Beware of cougars

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Dennis Clay

By DENNIS L. CLAY

Herald Columnist

We live in cougar country folks. Donít stay indoors all your life, but be aware of the chance of a cougar encounter.

This warning comes upon the report about the cat involved in a cougar killing a bicyclist this spring in the North Bend area. The report states no abnormalities were discovered in the cougar carcass, which might have contributed to the animalís behavior. This is considered unusual.

We live in cougar country, as one was killed by Fish and Wildlife a few years ago on the edge of Ephrata. Another was killed near the south end of Lake Lenore. A photo of six of the cats was circulated in Moses Coulee.

The photo was taken on a trail camera. A Fish and Wildlife biologist told me this was extremely unusual to have this many cougar in one area. However, he said, sometimes a cougar mother will allow a daughter to live in her territory.

In this case, it was estimated both the mother and daughter had three kittens. The small ones were malnourished and it was estimated only one from each litter would live.

This is all just fine and interesting. Although remote, readers should be aware of a chance encounter with a cat when hiking in the Columbia Basin.

Fish and Wildlife recommends the following when encountering a mountain lion: If you come face to face with a cougar, your actions can either help or hinder a quick retreat by the animal.

Stop, pick up small children immediately, and donít run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougarís instinct is to chase. Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.

Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it (e.g., step up onto a rock or stump). If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.

Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide. Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.

If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.

If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing, even bare hands.

If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake. Pepper spray in the cougarís face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.

Sept. 14 beginning of Outdoor Skills workshop for women

Fish and Wildlife will offer a workshop featuring the basics of fishing, hunting and other outdoor skills on Sept. 14 through 16 at Camp Waskowitz in North Bend.

Twenty-five certified and experienced volunteer instructors will teach 18 classes throughout the weekend on skills such as archery, basic freshwater fishing, fly-fishing and fly-tying, big-game hunting basics, map and compass, survival, backyard wildlife habitat, Dutch oven cooking, backpacking, duck hunting, wilderness first aid, and more.

Workshop participants must be at least 18 years old and must have a current Washington recreational fishing license to participate in the fly-fishing class.

Dennis note: This is a great/super/wonderful opportunity for those women who have not been exposed to the outdoors and want to learn the basics. I have tried to have Fish and Wildlife offer such a class on our side of the mountains, but so far have been unsuccessful.

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