Cougar Attacks

"Of those attacks verified by biologists, many are made either by old, starving animals or by younger cougars still learning to hunt. In one British Columbia study, most attacks were by juvenile cougars independent of their mothers but not yet proficient at catching prey"(Busch 1996).

      Beier did a study on increased cougar attacks on Vancouver Island and discovered the absence of several prey-species;opossum,rabbits,coyote,bobcat,badger, and skunks. "A lack of small prey may be especially critical for a yearling animal less proficient at taking deer, and may contribute to the increased attacks on humans on Vancouver Island"(Beier 1991). Managing habitat to supply a satisfactory food supply for the cougar may discourage attacks. "The low body mass of most yearling attackers suggests that this many be an important factor. The data suggest that yearling and underweight cougars were most likely to attack humans"(Beier 1991).

      By knowing what provokes attacks, one has a better understanding of how to avoid them. Although cougar attacks on humans are rare, they do happen. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, 13 people have been killed in cougar attacks in North America in the past 100 years(up to Year 1990). The "Latest U.S. and Canada Attack Numbers from E.Lee Fitzhugh, show 38 attacks with 7 fatal from 1991 to 2000"(Beier 1991).

     In Banff, where there is increasing attacks due to cougars following the elk into the area, park managers are undertaking a number of initiatives to try and deal with the recent changes. There is a study where park wardens are attempting to radio collar all cougar around the area for study, and also the continuation of elk relocation. "By continuing to move elk out of the town-site, warden's hope that the elk will become available to predators like wolves and cougars without being attracted into the town-site. Wardens will also be working to educate residents in ways to reduce elk attractants such as wildflower gardens"(MountainNature, Found April 2005 in:

     "Humans can help avoid a cougar attack, since cougars do not naturally attack humans. It is usually caused by a human coming too close to a cougar kill(deer or other prey that it has no intention of sharing), protective female concerned over a human getting too close to her kittens, a sick or old animal not able to catch its normal prey, female with lots of kittens to feed, or most likely by hungry, young cougars 12 - 23 months old which have been forced out of their home range by territorial cougar competition and shortage of habitat"(Busch 1996).

      Human and livestock attacks are the direct result of human invasion into cougar habitat, either taking up residence in their habitat, or driving them from it into less desirable locations.Wildlife corridors are essential in allowing the movement of cougars from one protected area to another, to lessen the chance of them passing in undesirable places.

      It is very difficult to relocate a troublesome cougar. Once a report is received of a cougar killing a pet or livestock, or attacking a human, conservation officers are usually called into action. Catching the cougar and putting it in a refuge is difficult because refuges are filled to capacity and older animals do not adapt to captivity as easily as young ones. Returning the cougar to the wild in another area rarely solves the problem because, "there are almost always other lions where there is prey. The relocated cat may be killed by a resident male. Or starve if there is, after all, too little food. Some relocated cougars, unfamiliar with the new era, wander onto highways and are killed by cars. Many simply head back where they came from, so relocation is rarely done. We're just relocating the problem. Most of the cougars that are removed, if healthy and adaptable to confinement, will be placed in a zoo or other facility, but some will be destroyed"(Mountain Lions in California,2005, In: The Department of Fish and Game(DFG) has a large list of educational and private licensed facilities, but not all are suitable to hold large cats.

There is a saying:
Given choice, this solitary and elusive hunter would prefer to avoid people in most cases. However, cougar studies in the West suggest that cougars are not the obligatory wilderness animals we once thought they were. They are very adaptable mammals. In southern California and in Colorado, the cats seem to be able to exist in close proximity to seemingly high densities of people. Again, habitat and prey base seem to take precedence over human presence as factors critical to cougar existence. The key ingredients to co-existing with humans are sufficient deer and protected habitat.
          However, humans must be aware that any cougar can be a very dangerous animal. Learning safety precautions may save your life.

See the SAFETY link for Protection Tips in the event that you meet a cougar.

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