Friday, August 22, 2008

Cougar protocols


It's been said that people fear what they don't know. Whether its people of a different religion or skin color, a foreign land, strange foods.... or a cougar. Last Sunday night our East Fork neighbor's 6-pound dog Ella was attacked by a cougar. My immediate response was "We need to relocate this cougar and get it out of our neighborhood." Tensions were running high in our little berg with people packing guns to go for a walk and others saying killing or relocating the cougar wasn't the answer.

Last Wednesday evening, Lee Garwood and Randy Smith of the Idaho Fish & Game came to talk to our neighborhood (thank you!) Here's what we learned: Cougar territory covers almost every square inch of the Wood River Valley. We live in prime cougar habitat. Where there is water and food (deer, fox and other critters) there are cougar. They are watching us each and every day. Usually cougars are reclusive, so citing one is rare. If you relocate a male cat, another will move in to fill the vacuum.

Here's how to avoid a cougar confrontation. First, don't feed wildlife, especially deer, a cougar's preferred meal. Do not leave pet food outside, which attract their other favorite morsels, raccoons and skunks. From dusk to dawn, keep your kids, dogs and cats close by, out of tall grass, and in a lit area. Our housecat likes to sleep inside all day and hunt all night. Sorry, Fritz, you're now under house arrest with a dusk curfew, as are the dogs. An enclosure isn't protection for a dog, unless it's covered. If walking outside your house at night, turn on the exterior lights to warn the cougar.

It ends up our neighbor Kelly Beach saved her dogs life by doing all the right things. She did not run, she yelled loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood, she stood up to the lion and made eye contact, and she didn't turn her back on the lion.

I may still fear an interaction with a mountain lion, but now I know what to do should I happen upon one. And as far as dining al fresco at our house, I think we'll just laugh louder and turn up the music as a cougar deterrent. I know my neighbors will understand.

Sheila Liermann

Ketchum




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