Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Big Cat

A recent on-line video showed footage filmed by a couple of Sierra climbers who had a close encounter with a cougar. Neither they nor the reporter who put the story together seemed to grasp the animal rights issue at the heart of their tale. 

The guys hiked up behind a cat who was around the curve on a hillside trail. One pulled out his phone and recorded stalking the animal for some distance. The cat out-stalked the two, and they found themselves looking into its eyes from an ideal leaping distance. A charge would have knocked a target helpless onto its back.

It unnerved me to see the cat against the dead conifer it had chosen for a background: camouflage was so good that it took two and a half seconds for my brain to register the threat. My partner at the breakfast table pointed out that this has been an excellent year for deer and the animal was obviously well fed, so it was toying with the uninvited guests in its territory. No doubt our species is all too familiar.

The on-line story included a still photograph of another cat being moved from an area where it might do serious harm. Unlike other film I've seen of cougars in transport cages, this one looked merely put out rather than stressed.  Perhaps the experience was familiar.

As a child, I read most of a senior hunter's personal library of books about noteworthy carnivores. John Hunter's autobiography is valuable virtual experience, as is Jim Corbett's Man-eaters of Kumaon, with its back stories of pitiable disability. The stories were immediately relevant on the Olympic peninsula, because it had been a prime hunting ground before the park was established. The area had its own legendary hunters, who may be documented at the Clallam County Historical Society-30-

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