News Letter: Fall 2005

Found in the Last Place We Looked ...

And a Merry Season's Greetings to you all.

June 15, 2005 we had lost another ewe lamb to the cougar and I had never stopped looking for the kill site. The DOW wants you to find it within 90 days, but with the summer growth of willows, plum thickets, and choke cherries that wasn't possible. I knew if I waited until the leaves had fallen I would have a better chance of seeing into the dense growth along the river bottom.

river side kill site

Riverside kill site

there in the plum thicket

There in the plum thicket

coat & remains

Coat & remains

Weather permitting, I had searched the farm in sections. Last week I had a few hours to work the bottom south east section. Christmas day Keith and I searched the south bottom section. That's where the cougar had taken the lamb.

ewe lamb

Their kills are so precise: neck crushed, coat removed, wool stripped off, with some bone bits left over.


Wool from the lamb

Below are the answers to some of the questions on the DOW "livestock damage" form they have you fill out. (Some of this was also in a previous news letter)

4. what proof do you have that a cougar damaged your property?

This was an exact repeat of an earlier cougar kill on 8/31/2003 which also took place mid-afternoon.
The difference in this latest kill is that 2 Maremma guardian dogs were with the ewe flock. At this time we have 4 dogs: the 2 Maremmas that stay with the ewe flock and the 2 Pyrenees that act as perimeter boundary guardians. What we have found is that cougars have no scent, unlike coyotes and bears which are very distinct. The cougar movement is also very hard for the dogs to see or notice. The dogs are very quick to notice/smell/hear coyotes and bears and drive them away. When the air and ground are dried out (as is the case here) there will be no tracks and no scent for the dogs to take note of. (unless the cougar has been making scent piles)

Our particular problem is with a cougar who is no longer afraid of dogs, people, vehicles ... anything. It has become his practice to take domestic dogs, cats, and now our sheep. Our ground is very rocky and brushy and so the cougar follows downwind and simply takes a lamb in broad daylight, even though the dogs are with the flock.

The lamb was taken on a Wednesday afternoon about 5:00 pm ... we searched until 10:00 pm that night and all of the next day. I took Roo out with me the next morning (she was still calling her lamb) and followed her for nearly 2 hours all over the property, while she went her way calling and calling. We were satisfied that the lamb wasn't hung up in a bush or something ... it would have answered Roo. In all of this time I have not stopped looking for the wool piles (removed by the cougar) and the coat the ewe was wearing, but have not been able to find them. I am convinced the cougar took the ewe lamb.

5. what measures did you take to protect your property?

Last fall I became acquainted with 3 different hunters with cougar tags for our unit. I encouraged them to come to our farm as often as possible. They did come from time to time until the season ended on March 31, 2005. As it was the winter before, it was again very dry with little snow and no opportunities for tracking in fresh snows. No kills were made. As I said above, we have added 2 more LGDs to our flock, making a total of 4 working dogs. I have also taken and completed the hunter safety class and have a license for "fur bearers". While I am not confident enough at this time to have a cougar tag, I hope over time to do so.

12. Any additional facts to substantiate claim:

About a week or so before this loss, my neighbor reported that a cougar had killed his stock dog.
Ironically, the weekend after the cougar season ended, on April 2, 2005, a cougar killed (a deer) in the south woods less than 200 yards just below the house on Saturday afternoon. The dogs chased the cougar away, then spent Saturday night guarding the carcass. I pulled the dogs away and chained them in the barn. Meanwhile we were having a blizzard which obscured tracks but kept the kill nice and fresh.
I called my neighbor (Dave Such) that makes dog food for his dog from fresh kills (usually road kills). He came and removed the deer kill so that the cougar would not continue to come back so close to the house and barn.
I remain convinced that we have a cougar who has made this area his territory and has no reason to move elsewhere when food (sheep, dogs, cats, and occasionally deer) are so easily obtained here. It is easy for the cougar to make a living here quite close to people, but a considerably difficult thing to hunt him here ... being so close to people.

My final hope is this ... It is a mistake to underestimate a predator that is not afraid. For eleven years we lived among them well, until this latest cougar. To say that if this one is removed (somehow) and that another cougar will take his place may not be exactly the same case. The one that takes his place may have a fear of humans and dogs, and be content to take the deer and elk in the area.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]