Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here Kitty Kitty...

This is a rather large, and fresh Cougar (Mountain Lion) track Sol and I came across on our descent from East Peak. It was shortly before dark, and we were just about to drop down onto the East Fork trail and hike out about 5 miles in the dark. Hiking in the dark is never the most easy feeling when there is a large Cougar lurking about, probably trailing you. The fact is that in the Wallowas there are so many Cougars that you are likely being trailed by one at least 5 out of 10 times you hike there. That's without even finding a fresh track like that. They will often follow you out of curiosity, without hunting intent. However they are also great opportunists! Oregon and California have the highest populations of Cougar in the United States. Cougars are native to the United States. Wallowa County has one of the highest cougar populations in Oregon. So, I think it would be safe to say that Wallowa County has one of the highest cougar populations in the world! I have had two come through my yard, and a friend of mine right in the middle of town had one on his back porch. Yet I don't know anyone who has been attacked by one. Since getting my dog Kira, a hundred pound Great Pyrenees that was bred to defend from predators, I don't worry as much about it. However she was not with us on this trip. Nor did we remember the headlamp. We stumbled down the trail using fading cell phone light as our guide to the sharp rocks in the middle of the trail, often turning to look for the green glow of Cougar eyes following us through the dark. The thought of those eyes back there will certainly keep your feet moving on a night like that! They will generally only attack if they have the element of surprise, like from a tree or rock above you, or run at you from the side or behind. So it doesn't hurt to have your hiking buddy walk behind you. (Tell him it's because you want to make sure he doesn't trip on any of the rocks in the trail.)

No comments: