Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cougars on the Prowl ...

Brian Klaaf was riding his mountain bike on a trail near Leavenworth early one morning last week when he heard footsteps behind him.

First believing it was a dog, he stopped his bike. Then he saw the cougar pursuing him. Klaaf put his bike between him and the cougar, which stopped just feet from him.

He yelled and the cougar backed off; but it kept following him for a while before he scared it away a second time.

Today, state wildlife officials have brought in a hunter and hounds to try to track the cougar that has been frightening users of the Freund Canyon Trail near Leavenworth.

Klaaf, 45, who lives in California, said he has been riding mountain bikes for 20 years and has had three cougar encounters, but none were as aggressive as the one he spotted near Leavenworth.

"He was running behind me at the same speed as I was riding," he said. "I'd rehearsed this a lot. I jumped off my bike, lifted it and used it as a shield. It came within 6 feet and didn't back off till I yelled."

He said the cougar seemed to be in hunting mode. "There's no way anyone can pedal fast enough to get away."

The Forest Service has closed the trail until the cougar is caught.

Don Youkey, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said the incident was the third in six weeks, including one encounter in which a cougar reportedly swiped at a cyclist's bike.

"Typically they're like a lot of wild critters — they see you more often than you see them," said Youkey. "Then they skedaddle." He thinks the cougar is young and curious, and is on the trail because there's a water source nearby.

Youkey said when confronted by a cougar, people shouldn't run, but instead should yell, jump up and down, try to make themselves taller and do anything to scare it away.

Well ... seems to me that Cougars on the prowl is not always a bad thing. Perhaps this bike rider over reacted slightly. For the US Forest Service to release hounds out into the wild to find a cougar ... well ... that seems like a pretty serious problem then. I mean, a serious cougar problem could intimidate some lesser guys. Not to say this mountain bike rider is a lesser guy, he may just not be equipped, or used to handling cougars. Apparently, he had rehearsed how he would react to a cougar attack in the past, so he must have had some experiences with cougars before. Hell, he's probably decided that he doesn't like cougars already, so thats that.

Anyway, if you see a cougar, on a trail, and you hop off your bike, just make sure you're protected, otherwise that cougar might jump all over you ... and give you rabies ... or eat your face ...

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