Coexisting with Cougars: A Presentation at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History

Having been around a few cougar hunters in my day, I think this might be an interesting lecture. I have an interesting cougar story. I was taking care of my dad, in Tucson a couple of years ago. I went to the store, in his convertible (that’s another story entirely).  On the way, about 3PM, I saw a large animal I took to be a great dane walking across the road in front of me, when I realized that great danes don’t have tails that look like a mountain lion. I slowed down and pulled up to where the animal had entered the scrub, and there, 15 feet away, was a cougar, looking right at me, lazily. I was fascinated, until I realized I was sitting in an open convertible and probably could be mistaken for prey! I hit the accelerator, but stopped 100 yards down the road to warn two high school students walking home, who ignored me and kept on walking towards it, thinking I was nuts. Oh well.
Cougars, mountain lions, pumas…no matter what you call them these powerful animals are undoubtedly intriguing. Join Paula Wild, author of The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous (Douglas & McIntyre; $34.95) as she gives a presentation about our evolving relationship with this enigmatic predator. The event will take place on Friday, June 6 at 7pm, as part of the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Friday lecture series, at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History (540 Water Street, Port Townsend). 

Cougars are the perfect predator. They can weigh up to 230 pounds, 90% of which is pure muscle. They can leap nearly 18 feet up from a stand-still, and 45 feet horizontally. In 1936, John Huelsdonk, known as the Iron Man of the Hoh River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, shot a cougar that measured 11 feet from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. Cougars’ large padded paws allow this elusive cat to travel great distances in near silence and they’re absolute masters at blending in. 

Chances are, anyone who spends time in the woods in cougar country has been close to a cougar, whether they knew it or not. It can be a scary thought, especially combined with the lengthy history of recorded encounters that have occurred in North America in the last two hundred years or more. Many of these stories are recounted in Paula Wild’s The Cougar, which was recently nominated as a finalist in theForeword Reviews 2013 Book of the Year Awards, in the category of Nonfiction – Nature.

Her book includes tales of bounty hunters like Jay C. Bruce, California’s first state lion hunter, who killed nearly 700 cougars; stories like that of 12-year-old Walter Farnham, who chased a cougar up a tree to save his younger brother when they were attacked near Olympia; and surprising accounts of encounters occurring where you’d least expect it, such as a brightly lit and noisy dock full of workers at the Port of Kalama, WA.

However, as Wild writes in The Cougar, “co-existing with cougars isn’t about fear, it’s about knowledge.” Her book provides a skillful blend of natural history, scientific research and first-hand accounts, along with amazing photos and detailed information on what to do in the case of a cougar encounter. Throughout, she explores what makes this animal that both fascinates and frightens us so beautiful, so dangerous, and why cougars remain such an important and valuable part of our environment. 

Paula Wild is the author of several books, including One River, Two CulturesThe Comox Valley and Sointula: Island Utopia, winner of a B.C. Historical Federation Certificate of Merit. She saw her first live cougar in Washington state before she could walk, and now lives on Vancouver Island in Canada.

Co-existing with Cougars is open to the public with admission by donation (suggested donation: $5.00). For more information, contact the Jefferson County Historical Society at 360-385-1003.

For more information, or to schedule an interview with Paula Wild,
please contact Heather Lohnes at Douglas & McIntyre
Phone: 604.254.7191
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