Cougar Tales Part One
By Leneé Cobb
Ghostwalker. That’s a good name for a big cat. Very descriptive. Cougars are on my mind today. I spent some time this morning trying to recall the name of a book I once read about cougars and finally remembered the title: The Ghost Walker by R.D. Lawrence. Amazon has it. I recommend it.
We have a lot of cougars where we live, at the base of the Olympic Mountains between two small waterways. Game follows the water and predators follow the game. We left the lower half of our property, which edges the northeast waterway that I named Ka-trickle Creek, unlogged and untamed so that the wildlife would have someplace to drink and rest and graze in peace.
Gone are the days our horses grazed the grassy areas. Those horses kept watchful eyes on the wildlife passing through. My husband had one horse that hated bears. Every time our neighborhood bear came near, that horse would snort and jump the fence and chase the bear a good distance up the logging road. That same horse acted differently around the big cats. Some cats he got along with, some he didn’t, but he hated every bear, no matter what. That horse actually threw my husband off his back once in a determined frenzy to chase that poor bear one day. “Damned hard to stay on a horse when he’s facing downhill and you’re in an area where the going is steep.” Other than bear chasing, he was a good horse, always hopped himself right back over the fence instead of racing down the road and onto the highway. Good thing for us.
But back to big cats.
I keep looking out the backyard to my grown over garden spot. I’d have it worked by now, in years past, but with the horses no longer here, the pasture grass and nettles are up to my shoulders and there are trails through that grass made by coyotes, deer, and cougar. I don’t feel much like having my back turned to that grassland while I’m gardening. Those horses of ours are sorely missed. They’d love it when I worked the garden. I’d toss the dandelions over the fence for them. They’d watch my back along with their own.
There was one litter of cougar cubs that neither horse appreciated. When the youngsters got to be around six to eight months, they each thought they had to take a go at horse catching and after the hullabaloo that morning, I don’t think those two messed with any more horses.
I’ve had the pleasure of playing with cougar kittens. I’ll have to dig up those old photos one of these days.
Cougar cubs, even though they’re full grown at one, remain with their mothers for two years. The road we live on is about 3.5 miles. One-year, one mama cat with four cubs spent time at our end of the road and that same day, a mother with three kittens was spotted at the other end of our road. That makes two families totaling nine full-grown cougars within a 3.5-mile radius, not counting papa tom(s).
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you they don’t hunt in packs. You better assume if you are looking one in the eye (and always do that; look them in the eye and never turn your back,) that there are more aside and behind you. It’s not always true, but don’t assume it’s never true.
Shortly after I spotted R.D Laurence’s book on Amazon, which I was recommending to a fellow writer, my husband took off up the mountain behind our property and made it about three-quarters of a mile before he called me from his cell phone. Now, he’d usually give me a call once he arrives at his destination up the mountain, which takes him about thirty minutes to reach, but not merely five minutes after leaving home. I thought, “Something’s wrong.” Maybe his truck broke down or somebody else wrecked or something bad.
“Hey,” He sounded breathy. I could hear his truck was sputtering, threatening to die, in the background. He said, “I’m at the first Y off to the right, you know the place. I just spotted a cougar.”
So, it might head downhill towards our place. Perhaps I’ll see it, or one of its siblings or mate. Maybe I won’t. But I’ve a collection of cougar tales to tell and I’m posting this to remind myself to write them.
Do you have any stories to share about cougars?