Warning: EXTREMELY graphic photos. By clicking 'next' you acknowledge that the following photos are extremely graphic. Parents should use caution if children are present.
Warning: EXTREMELY graphic photos. By clicking 'next' you acknowledge that the following photos are extremely graphic. Parents should use caution if children are present.
The viral emails continue to make the rounds and this time we’ve found one of a supposed cougar encounter in the wheat country of eastern Washington state.
Only vague information is given on the happenings prior to the bloody fracas that ensued: “Thought you might like to see these pictures of a cougar that was shot out of a tree in someone’s yard between Grand Coulee and Wilbur. After it was shot it followed him to the house and clawed at the door before it died. They are out there!”
Despite calls to area biologists and law enforcement, we haven’t been able to ascertain whether or not this incident took place where mentioned and what the circumstances surrounding it actually were. If you have any information, please pass it along.
What we can tell you is that you wouldn’t automatically think of Wilbur, Wash., habitat as a cougar haven. The area around the small town is primarily agriculture with lots of open space that includes sagebrush, wheat and other crops. While the mind doesn’t conjure images of cougars stalking prey in wide-open areas, the land is on the northern boundary of the channeled scablands of eastern Washington and includes numerous draws, deep coulees and hideaways where a feline ghost could move around and hunt unnoticed.
Cougar conflicts are extremely rare in eastern Washington, but that can’t be said for other parts of the country or even other parts of the Evergreen State itself. They’ve been on a rise throughout the West in areas that have seen restrictions or outright bans on hunting the big cats.
Apex predators such as cougars, wolves and bears simultaneously inspire contempt, awe, respect, adoration, fear and, sometimes, romanticism that erroneously leads to anthropomorphism or well-intentioned yet scientifically lacking beliefs, actions and initiatives.
When the topic of controlling apex predators such as these arises, a varied and outspoken conglomeration that includes hunters, conservationists, environmentalists, animal-rights activists, nature watchers, ranchers, guides and outfitters, landowners and rural vs. suburban/urban citizens ensues.
As we view these pictures and contemplate the role of the cougar in nature and what has happened throughout the West in regards to the means and status of hunting seasons, we can’t help but comment on the role of anthropomorphism in citizen-inspired initiatives.
Most of these restrictions or bans are pushed by the agendas’ of animal-rights organizations. They open the door to Disney-like reasoning (anthropomorphism) by couching animals in human terms and dismissing scientific data. Citizen-sponsored initiatives in several Western states have challenged the use of hunting as a management tool for big game and, especially, predator control.
In California, cougar hunting was banned in 1972 with a bill signed by then-Gov. Ronald Regan. The law called for a 5-year ban on the sport hunting of cats, but it was extended twice between 1972 and 1986. In 1986 the 15-year moratorium was lifted, but lawsuits filed by the Mountain Lion Coalition kept the season tied up in courts until 1990 when voters approved Proposition 117 to permanently end cougar hunting in the state.
As a result, increased cougar-human conflicts have taken place as suburbs expand into cougar country and cat populations ebb and flow with population cycles, appropriate habitat, prey species distribution and other biological influences. Sick, starving cougars have attacked and killed people in the state, including 35-year-old Mark Jeffery Reynolds who was partially consumed while mountain bike riding at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in southern Orange County in 2004.
In Washington state, where these photos supposedly originated, a ban on hound hunting of cougars was passed by citizen-sponsored initiative in 1996. Anti-hunting animal-rights groups flooded the state, primarily funded by the deep pockets of the Humane Society of the United States, with emotional messages and images meant to pull at the heartstrings of the population base of urban voters. The same tactic was used to ban trapping in the state a few years later.
As a result of these initiatives, the state wildlife agency increased hunting season lengths and liberalized cougar bag limits. Increased human-cougar conflicts and cougar predation upon livestock in some areas prompted the state legislature to allow some restrictive hound hunting in specific spots once again. However, a study by Washington State University sheds light on other factors that might contribute to the increased conflict.
This 2008 article in the Seattle Times points the finger of blame for cougar conflict at hunting. It’s an interesting read that definitely uses biological and known conflict evidence, as well as hunter harvest numbers. The question we have after reading it, however, is: what was the overall population change from 1996 to 2006/07