e of the reasons we continue to read and hear about cougars in Crook County and outlying parts of central Oregon, is because they are powerful predators, fairly common among us, but largely unseen.
Cougars are entirely capable of quickly killing deer, elk, horses, cattle, llamas, dogs, humans, or other tasty morsels common to our area.
Cougars are also relatively common, with Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife biologists estimating the state has approximately 5000. That averages one big cat for every square block of land measuring approximately four and a half miles on a side.
Cougars are largely unseen, because they prefer it that way - and they are very good at hiding. Many times I've hiked a trail, then found cougar tracks on top of my boot prints, when I returned along that trail a few hours later. The sighting of such tracks guarantees you'll look behind you. I never saw the track makers.
All that means is that some people find it quite disconcerting that they might share their walk in the woods with an unseen critter that could kill them in an instant.
A caller once explained that he was from California where they have mountain lions but no cougars. That illustrates another misunderstanding about this big cat. Part of a recent article in Mule Deer magazine explains, "Although the names mountain lion and cougar are used interchangeably in most areas, in various states one name or the other is dominant. There are at least three states - California, Colorado and Montana - where it is mountain lion by statute, while Oregon's regulations specify cougar."
That ex-Californian also pointed out, proudly, that his home state doesn't allow the killing of such beautiful animals. That's understandable because California allows a lot of queer things. He forgot to mention the people that have been killed and eaten by lions there.
Fortunately Oregon has yet to have a fatality from cougars. Maybe Oregonians don't taste good. Whatever, we've been lucky, and the lack of human deaths should clearly illustrate the very slim chance of being eaten while you're enjoying a walk in the wilds. Go and enjoy.
However, many wildlife experts insist it is only a matter of time before we have a human fatality from cougars. Most experts won't stick their necks out as to when or where that will be, but Jim Anderson of Sisters is more daring than most.
Jim is a well-known and very knowledgeable naturalist. I usually agree with him on wildlife facts; we sometimes have differing opinions.
In the January 13 issue of the Source, a weekly Bend newspaper, Jim wrote about the dangers of feeding deer. When people lure deer with alfalfa handouts, those deer lure cougars. Cougars might prefer venison, but a child would make a nice snack.
Then Jim stretches his neck by writing, "Within the next three years, I believe someone is going to be killed by a cougar in the Bend/Sisters area..."
Although I agree that somewhere in Oregon somebody will be killed by a cougar, just to prove friend Jim wrong, I'm asking all my cougar friends not to kill anyone for three years.