Friday, December 07, 2007

The Unexpected Cougar

The morning here at Roundtop is dark and overcast, in anticipation of what the forecasters are describing as a "wintry mix." That pretty much means something is going to fall from the sky, but they don’t know what. As it is too dark to take a morning photo, even a morning photo on a day when snow is on the ground to brighten things up, I’m posting a shot of one of the sibling cougars at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

The two cougars like to play tricks on humans. They are in a strongly fenced area that the public can’t reach. However, the front of their naturalistic enclosure is glass where people view them. People walk up to the glass on a slightly raised boardwalk. The bottom of the glass hits the average human just above knee-level. Below that is a wood wall.
As there are two cougars, it’s not uncommon for one cougar to be up on the rocks, pretty much ignoring the people oohing and aahing at it. What people don’t see because they’re looking at cougar #1 is the cougar directly below them along the wall—until the cougar leaps up in the air and suddenly appears at your knees. They are particularly prone to do this, so we were told, when small children are present. The sudden appearance of cougar #2 terrifies parents, who quite understandably have a strong visceral reaction to a cougar that seems to be right in their child’s face. The cougars love this game.

While we were there, cougar #2’s face suddenly appeared once or twice right at the bottom of the glass for just a second—though he didn’t actually pounce. I think he saw that we were adults and so the game wasn’t quite as much fun. He did this sudden appearance so quickly, though, that I couldn’t get a photo of that. He’s quite the beauty. Both he and his sister were very calm and not at all shy about being seen.
I think the reason the reason the animal enclosures here are so nice is that they have few animals and so can provide excellent care and top-notch situations for them. The bears were hibernating, but of the rest I saw no more than 20 animals, of which 4 were raptors.


Anonymous said...

We had similar experiences at the cheetah enclosures at the St. Louis Zoo. The cheetahs showed intense interest in our little children, especially if the child wandered away from us a little bit.

You can't help but react to that as a parent.


Cathy said...

What a picture! That's funny that the cougar delevop a game to pass time. I wonder if they see kids as easy prey or did they learn, you get bigger reaction when you target them instead.