Controlling cougars

By From page A5 | October 15, 2012


It is unpleasant to think about the death of the cougar and her three cubs. It was a necessary act however. There is no natural population control on apex predators like cougars except disease and starvation. When Californians protected cougars specifically they made this sort of action the only way to keep the cougar population under control. Please do not think that I do not like cougars.

I have a family property within the El Dorado National Forest. I lived there with my children during the 1970s, and our horses would keep me posted about the presence of cougars. Back then, cougars were hunted by permit, and they were fairly controlled. Through the years 1980-2000 my parents lived there. A cougar used the property as part of its range. There is still the “cougar tree,” a huge cedar with a large side branch about 40 feet off the ground where the cougar lounged and watched for prey. The big cat roamed freely around the place, once lolling about the back lawn like a giant house cat, stretching out in the sun. He left all livestock alone for several years, then started killing a neighbor’s sheep. After he was killed, it was found that he had a broken jaw, no doubt the reason he had to go after tamer and more easily caught prey than deer. Hungry offspring to feed probably drove the young mother cougar to kill a goat. With a range that included only property occupied by humans, the cougar would be capable of preying on people. That fact makes it easier for me to think about shooting them.

When I am working on our forest property, I always make sure to have my German Shepherd with me. But, as a friend pointed out, the dog can run faster than I can! Cougars will lie in wait and watch, so I watch back. Once, a cougar marked a tree when I was working in the orchard. The cat urine smell was very obvious and I appreciated the warning. We do not see the cougars, but they all have their ranges, and other cougars are not welcome. The young female would have preferred to hunt game up in the forests but competition no doubt forced her into populated areas. If we do not control their population growth, unhappy situations like this are going to be repeated.


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