Cougar Puma or Mountain Lion Attacks Are Likely Discarded Pets
“I don’t think that attack was by a wild-reared puma at all.
I think that puma was a dumped former pet, or a puma bred from a mother kept to produce urine to be sold as “puma lure” to be sold to houndsmen, or perhaps even a puma who was “returned to the wild” by a financially struggling sanctuary, of which there have been many in Texas in recent years.
First, take another look at what was reported, to refresh your memory:”
Mountain Lion Attacks Boy in Texas Park
A 6-year-old boy is recovering after a mountain lion “clamped” on to his face at Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Jason Hobbs said his family’s vacation became a nightmare when the big cat attacked his son Rivers on a sidewalk Sunday near the Chisos Mountain Lodge.
“It had a hold of his face…the cat was clamped on his face,” Hobbs told West Texas TV station CBS 7.
The Austin dad said the mountain lion didn’t let go until he stabbed it with his pocketknife.
Rivers Hobbs told CBS 7 the mountain lion “snuck up on me.”
Despite being shown on TV with fresh stiches across his gashed face, Rivers claimed he never shed a tear before or after the encounter.
Asked about his injuries, Rivers said they did not hurt “that bad.”
Big Ben spokesman David Elkowitz described the mountain lion that attacked the 6-year-old as a “young lion in very poor condition,” The Associated Press reported.
Posted: 02/07/2012 4:17 PM http://m.nbcmiami.com/nbcmiami/pm_108795/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=RULoyvKb
Why This Was Probably Not a Wild Puma
Assuming that every word reported is entirely accurate, and I see no reason to suspect otherwise, what’s wrong with this picture?
First sentence: instead of tearing the victim’s throat out, the puma clamped onto the child’s face. This is a puma who does not have the faintest idea how to effect a kill.
Second sentence: the puma attacked on a sidewalk near a lodge — clearly within human habitation, not a place where a puma would normally hunt or even find prey.
Fourth sentence: a man with just one jackknife was able to fend off a puma, who in effect has five jackknives on each paw, plus teeth. This is a puma who not only does not know how to hunt, but does not know how to fight.
Most pumas learn how to fight as kittens. As adults, the leading killers of pumas, other than human hunters, are other pumas. Pumas tolerate pumas of opposite gender in their habitat only during mating season. Otherwise, puma meeting puma in the wild often results in a fight to the death. A young male puma who does not know how to fight is unlikely to survive for any length of time at all, especially in an area containing as many pumas as Big Bend National Park.
Last sentence: we are talking about a “young lion in very poor condition.” That can happen, if a mother abandons her last year’s offspring & goes off to mate again before the cub has learned to hunt and fight. But that leaves open the question of what the mother and cub were doing throughout the preceding summer, fall, and winter. Truly wild pumas learn to hunt. Young male pumas who are the offspring of pumas raised in connection with urine collection don’t — but they are dumped, while their sisters are kept to produce more urine in captivity.
Hardly anyone recognizes this, but there are two major “wild” puma populations in North America. One is the fully wild population. They rarely get into trouble with people, and when they do, it is in quite remote habitat.
Truly wild pumas have a very stereotyped and distinctive method of killing: virtually always from above, behind, at dawn; less often, at dusk. They break the victim’s neck immediately, at first pounce. That’s because they are usually hunting deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, and other animals (sheep, wild horses, wild burros, occasionally cattle) who most often outweigh them and/or can outrun them. If they don’t kill almost instantly, the victim either gets away or may kill/cripple the puma.
Of recent human victims (within the past 20 years), Barbara Schoner of California, Scott Lancaster of Colorado, and Irene Davis of California were all clearly victims of authentic wild pumas. They all were in known puma habitat alone, at dawn, and passed under ledges where they were pounced. It isn’t likely that any of them ever knew what hit them.
The other puma population is the really dangerous one. It consists of pumas who were either bred in captivity or captured as kittens, held until they got too big to handle, and then were dumped by the same class of folks who dump pit bulls, unneutered housecats, etc.
There are thousands of pumas in private captivity around the U.S., every sanctuary that accepts them has a long waiting list for space, and a lot of the people who have them are not exactly good citizens. Before the pit bull vogue, pumas were popular, among drug dealers, bike gang members, militia folks, and people who home-brew “lure” for hunting packs, as described above.
There are far fewer pumas in private hands now than there were before the passage of the 2003 Captive Wildlife Safety Act cut off legal interstate sales, but private possession is still a problem — probably more so in Texas than anywhere else.
