Cougar with Cub
I love your website - the questions and answers provide very relevant information and insight, and helps one think about how to navigate the space we share with the wild things, safely with down-to-earth, sensible suggestions. Thank you for that.
I wanted to share my recent cougar experience with you.
I've been living in prime mountain lion country for the past 14 years in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just a few miles above the town of Los Gatos, CA.
My first-ever cougar sighting was 2-years-ago around 5:00 am while walking my dog. Two large cats were by the creek; one on a hillside, the other about 40-feet from where I was walking, crouched in the ivy. Probably mother and adolescent cub. I caught their eyes reflecting back in my headlamp as I approached a bend in the road.
I verified they were indeed cats with my hand held spotlight. I slowly backed away from them, making loud, snarly, hideous noises. Abbey and I walked back home unharmed.
Three-weeks-ago, at 4:30 am, I was out on my front deck drinking coffee before work. It's a wonderful way to start the day: in the dark, owls hooting, and the sound of the creek behind me. Then I heard the loud, yowl of my cat, Oliver. I ran around to the back deck where the sound was coming from, yelling "NO!" in a loud, low voice (I thought Oliver was just tormenting one of my other cats).
On the sloping hill 30-feet beyond my deck I caught two sets of reflected eyes in my headlamp - one set small, the other much larger. I verified in the spotlight a mountain lion with Oliver pinned down by his paws. I screamed. I threw rocks. I screamed and screamed and screamed. I jumped off the deck and moved 5-feet towards this animal (not the best thing to do).
The cougar moved 5-feet towards me. He was so casual, matter of fact. Beautiful and cold. As I continued screaming (and 'safely' back on the deck), my neighbors came tearing up the road in their cars. This, I know, is the only reason the cat left his prey. He looked with mild interest at all my antics, but didn't leave his prey, until more activity took place to disrupt him. And at that, he just sauntered in and around us, up a driveway, and back into the dark.
Previous to Oliver's attack (who is just fine — only a few tooth marks around his head and ribs), I found out neighbors from a mile down the canyon ridge, had been missing their cats beginning 5 or so weeks prior to my encounter. One neighbor found her cat, killed — eviscerated, up behind her house just one week before. The Department of Fish and Games came out to take a look around and found cougar tracks at the killing site and followed the tracks leading up and under another neighbor's deck.
I'm still experiencing post-trauma, afraid to walk in my yard in the dark. I'm jumpy and my adrenaline pumps at the slightest hint of 'cat paws' sounding in the leaves. It's been three weeks since then. I'm re-adjusting and considering my options. Do I defend? If so, how? Do I move? I so love the wild environment; I identify with this living.
I keep my dog inside all day now while I'm at work. After a week of 'lockdown' for the cats, I started letting them out during the daylight hours, then round them up at dusk for the night. Small changes, I suppose, but some of our freedom is lost.
I'd like to think the cougar figured out his days of snacking on my community's pets were over. It's going to take some time before I'm feeling safe again.
I'd appreciate your thoughts or feedback.
Thank you for your kind words, it's nice to know that others are finding this website useful. My husband and I have worked on it continuously for over ten-years now and enjoy the work we do.
I know I don't have to tell you that you are a very lucky lady. It wasn't the smartest thing to do, advancing upon a cougar, even if you were trying to save your pet. You are correct in feeling apprehesive.
This particular cougar has discovered that domestic cats make a tasty meal and you know as well as I do that a house cat is no competition for a wild cat with huge teeth and claws. You will need to be very careful to keep your pets close during the hours just before and after dusk, (feeding time for most wild creatures) in the coming months. At least until this large cat figures out she's not going to get any more free meals.
If you haven't already done so, get with your neighbors, be sure they are all aware of the situation. With diligence from those who live in your immediate area, keeping a close eye on the neighborhood pets, you should be able to convince this lion, it's time to move on.
I enjoy sitting on my deck in the twilight hours too, but I keep a bb gun close at hand, just in case. It's primarily kept for raccoons, I'm not exactly sure how effective it will be against a cougar but it can't hurt. You might consider getting some flares, a paint ball gun (with a full CO2 cartridge they can really smart, if you're hit with one, and for a bonus, the lion would be easy to identify if the Fish and Game Department decide she needs to be put down.
It's not easy learning to co-exist with nature. Just imagine how the settlers of this wonderful country must have felt many years ago. They dealt with life-threatening dangers on a daily basis.
I think with a little creativity and forethought towards safety, we can learn to live in harmony with nature -- even cougars.
I appreciate your sharing your adventure with us. I hope you will write back again, should you have any further encounters. I wish you well in keeping Oliver safe.