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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Landscape of Fear" co-author, Cougar and Wolf biologist-- John Laundre is with us to kick off the New Year discussing the justification for killing animals(in this case Pumas) as expressed by hunters.........Beyond the possibility of shooting the quarry dead, what you often hear hunters say is that there is a thrill, a "high" that comes with the chase whether that be being at one with nature, outwitting the prey animal or just hanging with pals in the woods............John asks the following questions as it relates to this manner of thinking and acting----- "If the thrill is in the chase, why do you need to kill the animal when it is over?"........................ "Do you not realize that you are participating in probably only a few instances of truly catch and release hunting?".................. "After the dogs have chased the cat up the tree, and you have had your thrill, YOU COULD JUST WALK AWAY!"................... "After you have lured the cougar to where you can see it, YOU COULD JUST WALK AWAY!"............. "If it is just the thrill of the chase, why not JUST WALK AWAY? ".... "I contend that the "thrill of the hunt or chase" is just a bunch of bull crap hunters throw at us to hide their real motivation for hunting cougars and other varmints"................ "It really is the "thrill of the kill" that they are after""

For the thrill of the hunt….

John Laundre

These words are oft repeated, like a mantra, by hunters trying to divert the non-hunters' attention from the actual endpoint of most hunts, a dead animal.  In many cases, such as for deer or even little bunny rabbits, at least most, not all, hunters will eventually eat what they killed. This, obviously, gives the hunter more justification, providing food for his, based on all available data, affluent family's mouths. But that is another issue.  What about those other animals hunters kill, coyotes, crows, prairie dogs, etc. etc, and…cougars. No one I know would eat crow, thus the origination of this phrase meaning having to ingest, figuratively, something distasteful.  How many coyote burgers or bowls of groundhog stew are made from the animals killed by "varmint" hunters?. Some say cougars are good to eat but let's be honest, just how many hunters that kill cougars actual eat them??? 

So, the only way these hunters can divert attention from that dead cougar on the ground is to resurrect the "Its not the killing of the animal, it's the thrill of the hunt, the chase" and maybe even throw in…"comradery with other hunters" Or worse yet, as spouted in a recent new article "it's the memories and the exercise" . Let's look at this statement in more detail.  The thrill of the hunt, hmm…  This often congers up images of the wily hunter craftily outwitting his prey after tremendous effort to gain intimate knowledge of its patterns and habits.  A true bonding with nature's ways in an effort to "out fox" a truly cunning prey. Putting your hunting prowess to the test! Matching wits mano a mano

Now it can be argued that given the shear advantage of a high powered rifle, or nowadays, a high powered bow, there really is no doubt as to the outcome of this contest.  Just as the bull always gets killed in the ring, no matter what, so too, the cougar just cannot stand up to a large caliber bullet!  But again, that is another issue.  What we are looking here is this thrill thing.  The chase. 
Well to begin with, hunters almost never "chase" cougars.  They either sit in ambush and try to lure one in with fake calls or they let, usually someone else's, dogs do the chasing.  In the first case, tricking an animal to come in range of your gun is a common way of hunting ducks and turkey.  I suppose there is a thrill in thinking you can outwit an animal with a brain a fraction of your size, I suppose….  

And as curious bystanders, hunters tag along behind the dogs, keeping up as best as their limited ability lets them.  Fortunately for the hunters, cougars tire easily of this silly game of chase and climb a tree to get out of the reach of the dogs, the true hunters in this case. Often the hunters don't even try to keep up with the "thrill of the chase" but just wait in the warmth of their trucks to hear the dogs bark "treed".  We often hear, and I suspect it happens a lot, that the real "hunter"the one that will kill the cat, is not even there!  Rather, once the dogs have chased a cat into a tree, the "hunter" is contacted at his home or office or local bar and he then joins in on the "chase" once he gets there. In any case, the end of the chase is a cat up a tree about 10-20 feet away from the "hunters" (I call them hikers with guns) gathered around the base of the tree.  The cat is then shot, like a fish in a barrel, at close range, often with a handgun.

Now in this case, I suspect a person with hounds can argue it is the satisfaction of watching his dogs do the chasing that is the "thrill" of the hunt.  Whether or not the person who does the actual killing partakes of this same satisfaction, I doubt it. Most cougar hunters just want to get to that last part, where they prove how manly they are by shooting a cat out of a tree.

So there you have it, the thrill of the hunt for cougars.  Either you ambush them as they come to your fake call or you shoot them out of a tree at close range after the dogs did the hard work. Does not sound too thrilling to me!  But just for the sake of an argument, let's say that there is a thrill out of thinking your smarter than a cougar or that following behind the dogs, assuming the hunter is doing it, is a thrill in itself.  I know from my experience chasing cougars with dogs for my research, the chasing part was just plain hard work! For me the thrill was seeing the cougar in the tree, a sight few get an opportunity to experience.

Ok let's say that regardless of where it happens in the chase, there is a thrill there. Enough to justify doing it. If that is the case, and a hunter is honestly justifying the hunt for that thrill, I have a few basic questions for him.  The first is: If the thrill is in the chase, why do you need to kill the animal when it is over? Do you not realize that you are participating in probably only a few instances of truly catch and release hunting? After the dogs have chased the cat up the tree, and you have had your thrill, YOU COULD JUST WALK AWAY! After you have lured the cougar to where you can see it, YOU COULD JUST WALK AWAY! If it is just the thrill of the chase, why not JUST WALK AWAY

On another level, if it is the thrill of the chase, why then would you want to cheat another hunter out of that thrill?  Are you that selfish that you would deny another hunter that thrill you experienced? A dead cat can only be chased once, by you!  A cat you leave in the tree or spook off after it was called in, can be chased again…can be called in again. If it is the thrill of the hunt, then allow others to experience that thrill.

