These days the cougar finds less
and less natural prey and is confronted with more and more livestock.
However its history from the earliest days of European settlement has
been one of conflict, and the cougar is most always the loser.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS:
- An attack resulting from making an animal angry.
- The techniques used by man to raise, protect, and harvest animals.
- A payment made to someone for
killing animals of a certain kind.
- A situation where two opponents
want something, and they can't both have what they want.
- Payments made to someone for animals they own which are killed by predators.
Sometimes called "damages."
- An attack resulting from making
an animal afraid for its own safety or the safety of its companions.
- An attack by a predator against a
prey animal to secure a source of food.
- Animals that eat other animals to survive. Hawks, leopards, and sharks
are examples of predators.
- Animals eaten by predators. Deer, crows, and salmon are examples of
- An animal that eats the meat of animals it did not kill itself. Hyenas,
jackals and vultures are three well known scavengers.
- The removal of animals coming into direct conflict with man by capturing or
INTRODUCTION: Predators often find themselves in conflict with man.
This is because they hunt other animals as prey, and because they are
potentially dangerous. The ways these conflicts have been handled have
changed over time as our knowledge and attitudes have matured. However
there is plenty of room--and an urgent need--for more change in our relationship
with predators if they are to survive.
PREDATION: Predators are animals that take the life of
other animals so that they and their offspring can survive. Humans engage
in predation to a degree, but do not rely on it. All wild cats rely on
meat for their diet, even though they may eat small amounts of grass and other
plants. Conflict happens when man's livestock is killed by predators.
This type of conflict happens more often when natural prey becomes scarce.
ATTACKS: There are several predators easily capable of
overpowering an unarmed, solitary human. To some degree the potential of
harm adds to the thrill of spotting a tiger, lion, or grizzly bear in the wild.
It is an experience that reminds us of a vanished age when the noises of the
night signaled real danger. There are three basic types of attack:
aggressive, defensive, and predatory. Aggressive attacks happen when
animals are made angry. When disturbed, harassed or teased, a predator may
lash out. Defensive attacks happen when animals are afraid for themselves
or their young. A mother tigress or bear will take fewer chances with her
offspring than she might take with her own safety. Predatory attacks
happen when humans are seen as food. It was once believed that only old,
sick, or injured predators that could not find their regular prey would turn to
man-eating. It was also believed until recently that humans did not taste
as well as regular prey. Man-eating may happen for a number of reasons,
although whatever the reason, it is not common.
Historically there have been three periods in man's relationship with predators.
At first, predators dominated the world, and man was in a defensive position.
Predators were almost universally respected and because of their strength and
similarities to ancient human lifestyle, they were often appeased rather than
hunted. The development of guns opened a second, bloody period in our
relationship with predators, in which the goal was more often extermination than
control. The old respect was tainted with--or replaced by--contempt.
Predators were often seen as murderers of other animals, inherently fierce and
bloodthirsty. Bounties were often placed on predators to encourage people
to kill them for money. The third period was started not by an invention
but a shift in attitudes, the belief that all forms of life have a right to
exist and should be treated as fellow travelers rather than rivals. The
attitude has not yet spread everywhere or equally affected our relationship with
all species, but it is growing and having a significant impact on our culture.
SEPARATION AND CONFLICT: Large predators prefer not to enter cities and suburbs,
and that separation has reduced the number of fatal conflicts. However
that very separation has pressured many people to travel to wilderness areas in
search of a primitive experience. Also many people taking advantage of
affordable transportation escape urban pressures by building homes in
traditionally wild areas. This increases the risk of conflict. Often
mauling incidents happen during hiking or hunting trips, or occur with people
living close to wilderness areas. The risk can be reduced by proper
training, safety rules, and increased awareness of one's surroundings.
GOOD HUSBANDRY: Animal Husbandry is a term for all the things people do
that affect livestock from the way they are bred, to the way they are protected,
transported, and harvested. A variety of different animal husbandry
practices have been used over the centuries to protect livestock from predators.
Some of these ways have been more effective than others, and some of these ways
have been more wantonly destructive of wildlife than others. Poisoned meat
not only killed predators but the animals that ate their bodies and innocent
scavengers. Bounties encouraged people to kill as many members of a
species as possible, whether the individual predators actually hunted livestock
or not. These methods are not selective--a term that means killing only
the animals that come directly into conflict. Better animal husbandry
practices have been discovered that can reduce conflict while minimizing impact
on the environment and sparing non-offending predators from a death sentence.
In addition, rather than paying bounties for dead predators, some local
governments pay ranchers reparations for their livestock losses.
Finally, we as humans must understand that all wildlife needs a place to live.
We must balance our needs to enjoy nature with the needs of animals to live and
raise families unmolested. Achieving that balance is not easy but it
becomes more important each year as the threat of extinction looms over some of
the world's most fascinating animals.