Cougar!

Aug. 6th, 2015 12:20 am
furtech: (no cookie)
[personal profile] furtech
I recorded an animal lifer on the dogwalk tonight: Cougar.

Honestly, this is the one lifer I -never- wanted to see. Coyotes are annoying (and city coyotes are more mellow then their wilder relatives); raccoons are moderately dangerous (more so than coyotes, really); skunks are just a pain.

Cougars scare the crap out of me. None of the others are capable of killing an eighty-five pound male husky and then leaping over an 8-foot fence carrying it (which happened around here a few years ago). Cougars are seriously scary.

We were walking/hiking around midnight (too hot to walk during the days now) near a gated community, at the north end of the neighborhood near the foothills. The border collies had been restless this evening and at one point took off after something. I heard a new sound in the darkness (never a good thing), a brief kind of "Rackh!" sound. Something bounded down the hill and leap a drainage ditch: for a moment I saw it silhouetted against the night sky: a long, lean shape.

My first reaction was, "Huh." Too big for a cat; too big and too long for a bobcat; and that tail-- uh-oh. The long, fat tail. Fuck. Fortunately, it had to be a yearling: The dogs were able to startle it into running and from the brief sighting, it had the smaller size of a yearling. She took off and the dogs returned to me, good boys!

I'll say that getting back to the car was unnerving. I kept fearing the cougar would change her mind and circle around to snatch one of the dogs. We were still a mile away from the car.

I'm still freaked.

Date: 2015-08-06 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iisaw.livejournal.com
Holy carp, dude!

Date: 2015-08-06 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
Honestly, I'm still unnerved. To encounter one in the wild, just a dozen or so feet from me, with just a cane*-- wow.

Moreso: the dogs were the ones who flushed her out. I guess she was resting on the hill, because the dogs charged up there hellbent for leather, then I hear a "Rackh!" sound-- not that loud, but distinct-- and then the cougar bounding down the hill. Such a good thing the dogs are herders and not attackers.

Now I'm vexed: that means the whole north neighborhood is off-limits for me. That includes two favorite and often-taken hikes: a canyon hike and a ridge hike, not to mention a number of great neighborhood walks. This area is the north-most part of the neighborhood: on the other side of the street is a huge county park and the wilderness hills/mountains that separate the San Fernando Valley from the Santa Clarita Valley.

Some of the signs were there: at the ranches we walked by, dogs that are normally silent were up barking and restless-- I thought from local coyotes-- but later we heard the local pack and they were miles to the other side of the neighborhood. Now I know why!


*I took it along this hike on impulse...maybe I'm prescient!

Date: 2015-08-06 10:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] martes.livejournal.com
You're still welcome to come up here.

Date: 2015-08-06 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
Well, at least since they cleared the drug-encampments out of the wash, it's much safer.

But still too hot: unless you'd be willing to do a night hike in the wash...

Date: 2015-08-06 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] okojosan.livejournal.com
WHOA! Glad you and pups are safe. OMG! It's amazing they come so close to human neighborhoods, but yeah I'd be pretty scared in that situation too.

Date: 2015-08-06 09:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
We get young dispersers on an infrequent basis: about every 8-10 years. Someone reports a cougar sleeping in their yard or drinking from their pool. Last one was a cougar asleep in a townhouse's tiny patio.

Date: 2015-08-06 03:32 pm (UTC)
tcreynolds: (summer)
From: [personal profile] tcreynolds
it's-a me! j/k

Date: 2015-08-06 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
Haha! I could'a made that joke: Kennedy High School is here in Granada Hills: Home of the Cougars!

They even have t-shirts that say, "I'm a Cougar Mom!"

Still thinking of getting you one...Now for sure!

Date: 2015-08-07 09:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] c-eagle.livejournal.com
All anthropomorphic references aside (I wouldn't want to tussle with an angry RL eagle either), I'm glad you and your pups got through this okay. My Godfather knew many cabin owners whose dogs were maimed by mountain lions :|

You might also remember that I've encountered them three times now, and I'm not very happy about them either. That includes the time I chased the one that took my kitty, thinking it was a coyote in the dark.. and stopped when I saw that long tail...

Growing up here, there were no threats from bears or mountain lions. They began to encroach starting with the fires in the early 80s in nearby forests, pushing them into our area. The bears are cool for the most part, but the mountain lions are at the top of the chain, and it's likely they could do anything given the chance. The psycho ones in Orange County are on record for attacking people in the trail areas. Luckily they haven't gone that far in the northern areas, but I'm still no longer near as comfortable taking a nap on the porch like we could easily do all those years ago...

Always carry a large hiking stick or some other protection, just in case.

Date: 2015-08-08 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
Yeah-- it's that tail that's unmistakable. Before this, if someone had asked, "What's the most distinctive aspect of a cougar," I would have size or head-shape...but no, that tail is huge and trademark!

Another thing that has led to more cougar incidents: California passed the no-hunting-cougar laws in 1990 and the population, particularly near bigger cities (eg, SoCal), have increased. I voted for that law (I'm very much against trophy hunting, esp. of apex predators). The mountain lion advocates have taken that even further (too far, IMO) and now cougars can't be killed unless posing an immediate threat-- animal control must re-locate the animal. This is idiotic, again IMO, because the cats are dispersing into urban areas because there are no suitable habitats nearby for them to occupy. Dropping a young lion off in a mature cougar's territory is a death sentence; dropping them elsewhere probably means death by starvation.

I'm going to carry my cane or shepherd's crook with me for the foreseeable future!

Date: 2015-08-20 03:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] porsupah.livejournal.com
Yipe! I'm not sure how I'd react - I'd probably be stunned for a bit while I worked out just how bad the danger was, and how to continue my ongoing trend of Not Dying.

Might there be some kind of ultrasonic solution that would be irksome to cougars, but not the pups? (Perhaps cougars have a higher frequency range?) Or possibly something scent-based? Though if they're not put off by the smell of humans, I'm not sure what would give them pause for thought.. bears, maybe? Assuming they're familiar with that threat, of course.

Regardless, I'm very pleased to know you and the pups are all safe.

Date: 2015-08-06 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruggels.livejournal.com
That is pretty unnerving. Yeah....

Date: 2015-08-06 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hbruton.livejournal.com
I gotta say | would have been thrilled. Same reaction I had to a black bear in our campground last weekend.

Date: 2015-08-06 09:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furtech.livejournal.com
I was all over the map, feelings-wise: thrilled to see one in the wild; genuinely scared (more for my dogs, medium-sized border collies, on voice command); puzzled at first because cougars are still somewhat rare in the area and it didn't initially sink in; angry/vexed because now that part of the neighborhood (including a couple of really neat canyon and ridge hikes) are now off-limited for a while.

Bears I'm less worried about: I know the dogs can out-run a bear. Cougars and just a basket of trouble, though. I once asked an animal trainer which animal was the most dangerous and without a pause he said cougars: tigers are more powerful and can be just as cranky, but cougars, he said, were unpredictable. With tigers, you -know- when they're cranky...cougars apparently can change moods in a second. And an adult cougar is surprisingly HUGE.

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