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.


Aggressive Attack - An attack resulting from making an animal angry.

Animal Husbandry - The techniques used by man to raise, protect, and harvest animals.

Bounty - A payment made to someone for killing animals of a certain kind.

Conflict - A situation where two opponents want something, and they can't both have what they want.

Reparations - Payments made to someone for animals they own which are killed by predators.  Sometimes called "damages."

Defensive Attack - An attack resulting from making an animal afraid for its own safety or the safety of its companions.

Predatory Attack - An attack by a predator against a prey animal to secure a source of food.

Predators - Animals that eat other animals to survive.  Hawks, leopards, and sharks are examples of predators.

Prey - Animals eaten by predators.  Deer, crows, and salmon are examples of prey.

Scavenger - An animal that eats the meat of animals it did not kill itself.  Hyenas, jackals and vultures are three well known scavengers.

Selective Control - The removal of animals coming into direct conflict with man by capturing or killing them.

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.

MAN'S RESPONSE:  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.

GOOD NEIGHBORS:  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.