“Does humankind have the forbearance, the stamina, and the self-discovery of needed change to really save ourselves from ourselves. Apex Predators merely a mirrored perspective in our own souls, and look how we treat them.” — John Cox, Cascade Mountains
Once hunted nearly to extinction, cougars are currently once again on the decline, especially in the North West. Years ago their ecological success story that caused celebration, and just as the wolves in the NW, makes folks nervous as well. Worries are growing that the secretive cougar is getting comfortable around much of the human population.
“Here in Oregon the reality of cohabitation on this planet cannot be discussed enough.” — John Cox, Wolf/Cougar Advocate
The true data, reality, is only 10 people were attacked fatally, within the United States since 1890. There have been no documented Cougar attacks in Oregon State.
“We have a lot more people, actually urban-sprawl into wildlife domains, and with that some Cougar encounters — but simply not that many. Each encounter and the misinformation that goes with it, creates a quite dangerous environment for our Cougars here in Oregon. Often myth is much more dramatic than reality, and so goes the media as well,” said John Cox.
Of the 10 fatal cougar attacks on people recorded since 1890 in the United States, half were in the past 10 years. Non-fatal attack-reports of cougars preying on pets and livestock on the increase, but mostly go non-confirmed. The problem with the pets and livestock, 90% of the time, is facts or reality sometimes swayed, especially by cattle and sheep ranchers, and have been caught many times doing so . . .
Cougars currently are pretty much a “Tale of Fear” rather than reality – and many ranchers and others who fear the Cougar demand its demise. Why?
Well, imagination and tales upon tales become dramatic when a hunter or trapper states, “. . . ya, their all over the mountains out there,” swiftly becomes a mythic confirmation of “Cougar Overpopulation” defined. The fact is this is done without checking the counts, or even counting to see if correct for that matter. So are encounters a realty? Well, not so much, but certainly at times seemingly so for the non-participant or occasional visitor in the wilds. But the terminology spikes the definitive scale of misinformation, which then over-spills into bias and even hate.
Being attacked by a cougar, or even seeing one in the wild, is rare to many, to include hunters and trappers alike. One of the larger problems that exist — one attack captivates perception and fear in total. This is a somewhat daunting combination; suddenly one attack becomes 20 or even 30. The tales abound, and no one bothers to fact-check, but repeats the tale from friends – and if more than one had already obtained the information – then “By Damn” that’s confirmation of more.
With every encounter that hits the evening news, the jitter-factor rises among the general populace, until sometimes it seems as if there’s a predator behind every tree. Wildlife officials say they’ve received complaints of “Cougars” that turned out to be deer, yellow Labrador retrievers or even house cats playing in the grass.”
“There’s a little public hysteria about this,” John Cox states while looking over a map of the Cascade Range, plotting consistency of Cougar Tracks. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives us an increased chance to educate people about lions, so they can learn to live with them. But keep in mind it is the Apex Predators, the wolves and others also under the gun, so to speak, right now, and due to bias and fear alone.”
But how, exactly, can people live with one of North America’s most adaptable predators? A Cougar can sprint 40 mph and leap 20 feet into a tree. With its great yellow eyes and keen nose, it can see and smell people coming long before they know the Cougar is there.
There exists no consensus yet, over how to coexist with an animal that occasionally displaces humans at the top of the food chain. “But we do know this bothers many people, and actually to acknowledge we may be a second-rung in world-wide domination is troublesome to many,” John says looking up from the map, concerned, “And yet, the Cougar would simply stay-away if given the room, or adequate choice. We have indeed invaded their realm of life.”
In Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico, complaints from ranchers and deer hunters about too many Cougars prompted game officials to relax cougar-hunting rules. Then we discover urban sprawl as well as entire communities, knowingly, were built into, evasively, well known Cougar Habitats. Ironic, as these habitats, if left alone, could have protected the Cougar from invasive non-indigenous species – or humans, as we pander our philosophy toward ourselves being the dominant caretakers of our planet, supposedly.
The West’s more urban coastal states, meanwhile, experience a more protective mind-set toward Cougars. Washington voters banned the use of hounds for recreational cougar-hunting in 1996, the same year that Oregon voters rejected a challenge to their state’s ban on hounds, which still exists to this day.
People have a more holistic approach to sharing the land, not just with Cougars but with bears and other animals once considered varmints, and especially Apex Predators. “I think people like knowing these animals are out there, and many educated today acknowledge the fact of reforestation potentials directly involved with Apex Predators such as the Cougar, the Wolf, or the Bear. But not just reforestation, but moving wildlife-browsers around often can also save vegetation as well as much of the smaller wildlife from starvation.” John says enthusiastically.
Biological Habitats are firmly based around a cohabitation principle. Certainly something we can learn for our nations wildlife, and even worldwide.
Cohabitation with Wildlife
“In the cork forests of Portugal, Sanjayan shows an example of humans and wildlife flourishing in a shared environment. Local farmers annually harvest the bark of the trees for wine bottles, being extremely careful not to harm the trees while doing so. With this method, the bark of the trees grows back even stronger the next season, when it’s ready to be harvested again.”
John rises from the map and walks over to place bird seed in his home-made bird feeder, then talks, once again concerned but positive, “In order to cohabitate with wildlife, especially with wildlife, we must relearn, at least about our human behalf or mental being, in order to become humane. This is so we can fully understand and then acknowledge things that had been beyond our thoughts, beyond our own willpower to achieve. What does it mean for an animal to be wild; how in our evolutionary past did humans live with wildness, and we did, make no doubt of that. What of wildness might make sense in modern times? This is what we are directly involved in now, and more and more are hoping on this band-wagon, so to speak.”
“Humane treatment of animals, and a little love, that is frankly, in short supply right now – It takes a community, a group of strong people, and a definite resolution, that is basically a beginning to new times, changes that are positive within and around nature and our environment. . .”
The central argument, more implied than stated, is that still today wildness remains part of the architecture of the human soul, mind, and body, and that to thrive as individuals, and as a species, we need to cohabitate with ourselves and all of wildlife. In destroying Apex Predators’ we destroy humankind as well, and our natural ecological systems — if things do not change, our environmental destruction is already foreseen, by the year forecast of 2035, and we are doing it to ourselves — we can no longer blame the wildness . . . John Cox, Writer, Cascade Mountains