Opinion & Editorial


As the cougar crouched 20 yards away, the arrow I shot passed over its head. A clear miss and now the cougar moved even closer. I knew an attack would come very soon.
This began in Eastern Oregon 13 miles east of Ukiah on an elk hunting trip with my son, Greg.
I had dropped into a valley to start hunting. As I was about to cross a small stream I saw some cougar droppings. All of a sudden 10 feet away I saw a cougar lying with its back to me. It turned, snarled and slunk away.
In 32 years of hunting I had never seen a cougar in the woods, but now I was almost close enough to touch one. At least it moved away as they are expected to do.
I continued walking downstream for about half a mile and then rested. I was still nervous about the cougar. Then I glanced over to my left — there was a big cougar staring at me from 20 yards away! It had been trailing me!
I had learned what to do. Do NOT run as it creates a chase instinct in the cougar. Make yourself as big as possible. Make noise and raise your arms. Maintain eye contact. If attacked protect your throat and neck at all costs. I did all the preventive stuff.
No response: the mountain lion just stared back. Then I saw a cougar kitten and another full grown cougar. Two full-grown mountain lions and a kitten! I rose up and yelled again. No response — except the icy stare.
I took two steps backward to ease up the hillside out of the woods. Then the cougar responded; it jumped over the log and toward me! What now? I took an arrow out. The cougar moved closer. I backed out two more steps and the cougar moved forward again. I didn’t know if shooting would scare the animal or provoke an attack, but it was not going to let me leave and was closing in as I tried to back out.
I shot, but the cougar crouched and the arrow went over its head crashing into rocks behind it. The close miss and the sound behind the cougar did not seem to affect the lion at all. It moved closer.
My heart sank. I realized I was in real trouble. This animal was not going to be frightened off. One or both of us was going to be hurt or killed. I took another arrow out and took aim slightly lower. This time the arrow hit the left shoulder. The lion jumped straight up and ran away into the bushes. Relief for me, but an awareness that now there was a wounded cougar. I hiked back to the truck as quickly as I could and locked the doors.
Two days later my son and I went into a small canyon (five miles away from my cougar incident) to wait quietly for darkness with the hope that some elk would walk up the canyon. I suddenly heard my son yell at the top of his lungs, “GET OUT OF HERE”, “LEAVE ME ALONE.” It could only mean one thing that would make him yell like that, another cougar!
I started heading for him, but knew it would take at least 15 minutes of scrambling through rough country to get there. As I ran I heard him continue to yell. Here is his account:
I had settled into a nook between two fallen logs. I suddenly spotted a cougar staring at me from 30 yards away. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “This can’t be happening to me too!”
I stood up and waved, expecting the large lion to bolt. It just stared. In a low voice I said, “Get out of here.” The cougar put both its paws on the log in front of it and leaned forward; I yelled louder, and raised my arms with my bow above my head. The cougar stared.
I realized this lion had no fear of humans so I shot an arrow at it. The slight downhill angle sent the arrow over the lion’s head; the thunk of the arrow hitting a tree caused the cougar to turn and move behind some trees. To be certain that the lion didn’t circle back around, I quickly gathered my belongings and headed out of there. My shouts continued even as I hiked out.
I had only moved a little way, when I saw the second cougar! It was 20 yards away standing on a fallen log above me. Once again, I raised my hands and bow high above my head and yelled with a force that only true terror can allow. The lion turned and paced the fallen log, snarling at me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the jungle behind me. I could not back away gently. I knew my Dad would be coming, but as the lion turned on the log and paced back and forth, I also knew that Dad would never reach me in time.
Eventually the cougar dropped off the log and moved away. I scrambled out of there and made it to the road quickly, yelling all the way!
My son and I have since thought about all the people in the woods out for a hike, fishing a stream, bird watching, rock hunting, mountain biking, or out for a picnic? How long before they and their children have to face a cougar? How many know how to respond? Even if they know enough not to run, they won’t be armed to protect themselves.
I am not advocating the elimination of cougars. They have a place in the ecosystem too; however, there does have to be a proper balance of predator and prey. For the protection of humans there also needs to be a fear of humans by the animal. The cougar population has increased tremendously since the voters in both Oregon and Washington passed laws making it illegal to hunt cougars with dogs. The cougars born in the last few years have lost their fear of humans.
My suggestions:
Encourage people to carry loud whistles or air horns in the wilderness. They have been shown to be effective in discouraging cougars. They don’t like loud shrill sounds.
Drop the license fees for residents AND allow non-resident cougar hunters to pay $5.
We should repeal the law that makes it illegal to hunt cougars with dogs and leave the hunting and management of wildlife to the professional biologists.



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