Naturespeak 

A night screamer in our midst

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Female cougars begin breeding at three years of age and litters are born at two-three year intervals thereafter. The life span of a cougar, similar to that of domestic cats, is 10-15 years.

Cougars are a strongly territorial species, requiring an undisturbed, game-rich wilderness of anything from coastal swamps to mountainous terrain. They patrol areas of 200-280 sq km, with the females’ range being slightly smaller. Cougar territory boundaries are marked with "scrapes" which are mounds of dirt, leaves, twigs, urine, and dung. Despite the scrapes female and male territories tend to overlap. Cougars defend their territories by mutual avoidance instead of confrontation.

Cougars feed on deer, their preferred prey, but will also feed on elk, moose, goats, domestic stock as well as rabbits, birds, beavers, grouse and smaller wildlife. They’ll even feed on insects if food supplies are limited.

Cougars are primarily nocturnal hunters with excellent eyesight and hearing. Their agile body type allows them to run, climb and swim. Cougars stalk their prey in dense brush at close range. Then, utilizing the element of surprise, they’ll leap as far as 8 metres onto their prey. Cougars then use their strong jaws and canine teeth to kill their prey with one bite to the nape of the neck. This technique allows them to fell a 500-pound moose.

After feeding initially a cougar may cover the carcass with leaves or other debris to be saved for a later meal. Adult male cougars feed on 15-20 deer, or the equivalent, per year.

Cougars, once prevalent throughout North America, were eliminated from most of eastern North America by the early 1900s due to habitat destruction, the decline of deer, their main food supply, and uncontrolled hunting and trapping. Currently the cougar is not considered a threatened or endangered species in the west but its long-term survival depends on retaining large tracts of relatively undisturbed land for both it and its prey. This is a conservation challenge similar to that of the black and grizzly bears.

For information on remaining cougar safe see http://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/wld/pub/cougsf.htm

Upcoming Events:

Monthly Bird Walk – The next bird walk will take place Saturday, Aug. 7th. Join Whistler experts in the monthly update of our feathered locals and migrants. For details, contact Michael Thompson at 604-932-5010.

Calling all Aspiring Nature Writers and Photographers – Have an interest in natural history? Want to educate others about your favourite flora and/or fauna? Write your very own Naturespeak article or send us your photos to accompany our articles. For more information contact Sorcha Masterson at 604-932-5089 or sorc_m@hotmail.com

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