Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
posted 4 years ago
Large cat prints, deep claw marks in a tree that's leaning at a 45 degree angle, a horse carcass that has been turned 90 degrees and flipped over, low growling noises at night, and a neighbor who spotted ... something ... moving through the tall grass one evening. I think we have a kitty cat.
My neighbor's cousin caught a big cat on his game cam and thought it was a lynx, but as far as I know, lynx don't usually hang out in West Tennessee. It was definitely bigger than a bobcat. We're thinking cougar?
Having spent my entire life in the Great Lakes region, I have no experience with big cats. Other than the obvious ... not leaving animals out a night, secure housing, keep the rifle close ... any advice? I don't want to kill it just for the sake of killing it, but I have no qualms about a little lead therapy if it starts causing problems.
I just ordered a game cam, so if I get a pic of it, I'll post it.
Have you contacted animal control? They might be able to set a trap and relocate it if they are able to capture it. I know here, we have to go pick up the trap and set it ourselves. Never had an issue with big cats but I know a lot of people around here have issues with bears. They have actually relocated several of them on occasion, although I'm not sure if that was animal control or what. Just an idea to maybe take care of the cat without 'taking care' of the cat.
Over a period of more than 20 years, I’ve seen four cougars (“mountain lions” some people call them) in my valley - positive identifications, as they were out in the clear and not partially hidden by trees or shrubs. First time was midday when i was driving on a quiet highway with a friend, so we were in a car. The big cat was halfway across the highway, and as I slowed then stopped the car, the cat just stood there and looked at us for maybe 10 seconds, then sauntered on its way across the road. He seemed as curious as we were to watch him. And I’ve heard that they tend to be curious about humans and human activity, but by all accounts are normally shy of people.
You should be cautious, I think, if you believe there’s one crossing your land. But attacks on people are extremely rare. Nearly every time I've heard about one, it’s been in a particular geography (Vancouver Island) that is more than 450 road miles west of where I live. I’ve wondered if there's a particular genetic strain of cougar that lives on Vancouver Island and tends to be less shy of humans than in other parts of our province.
Children seem to be more vulnerable, in the reports I’ve heard about, but still it’s very rare. We have a lot of deer around here, but in my valley two of the four cougars I’ve seen have been in specific areas where elk herds are present at times. There are stories of attacks on dogs, domestic cats, chickens, etc - but never anything like that close to me. I remember a couple of news stories of a town about 45-minutes drive from my place where women were astonished to find a cougar in their basements (got in, apparently, through an open window). The two incidents were maybe 15 years apart, and there was no attack by either cat in these cases. I've heard of unarmed adults and children being followed by a cougar without the cat ever attacking and with the cat keeping some distance.
I guess I can sum up by saying that in my neighborhood, if one of us saw a cougar wandering around we’d spread the word to our neighbors. People would probably be cautious but not really alarmed unless the cat started to pick off domestic animals or was hanging out in someone’s yard. In that case, neighbors would either hunt the animal or leave it to the wildlife officers, if the latter seems like they planned to respond.
My online educational sites:
I used to backpack alone in cougar and black bear territory (Southern CA) and never worried about them. I like to think we can allow other folks (non-human animals) to share territory with us - where else will they live when we've taken up most of the space? I think it is my responsibility to secure my domestic animals away from other predators, not the responsibility of the predators to not act like predators.
People mostly kill predators around here, unfortunately. We desperately need more predators because of a huge overpopulation of deer eating all the trees, but farmers and ranchers are prejudiced against them.
It's understanding they were a few stocked by the State Fish and Game to control the wild dog and coyote problem. This should be a plus for farmers too. We have the responsibility to let nature take its course for equal balance.
As someone from Vancouver Island I would recommend spreading the word for a few kilometers radius, if you have some sort of neighborhood bulletin. Especially to those with kids. I would also consider the trees -anything like a bough overhanging where you take the compost out at night or get into your car at dawn might merit pruning.
People around here sometimes say carry a belt knife just in case when out walking dogs etc, just in case. But I don't think that is helpful as cats are sneak up from behind type predators.
The Cougar (also known as puma and mountain lion) is a solitary animal.
As humans keep reducing their territory boundaries, more encounters with these animals occur, several have been deadly in the past 5 years. These occurred in Southern California on bike/ running trails in the foot hills.
When a cougar sees a human, it sees either a food animal or an animal that is a danger to it, depending on past experience.
They are usually looking for deer, and smaller game animals, but when we hem them in, they become at risk because they are one of the top predator species in North America and Mexico.
They usually attack humans ambush style, or from a mistaken identity.
Making noises will usually result in you never seeing one, they prefer to leave us alone when given the opportunity.
If one were to attack you, a belt knife is most likely not going to be able to be reached, they will go for the throat or back of the neck as a normal bite target, the claws will be sunk into the body to hold the prey item.