Saturday, December 3, 2011

Alone in the Woods?

It is so quiet here in the woods that I can hear my heart beating. I feel completely alone but I know that I am not. There are animals here: wild turkeys, partridge, deer, moose. There has been no sign of the bears in days, and I assume they have found well sheltered dens for the big winter sleep.

I have brought a local newspaper with me, and as I sit waiting to see wildlife I spot an article that raises once again the theory that cougars exist in Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says it has 30 pieces of evidence indicating the cats’ presence in Ontario, including photos of tracks and scat samples. It has investigated 2,000 reported sightings in the last 10 years.. The Ontario Puma Foundation, which follows cougar news, estimates there are 550 of the big cats in Ontario. There is no explanation of how it came up with that figure.

A cold shiver tickles my spine. I am alone, dressed in a camouflage jacket.  I have read that cougars are silent, quicksilver killers. You’d never know one was around until it was on your back. I nervously scan the rocky ridges to my left and right, then a dense thicket of conifers.

Silly. I know there are no cougars anywhere near here. In fact, I’m not sure there are any in Ontario. I treat reported cougar sightings like I do flying saucer sightings. I’m not saying that intelligent and reasonable people have never seen what they believe is a flying saucer. Or a cougar. I’m just saying I’m a guy who needs to see clear, indisputable evidence.

No one in Ontario has a picture of a cougar in the wild, despite all the outdoor activities in Ontario, and thousands of pocket cameras, cell phone cameras and game trail cameras out there. Tracks and scat are inconclusive.

The favorite prey of cougars is deer. We have hundreds of thousands of them, yet no indisputable evidence of a deer kill by a cougar. Not even in winter deer yards where they are easier prey for predators.

I’d like to believe that the speculation about cougars is correct, and that the magnificent animals do exist in Ontario as they did more than 100 years ago. (The last one was shot near Creemore in 1884). I’d love to see one myself, but not today when I am out here alone. Having one walk past one of my trail cameras, however, would make me a believer.

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