When captive pumas are dumped or just escape, they don’t know how to hunt. They come up on people’s porches and knock on the glass like tabbies, hoping to be fed. They ineptly pounce little kids on their swing-sets, who live to tell the tale. They play with balls in back yards. They walk in open doors and flop down on the couch. They eat dogs and cats in yards. They walk down busy streets in broad daylight. They don’t know whether they are coming or going, and in the 33 years that I have tracked puma incidents, they have accounted for about two-thirds of all the puma incidents that make news.
Sometimes probable former captive pumas kill a person–like Cindy Parolin, in British Columbia in 1996. That was an extremely sad and tragic case. Someone apparently dumped a whole puma family. The two kittens were shot. The male, on the verge of starving to death, killed Parolin in one of the most inept attacks on record. What became of the female is anyone’s guess. She may have been kept for urine.
The male, by the way, was starving right in the midst of abundant rabbits and deer. He just didn’t know how to catch them. Instead, he tried to pull the riding boot off of Parolin’s six-year-old son, as the family rode past on horseback. Parolin leaped from the saddle on top of the puma, trying to save the boy, and suffered injuries from which she eventually bled to death, while the hungry puma, having ceased the attack, just sat down beside her. That’s where he was shot, an hour later. The puma did not even try to eat Parolin: he didn’t know she might be food. The boy’s riding boot, however, apparently smelled to the puma like food from a bag.
People coming face-to-face with such a screwed-up puma usually have little choice but to shoot the critter, if they can, because the puma can in fact kill them, or their children, and recapturing a puma isn ot particularly easy even with tranquilizer guns and nets.
People often make a big mistake, however, in blaming the abundance of screwed-up ex-captives around big cities, and in national parks etc. where they get dumped, on an alleged overpopulation of genuinely wild pumas who have purportedly “lost their fear” of people. It’s the ex-captives who have lost their fear. And they’re the ones I really worry about.
This is not the first such incident in Big Bend National Park. In 1998 a puma approached a mother and three children in Big Bend National Park in an incident very similar to the one this week. Everything about the 1998 puma’s behavior, as described by media accounts, said “big kitty approaching people looking for a handout.”
Then the mother pulled a jackknife on the puma and rushed him. He scooted–just like a housecat being shooed from a counter.
Apart from the absurdity of a genuinely wild puma being afraid of a jackknife, especially since he had no way of knowing what it was, it bears mention that this guy had the advantage of being above and behind when he first approached, but gave up his opportunity to make a stealthy kill in favor of coming down to sniff the group.
I don’t blame the mother. Like Cindy Parolin, she did what any good mother will, defending her young. Then she of course told the story as she saw it and remembered it. I do blame some people who amplified the case without looking further into why the puma behaved as he did, and the real reason why the mother and children survived without injury.
I can also recall a couple of recent campground puma cases, where there were several pumas in each instance, apparently hanging out together–like a litter of kittens, only they were no longer kittens.
In each case, that’s probably where someone pushed them out of the back of a van. Wild pumas just don’t behave like that, and certainly wouldn’t be hanging around a park latrine for days on end, as occurred in one case
The attraction of the park latrine was most likely that it smelled like the spare bathroom where the litter probably spent their younger days.
What annoys me is that I suspect some houndsmen may dump “surplus” tom kittens whose mothers & sisters are kept for urine, & then get paid to go track & shoot the very pumas they dumped. And then they will cite these cases as part of their argument for keeping hounding legal, or re-legalizing it in the states (like Washington) where it has been banned.
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960
Clinton, WA 98236
Carole’s Note: This was reprinted with permission because Mr. Clifton is the first person that I have heard clearly argue the obvious. We had been reporting that we thought that most of the attacks attributed to wild cougars, mountain lions or pumas (all the same) were really released pets and devoted a page of our website to it in 2006 called Why So Many Cougar Attacks and Sightings? Merritt Clifton just said it a lot better than I did and with his typical sense of irony. What I had not considered before, and was eye opening to me, was the notion that the females may be used for producing urine for “hunters” to lure male cougars into shooting range. As awful as most captive cougar pet situations are, I can only shudder at the conditions that must exist for these poor creatures as Clifton describes the way they are housed as follows:
Foxes and bobcats kept for urine collection are often kept on wire floors, but pumas could tear right through wire.
Pumas kept for urine collection are usually kept in concrete-floored structures the size of dog pound run, with chain link sides and top. The floors are tiled just enough for the urine to run off into gutters that drain out to collection points a safe distance from the cages. The usual routine is to collect the piss first, then hose out the excrement.
Help end the suffering by visiting CatLaws.com and ask for laws that prohibit the keeping of wild animals in cages.