Posts Tagged ‘cougars not cowardly’

Astonishing Cougar Attacks on Bison, Bears, and Humans

August 1, 2014

Outdoorsmen have often described the cougar (Puma concolor) as a cowardly animal  This accusation of cowardice is unfair and unfounded.  Teddy Roosevelt is one of the more famous outdoorsmen to have described the cougar as a coward, yet he saw cougars on only 2 occasions.  Therefore, Teddy was no cougar expert.  But he was a sadistic hunter who slaughtered thousands of animals, using high-powered rifles from a safe distance while accompanied by packs of dogs and other hunters on horseback.  I can’t understand why the cougar has earned such an inaccurate reputation.  Maybe it is because the cat seeks refuge in trees when pursued by a pack of dogs.  Most unarmed men, if pursued by a pack of dogs, would also climb a tree to escape injury.  It’s understandable that a cougar would choose to avoid getting bitten.

Actually, cougars are the opposite of cowardly–they are 1 of the few solitary predators in the world that regularly attacks prey larger than itself.  Wolves and lions attack larger prey but do so in groups.  Tigers usually outweigh the animals they kill.  But cougars often attack elk and deer that are more than 3 times their size.  In his book, Cougar!, Harold Danz compiled incidents of cougars attacking bears, bison, and the most monstrous animal that ever evolved…Homo sapiens.

Above is a youtube video of a cougar attacking a much larger elk.

Major John Cremony of the U.S. Boundary Commission was hunting cougars near Fort Sumner, New Mexico circa 1850.  Along with his Apache guides, they witnessed a large cougar attack and kill a medium-sized black bear by clawing through to the bruin’s vital organs.  The cougar dragged the bear carcass away and buried it.  An Apache then shot and killed the cougar.

Mynhee Barhydt built a cabin in the Bear Swamp near Saratoga, New York circa 1800.  He saw a black bear discover a cougar’s den.  The bear killed the kittens.  The mother cougar returned and attacked the bear.  During the struggle which lasted an hour, both bear and cougar fell into a ravine and were killed.  Two miners in Idaho witnessed a similar incident when a mother cougar defended her kittens from a grizzly bear.  Both were killed in a fall off a cliff.  Upon close examination, it appeared as if the bear had suffered the more serious injuries during the fight…its belly was “ripped to ribbons.”

Bison weigh almost 10 times more than a cougar, yet there are 2 accounts of cougar attacks on bison.  In western Arkansas John Hunter was weathering a bison stampede by standing behind a tree.  A cougar had caused the stampede when it jumped on the back of a bison.  Hunter saw the “huge panther” chewing on the bison’s neck muscles.  He shot the cougar and eventually killed it with another shot.  Daniel Boone also saw a cougar riding the back of a bison in Kentucky.  He too shot the cougar, possibly saving that particular bison.

Mr. Danz found documented evidence of 33 fatal cougar attacks on humans and 122 nonfatal attacks.  Since this book was published in 1999, there have been an additional 4 fatal attacks.  During the early 1800s before cougars were extirpated from the region, there were several fatal cougar attacks in southeastern North America.  Near Vicksburg, Mississippi, a cougar entered a cabin and killed a man who was sick in bed.  His brother returned from chopping wood and rushed to his defense.  The cougar killed him too.  In northeastern Lousiana, a cougar jumped from a tree and killed an Indian hunting guide.  Near the Georgia/Florida border a slave, a man of “colossal strength,” took a shortcut through the woods to visit a girlfriend on a neighboring plantation.  When he failed to return, the owner thought he had run away, but upon searching, he found him dead along with a cougar that the slave had stabbed several times with a long knife.  Another slave working on a railroad in Mississippi was also killed by a cougar.  A cougar snatched and ate a baby in the big thicket region of east Texas prior to 1906.  A cougar attacked Nathan Bedford Forrest’s mom in 1834.  The horse reared and broke off this nonfatal attack.  The future Civil War General later treed the cat with his dogs and shot it.


Nell Hamm sits with her husband Jim Hamm in the intensive care unit at Mad River Hospital in Arcata, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007, the day after he was attacked by a mountain lion at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. State wildlife officials credited his wife with saving her 70-year-old husband's life by clubbing a mountain lion that had his head gripped in its jaws until the animal let go. (AP Photo/Times Standard, Mark McKenna) ** MAGS OUT MANDATORY CREDIT** Photo: Mark McKenna

A cougar attacked this man in Oregon.  His wife fended off the attack with a log.  The cougar walked away calmly.

When a cougar attacks a human, it is viewing that person as food.  In 1991 Scott Lancaster, a high school senior, went for a jog on a track not far from the Arapahoe National Forest in Idaho.  A cougar killed him and ate his heart, liver, kidneys, and face–the same parts the big cat favors from its usual prey, deer.  It may be disconcerting to some, but as far as mother nature is concerned, humans are just part of the food chain.

Indians have lived in North America for at least 15,000 years.  Most of their history is entirely unrecorded.  There is no telling how many of them were killed and eaten by cougars and other large American carnivores.  Nevertheless, humans waged war on all of them and emerged victorious.

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Danz, Harold


Ohio University Press 1999