and to maybe call the game agent again and to check the head out on the road on his way in to work. The game agent said to look for the nose of the deer being chewed off, as that is fairly characteristic of cougar kills, and sure enough, the deer head had the nose chewed off.

The game agent should be bringing a trap by in the next couple days to see if he can trap the cougar (and her kits if it is a mom), and hopefully he will be able to collar her and ID chip her kits and then release them back here. We certainly aren't minding having a cougar nearby, although it does make me more cautious with the dogs after dark, and more mindful of my back when I go out to get wood in the evenings!  I would really not be very happy if the cougar had to be shot because I was careless with our animals, that is for sure. Hopefully we will get some pictures from a nice safe distance, and then the cougar will move off and live a happy life up in the high country eating lots of tasty deer :)


  1. It seems so odd to me that cougars would be so common or that people hunt them. Here in the midwest, we very occasionally get one passing through and it makes the news! They are beautiful animals, although not something I would want to meet in the dark.

  2. Sad to see one had to be shot. We leave so little space for wildlife.

  3. Mountain lions are very common in some areas of the West and populations are often very healthy. Often with healthy populations some animals end up in areas that present danger to people, pets, and livestock, and unfortunately some individuals become habituated to human presence--a very dangerous situation. Every year here in Whitefish, several cougars are removed from town (the valley is deer winter range), usually through relocation, but some of the lions do have to be euthanized. Each situation is managed on a case by case basis.

    Central Washington sounds similar to our area; we have a regular hunting/chase season on mountain lions here in northwest Montana. Quotas for these seasons are carefully set and monitored by Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

    Our veterinarian, several years ago, in a very kind gesture gave us the backstraps off a cougar he had harvested. This is a choice cut of meat off of any did indeed taste like pork...different but not unpleasant.

  4. Thanks for the great response Bobbie! :) Yup, here where we live the cougar population is quite healthy, and this year more than most we have been having a large number of early winter sightings down lower than normal. Might be an indication of deer being down at lower elevations earlier so they are down here following the food, or might be they are responding to cues that it might be a harder than normal winter. Either way, there have been more sightings than normal for this time of the year.

    Yes, it is too bad one had to be shot, but at least it was put to good use (we've got the skull on display, hide being tanned, and will eat the backstraps) and not just tossed aside like roadkill legally has to be here.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...