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Staking a Claim II

Recap of Part I.

About nine years ago, the park I live in was a big mess. The owner of the park hired my neighbor to fix the homes in the park. Doors were hanging from the hinges, broken windows, bears, and other wildlife had made a big mess of the houses inside and out. So not many of the places were habitable and the time.

One evening he was walking through the park. He saw a cougar perched in a dilapidated doorway of a home that happened to have no door to block wildlife from entering. The cougar was in a relaxed pose with its front paws crossed. This pose is a clear indication of ownership on the cat’s part, this is my new home, and I am showing you that I am staking a claim. The only thing my neighbor could do at the time was to make himself as tall as possible, walk with a confident swagger. In this situation, you do not look back towards the predator. By looking back over your shoulder at an apex predator, you are marking yourself as prey, saying, Come and chase me. He said he was ultimately a mess on the inside and told himself, “From here on out, I am packing heat!”

Part II 

The next day, my neighbor packed heat and went into the house to clear it of any unwanted creatures. He went through every room and put up a flimsy door. You want to get the cat moving on and discouraged as quickly as possible before they start marking territory and getting comfortable. If you are inexperienced in this situation, it would be best to warn neighbors of the trouble, especially ones with children, and contact State Fish and Game.

Fortunately, my neighbor had an unfortunate experience with a cougar before. He was on a possie years ago that had to hunt a cougar that was killing people. This incident was 14 or so years ago, yet he gets pale and sickly looking when he talks about it. He had to view the condition of the bodies of the people the cat killed.

Humans can do the most dangerous thing concerning animals, especially apex predators, to attribute human emotion and body language onto the cat or bear. Many experienced animal behaviouralists have misread the body language of the animal and lost their lives. The worst thing to do in this situation would be to increase the cat’s or bear’s anxiety and have more people gather around to take in the scene. Again, you can not tell what the preditor is feeling or thinking—the more noise and activity around the animal, the more chances for an attack. These animals will not always growl or snarl before they attack, like in the movies; they may look very comfortable (human interpretation).

To explain how fast these animals move, I will describe an experience I had. I was in an R.O.P. class that revolved around animals. We were to examine the San Diego Zoo and write comments on things we thought they were doing right and problem areas we might have seen. I was in front of a clouded leopard enclosure. They had a little hollowed out log made of concrete that the cat could hide. I took a picture of the cat hiding out and did not realize my flash was on. The next instant, the cat was clinging to the bars and screaming at me. I jumped back, but if there had been no iron bars, my reaction would not have saved me. They move that fast before your eyes can take in motion; they are on you. I did not even see a blur.

While exercising in nature, it is always wise to take precautions. If you like to listen to music while exercising, keep one earbud out. Put a carabiner on your key chain and clip this to your bike, a belt loop, or walking stick. I’ve heard of people putting small bells on their walking sticks. Carry a whistle with you in case of trouble. Pepper spray is not a bad idea either; anything that can give you a better chance of escape helps. Letting the animals know you are there can help avoid disaster. A startled predator is an unpredictable animal. 

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