Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cougars As the Bad Guys

I got an e-mail note from a gentleman in northwest Texas inquiring if there was some call that could be used to “call” a cougar so it could be shot. Apparently, he’s having some kind of predator problem up there, and he’s convinced it’s a cougar problem because several good sized dogs have been taken and some cougars have been spotted on the highways. Indeed, there is some reason to suspect that they may have a cougar problem out there; he told me a rancher let loose several cougars that had been captives. These cats don’t typically do well in the wild and often become problem animals trying to survive. But, if that’s true, the cougar is the symptom of the problem. The real problem here is man. Too many people acquire cougars as pets and then turn them loose as they get older and more expensive, creating a huge problem not only for the cougar but also for the people they will undoubtedly run into.

What also bothered me about that situation was the writer’s assumption that it had to be cougars that were the problem because nothing else could kill dogs that size. Not true. Coyotes now account for the largest numbers of livestock lost in our country, and they will take dogs and pets, too. It’s unlikely it could be black bears out where he was, but in some parts of the country, that could be true as well. He assumed that cougars were the problem and what was needed was some “population control”. We need population control of people, even worse; but we don’t usually shoot them when they become problematic, even when it might be a good idea. The reality is I didn’t see enough information to tell me anything other than there was a problem and some reason to think it might be cougars causing it. That’s not the same as finding tracks, examining kills and kill sites, and establishing with some scientific basis what animal or animals might be involved. Killing off the wrong predator could make a situation worse, even though I know there’s plenty of folks out there who believe the only good predator is a dead one. That’s hypocritical if you ask me since they’ve obviously not taken a gun to their own heads. Man is, after all, the worst predator of them all; if you don’t believe me, just pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV.

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