Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Predator & Prey, Part II

Yesterday morning my preferred news station did a segment concerning seniors, the topic of which I have long since forgotten. Here's why I bring it up: there was a single, elderly female (mid to late 70s) on the screen when the words "cougar sighting" were juxtaposed over her head (not as a running news crawl at the bottom, but rather as though "cougar sighting" was the topic of this segment).

And while this woman was well past her cougar prime, the humor certainly wasn't lost on me.

So whether that was a studio prankster's way of having fun with the morning news — or an unintentional error — I was amused all the same.

But then they moved on to the story for which that "title" was intended — there had been multiple cougar sightings in the area, starting two weeks ago 45 miles north of the city, and continuing through yesterday morning into Wilmette — one of Chicago's wealthier suburbs, less than 10 miles north of city limits.

As intrigued as I was by the story — and as many questions as that story raised — I continued about my day all the same, wondering how such a creature — otherwise extinct in this state for nearly a century — came to find itself foraging for food in a concrete jungle.

These are not small cats, mind you. These are mountain lions. The second largest cat in the New World (after the jaguar), and the largest in North America. These are massive, magnificent beings — animals I researched a fair amount two springs ago before camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, where they are more likely to be found (though they generally keep their distance from humans, it's wise to also know how to deal with them if confronted).

These are not the coyotes that occasionally wander into the city, and it's unlikely this cougar somehow made its way to the Midwest from a mountain state some 800 miles away. No, more likely it was someone's pet — or so they likely hoped it would become when they took it in as a cub, perhaps realizing too late that some creatures cannot be domesticated.

[Heck, I sometimes even have questions about Maude's ability in that regard.]

Whatever happened — however this lion came to find itself in Chicago — I was sympathetic all the same to whatever it must've been feeling, its paws pounding against pavement, its breath muted by the sounds of horns, sirens and grumbling bus engines.

How incredibly lost it must have been, with a few forest preserves in the county to offer the sustenance such a large creature needs to survive.

How incredibly misplaced.

And so: though normally sorry to witness a predator munching on its prey, I was nevertheless crestfallen to hear of the cougar's fate: it had firmly made its way into the city, where it was cornered by police and shot to death.

From Wilmette (home of Ferris Bueller and Chicagoland's fiscally finest), to Roscoe Village (home of the quintessentially hip and the best vegan cuisine in all of Chicago), this lion made its way south, never returning north, never straying west or further east — as though on some clearly defined path.

I am reminded of common sense survival techniques which recommend first that you stay where you are and wait for someone to find you (if you know people are looking). And failing that: pick one direction; stick to it; and eventually, maybe, you will make your way out of the woods and back into civilized life.

And I cannot help but wonder just where, exactly, this lion was heading.


M@ said...

Mountain lions made a big comeback in Vermont and the northeast. They're back, baby.

In a remote area of northeastern Vermont near Canada, where moose migrate (illegally) from Canada, I once saw what I was sure was a wolf. An actual wolf.

david said...

The photo of that animal dead in the street was upsetting.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he was a tourist from Colorado just out to see the sights? Wanted to go downtown and get some pizza and *BOOM* some cop busts a cap. Poor mountain lion.

It should have just done what the mountain lions (and coyotes) here do when they are hungry. Eat pets. (No joke.)

Is a lay ever too old to be a cougar?


Eli said...

Fun read! Sad about the cougar though :(, oh, and I've been to Roscoe Village, I had some good sushi there!

bookfraud said...

very sad. i, too, wonder what the animal was searching for, where it was headed.

doesn't anyone know what a tranquilizer gun is for?

and thanks. i can't get image of the the "cougar sighting" out of my head.

Stacy said...

we just had the biggest bear Ive ever seen running rampant in our yard for a few weeks. The county rep said to stop feeding it and there was no way they were coming to move it. "If we moved every bear we got a call on, there'd be no room left in the state to put them"
I could never kill that amazing animal. (we scared it away with shots in the air, finally)
Sad for your Mountain Lion.

Pamela said...

I was sad when I saw that on th e news