Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chapter Five: The Cougars Visit


Chapter Five: The Cougars come to Visit...

My son and I love animals, all animals. As a nurse people seem to think that Nurses can save animals, nurse them back to health. So many interesting animals have been brought to our home by worried neighbors.To name a few, there was a Chicken with a head injury, a skink, a half frozen rabbit in mid winter, a hedgehog with a leg wound, and even a 3 legged turtle. When my son was small for years I helped take care of horses so that he could have horse riding lessons.My son had some coordination issues, and Riding and Swimming really helped with those issues. So I cleaned stalls and learned about horses, even learning Tellington Touch so that the horses could be massaged when they were brushed. And there there were many hours spent at the Zoo studying Primates, my son's favorite.

But there were some Animals that I had not watched enough specials on TLC and Discovery. Mostly the shows with the Predator animals. (You know the kind, the ones with the Big Cats chasing some poor Zebra , always on at bedtime so that we can dream about the Big Feast). So there were things I should have perhaps studied before we moved up beneath the Canadian Border.
Like Maybe I should have read up on Cougars.....Maybe.

Living in the Last County before Canada away from any big Cities there was an opportunity to finally teach my son about some wildlife. I got all kinds of books on Nature and Northwest Wildlife. But I was looking at the pages about Deer and Birds and rabbits and skunks.

Not long after we moved in, witin weeks really we started to find little piles of animal scat around the house's grounds. I could not figure out what kind of animal left us these "Gifts". The Scat had fur and bone bits that looked very unusual, especially under a microscope. I foolishly told my son that I thought we must have an owl. He wisely pointed out that we should hear it call "Who, Who". I laughed and said maybe it was being sneaky...or was mute.

We had seen a few deer, they were slow and gentle, like large lawn ornaments. I was puzzled that they moved so slowly and that they had glazed eyes, and were so still and barely reacted to noises.

I would take the dogs out on the deck in the night, Abby the big old bassatt and the little sick scotty dog Bogie , and sometimes late at night I felt like there was something watching or out there, under the deck. And then a couple of times we found Scratchs on the glass doors on the deck. I remained skeptical about what could cause the scratches.

Throughout the fall my curiousity about the Scratches and the Scat kept me wondering....Again I knew it was not an Owl.

Then one night while I was out on the deck with the dogs I looked down and saw something moving under the deck. And there was a shadow and a funny noise. I immediately took the dogs inside and sat breathless. I knew it was no owl and no skunk.

A few weeks later I was taking out the trash late one night and I saw a small furry thing sitting behind a Fern across from the Trashcan. I was puzzled, it was small, the size of a dog, smaller than my Bassatt and bigger than the Scottie. It had a round face and fuzzy ears, and a flat face. I wondered if it was some kind of stray dog. ( I know now that it sounds pathetic, but it is the truth). Then I watched him get up and walk away, and that is when I saw it, a HUGE long tail. And I realized it was Some Kind of Cat. It was at that moment that I turned and saw sitting on a Huge stump by the trash a Large Cat, a Cougar. staring off at the little cat and still hunched in my direction. I backed away slowly talking quietly.

"Hey , look I think you are just a mom and that is your little one and I think you and I are not that much different . I promise you that I will leave you all alone".

I backed around the corner of the house and quickly got back inside. I explained to my husband and my son that I thought we might have a Mama Cat and baby cat visiting us.They both laughed at me, and then said " Are you serious ?" I said yes.

The next day I called Dodie the landlord and asked were there any wildlife problems. She admitted that there might be, that she used to feed her dog Meat Scraps on the porch. ( And I sat and thought that was not her smartest move). Within weeks we found more and more scratches outside on the house, on the wall and windows. And also prints in the mud....and later in the snow of November. The prints were clearly that of a large cat.

I called the Fish and Wildlife People, and a lovely older Fella " JJ "came and assessed the situation.We will call him JJ, he came out and in a crusty way told me that I had a "Situation" on my hands. He looked like an old Fisherman, with kind of a swagger, and a Clint Eastwood look, except he had a white beard and hair. He had wise blue eyes, and I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not know much about wildlife or my "situation". He did look at the deck, but he said that the Deck would not support the weight of a Trap. He also said he suspected that the Cat was a Mama and that she was staying in the area while her cub grew. He also voiced concerns that perhaps that one of them was sick, and that is why they were staying in the area. And the Last option was that perhaps the Cougar had selected the site ( under the Deck) as her home , her den.

JJ gave us lots of pointers, how to make noise when outside and to keep rocks and sticks within reach as protection.He also said not to feed the dogs outside. ( I informed him our landlord had already done that, but I also admitted that I was worried that my two dogs might be viewed as Food on the Deck).He was nice and thoughtful and very helpful. I stood out by his pickup and listened to him as he smoked a cigarette and he drank my pitiful coffee. He finally confronted one issue that I had been avoiding. "You know if we catch her , we might have to kill her , especially if she is sick."

I admitted to him that left me conflicted. He nodded. " Your Porch is too rotted for the Trap, it is too heavy. So for now if you want us to come back ,just let us know. Do you have a gun ? "

I smiled and said no. He asked why I was smiling. I explained about the Annie Oakley Landlord and the gun in the Kitchen, and he chuckled a low gravelly chuckle. " I bet she knew about the Large Kitties ?". We both laughed.

As he pulled away from our little house he leaned out the window, and called, " Hope I don't hear from you....but I bet our pathes cross again."

He would turn out to be right......Our pathes would indeed cross, in a way that would change Life for both of us. Forever.

The Cougars became a known Entity. I made sure to be very careful about taking the dogs out on the deck at night. And I also sang alot of Jingle Bells going to the Trash...and late at night I would see her weaving under the deck making a restless humming noise. My Husband was at work down in Seattle, and I realized I was going to have to cope with this situation. I really did not want to see her or her youngster put down.In my mind I had decided that two struggling moms could share territory. ( and yes, I do know that sounds incredibly naive, but I just could not bear the thought of this other mom being harmed).

A few nights later I was watching a show on the Learning Channel with my son, it was about Bengal Tigers in India, how when their water source is contaminated they get disoriented and restless, but they also get lost and will stay in one area due to their own confusion....and the Toxin Load. My son looked at me and asked " Do you think that is what is wrong with the Mama
Cat ?"

I answered him that I did not know, but that it made sense. Within weeks of That Question we would start to get some answers about the Water.But the Answers would only lead to more Questions....Many More.And in a strange way I would start to undertand a Weaving Cat and a Dog that would not drink Toilet Water made complete sense. They were merely pieces of a very large Puzzle that had been forming for 40 years.