A cougar is a large cat native to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and some parts of South America. It is known by a variety of names, most commonly: puma, mountain lion, panther or cougar.
These large felines have short fur varying in colour from grey to reddish brown. An adult will grow from 6 to 8 1/2 feet long. Its tail accounts for 1/3 of its length. It can weigh up to 175 pounds.
Cougars rarely attack humans, unless they are sick, have their young with them, are surprised or frightened, or are feeding.
Their preferred prey are deer, caribou, moose, elk and smaller mammals such as rabbits, lynx, beavers or ducks.
Cougars are most active at dawn and dusk, but they have been known to roam and hunt at any time, day or night, during every season.
Cougar attacks occur most often during late Spring and Summer. This is the time when the young cubs leave their mothers and roam some distance looking for unoccupied territory in which to settle.
If you meet a cougar, always leave it an avenue of escape. Normally, it will avoid a confrontation, however it must be remembered that these big cats are unpredictable.
Stay as calm as possible and stand upright. Try to enlarge your image. Raise your arms or a jacket over your head. Face the animal and look it in the eye. Bare your teeth, stick out your chest and make growling noises. Try to convince it that you are a threat and not the next meal.
If there are a group of adults, they should stand close together and make loud, threatening sounds. If there are small children in the group, it may be helpful to lift them to adults’ shoulders to enhance the illusion of heighth.
If possible, start to back away slowly. Do not make any sudden movements or turn your back on the cougar.
If the cat seems to acting aggressively, grab any weapons available: stones, sticks, walking poles, a knife, a fishing rod or branches. Attack as fiercely as possible and target the eyes. A thumb in the eye has stopped more than one cougar attack.
If your home is in an area where cougars have been sighted, it is wise to take special precautions, especially if you have children.
* Do not feed wildlife, such as deer, around your house. They are natural prey which will attract cougars.
* Put a strong fence around the yard where children play.
* If they ride the bus to school, escort the children to the bus stop. Be sure the surrounding area is clear of brush and undergrowth where a cougar may lurk.
* Consider getting a dog. With its keen senses of sight, smell and hearing, it can serve as an early-warning alarm when a big cat is in the area.
* Only allow the children to play outdoors in supervised groups. It’s a good idea to have a radio playing in the background. At dawn or dusk, youngsters should remain indoors.
* Do not feed pets outside. Food scraps may attract cougars. Keep cats and dogs within sight and bring them inside at night.
Cougars are an endangered species. Every year over 2,100 are shot in the United States and Canada. When a female is killed, about three or four kittens also perish because they cannot survive on their own until they are almost a year old.
Cougars are a vital part of our diverse wildlife panorama, but it is smarter and safer to view them from a great distance, in a film, or from behind bars in a zoo or a wildlife preserve.