A small cougar was tracked by dogs, hunted down, and shot this week in the forest near our home. Simply for being who she was – a confident, young cougar. She scared us, so we killed her.
The forests of Oregon have a healthy cougar population. That’s nothing new. There are bears, too, and elk and deer and turkey and squirrels and all of the other critters that call the forest home. They are all part of Nature’s balance. Normally they are smart and stay out of our way.
But this thin, young, 75-lb female didn’t. The officials who took her life said she was only 1-2 years old and had not yet had kittens, so she was not protecting young. Most likely she was just acting on her basic instincts to chase prey if hungry, or to stake out her own territory, when she chased a lone man who was out for a run. She got close enough that he kicked her, and then he sprinted away. She gave chase, as years of evolution instructed her to do. Luckily, two hikers with a dog showed up at just the right time and she ran off. No one was hurt, and maybe by being kicked she would learn not to approach people again. Certainly the runner was lucky.
But she scared us, so instead of just using the encounter to encourage people to take the proper precautions when in the forest, like carrying bear spray or not hiking alone, we stalked and killed her. The officials say she was aggressive, which is why they had to put her down rather than to relocate. But isn’t every animal aggressive when hunger tells them it’s time to eat? Or to protect their home? It’s how we all survive. And she was young, so maybe she hadn’t yet learned to stay away from people.
Looking at the big picture, wasn’t it us who ended up being most aggressive? We weren’t hungry – she just scared us. And since we typically no longer have any natural predators (besides ourselves), we no longer feel a part of Nature. That’s more than obvious these days. We destroy it as we please, even if it just scares us.