Many argue that "oh by the way" besides the thrill of the hunt, they need to kill the animal at the end because of some warped sense of doing a societal good. It's not that they don't want to walk away but they have no choice but to kill it. High among this distorted sense of reality is killing a predator like a cougar to save an ungulate, like a deer, so a human can kill it later!  As I recently saw in another news article"kill a cougar, save a bighorn sheep"(so someone can pay $5,000 or more later to kill it!)._And this comes from a group who really believe they know better than non-hunters how nature works! Do we not now know that predators like cougars are the most important component of a healthy ecosystem? Would not someone who truly understood how nature worked want to protect cougars, not kill them?

Of course in this bag of disillusion is the idea of human safety, protecting us from a vicious predator that could, but rarely does, attack or kill us. Always we see…"think of the safety of our children" thrown in our faces for killing cougars.  If safety was a concern, then we should be killing deer year round and without limit.  Over 200 people a YEAR are killed by car accidents with deer from excess deer populations, maintained at such high levels so deer hunters can be more sure of killing a deer! A true hidden cost of modern hunting! Are not the life stories of these 200 lives lost a year, many children, just as precious as the 20 lives lost to cougars IN THE LAST 100 YEARS?  Were not their families, their friends, their mothers and fathers as devastated by their loss? Are their lives somehow less important, less valuable?

Along with the "thrill of the hunt" these and other false reasons for killing cougars are just lame justifications for the real reason hunters kill cougars. I contend that the "thrill of the hunt or chase" is just a bunch of bull crap hunters throw at us to hide their real motivation for hunting cougars and other "varmints".  It really is the "thrill of the kill" that they are after. The thrill of killing something just to kill it, remember they are not going to eat it! The thrill of snuffing out another organism's life just to bolster their own pathetic inadequacies. The thrill of true sadism of watching another animal die, just to die. It is this morbid deep-seated cruelty that is hidden by the smiling faces of hunters with their guns standing over the blood-stained carcass of a cougar. It is this deep-seated cruelty that calls the "professional" hunters to coyote killing contests to kill as many as one can.  It is this deep-seated cruelty that along justifies outlawing the hunting of cougars and all predators.


Anonymous said...

Been gone awhile-- my dang work computer(my only access to the internet) blocked yer blog for the longest--aggravating! But on this subject--I have LOTS I could comment on! I'll TRY to be mercifully brief..... And NOT to disagree with the author of the article John Laundre--as everything he said is quite true--SOMETIMES. And not that I condone sport killing of predators of any kind--I CANNOT imagine killing a cougar, especially, for FUN--having raised and cared for them in my job as a Zookeeper(with cougars rescued from the illegal exotic pet trade and yes, orphans created by hunters), and I think if most trophy hunters had the opportunity, as I have been privileged to do, to know individual cougars personally and had them as friends(which is evidenced by their thunderous purring and rubbing up against you and licking you in affection), they would be appalled at the thought of killing them for fun, as well. BUT, all hunters are NOT the same, and some DO do the "catch/tree and release" practice--to whom it IS far more about the love of hounds and working the dogs than it is collecting trophies. And this is true involving many houndsmen after other game--especially smaller critters like raccoons and foxes--MOST coon and fox hunters I grew up with(many years ago....) virtually NEVER killed their quarry--it was all about the "race"(chase), and the making of "hound music". If the dogs managed to actually catch and kill the quarry, it was considered a tragedy! However, this is RARER with the larger predators--I have seen this especially with bear hunters--they just HAVE to KILL the bigger, more "macho" animals, and cougars are, alas definitely in this category. And to justify their actions, they often feel the need to vilify predator species all out of proportion to reality. However, it is incorrect to say that cougar hunters don't eat their kills, MANY cougar hunters DO eat cougar meat, and it is considered quite good! Which is rare for most predator types, certainly! And some cougar hunters do fulfill a purpose taking problem cougars that have become livestock killers, and the rare man-eating cougars that pop up now and then. And cat-trained hounds have done MUCH to further studies which help us understand and protect cougars! Again, I'm NOT condoning urban trophy hunters who are just on selfish ego trips, but to be fair and accurate, you just cannot lump ALL hunters in one big, negative category. Having kept and trained and run trailhounds myself, I can understand the love of that, but I DID make the choice NOT to kill anything--I was just thrilled to see and learn more about my wild neighbors, and hope I made up for the "inconvenience" in their lives by providing them with lots of free meals over the years! As well as nest boxes for the coons, etc.! I highly preferred to let everything live to run another day, The wild animals get savvier, your hounds become wiser, and you can learn so much about them all! And I HAVE eaten LOTS of woodchuck/groundhog, by the way! It is EXCELLENT eating! All were killed by dogs of mine while just out rambling, though, not "sport hunted" for target practice, and I just made use of the meat!.....L.B.

Rick Meril said...

LB..................good to hear from you and your "wanting-to-be-fair" perspective on carnivore hunting............Certainly there are those who enjoy the thrill of the chase, true tracking and time out in open space...........Points all taken.