Tag: puma

Montana’s Governor Killed A Mountain Lion In One Of The Cruelest Ways Imaginable

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has to go.

The so-called “avid hunter,” who once boasted of serving “mountain lion teriyaki, antelope chops wrapped in bacon, and elk tenderloin” to investment bankers visiting his home, apparently wanted to kill another puma so badly that he put the word out to fellow hunters.

On Dec. 28, one of those hunters caught sight of one of the large and elusive felids just a few miles outside of a protected area near Yellowstone. The hunter unleashed his hounds on the cat, who escaped up into a tree, and kept the dogs there for hours to prevent the puma from escaping while the Mighty Hunter Gianforte drove hours to the location, got out of his car and bravely shot the terrified animal at point blank range.

What Gianforte did was not hunting, according to retired physician, naturalist and outdoorsman E. Donnal Thomas Jr., a Montanan who is well known for writing about hunting and outdoor sports.

Driving to a place where quarry has already been trapped and shooting it is “the difference between a hunter and shooter,” Thomas told the Yellowstone Mountain Journal. “He didn’t hunt the lion and he didn’t have to hike for six hours to reach it. It sounds as if all he did was walk to the bottom of the tree, pull the trigger and kill it.”

Mountain lion in a tree
A mountain lion, also known as a puma and cougar, in a tree in Montana’s Little Belt Mountains. Credit: Forest Service Northern Region/Wikimedia Commons

The governor may have broken the law, and certainly violated ethical guidelines, by refusing to say anything about the “hunt” and having his press office ignore phone calls, emails and public records requests by journalists. That’s primarily the reason the story is breaking now, more than two months later: Journalists were finally able to track down people with firsthand knowledge of Gianforte’s “hunt” and corroborate the details with other people who were in the know.

Gianforte has had his share of hunting incidents in the past, including two incidents in which he broke the law, once for hunting an elk without a permit, and once for killing a wolf that was radio collared and actively tracked by scientists. (He was let off with a warning.)

In that incident, Gianforte killed the wolf after it ventured out of protected lands, as he did with the mountain lion, who was also wearing a tracking collar. The cat turned out to be a five-year-old male who was monitored by staff at Yellowstone park.

If you’re wondering why Gianforte’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he famously assaulted and body-slammed a Guardian reporter who made the mistake of doing his job and asking Gianforte — who was a congressional candidate at the time — about his healthcare policies.

“At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” wrote Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who witnessed the assault. “Faith [Mangan, field producer], Keith [Railey, photographer] and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”

In an audio recording of the assault, an angry Gianforte screams “Get the hell out of here!” while the shocked reporter responds, “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses!”

Hunting mountain lions should not be legal. There is no such thing as “too many mountain lions,” even by arbitrary federal standards, as the animals are rare, elusive, not hostile to humans and rarely harm people unless cornered or their cubs have been threatened. There have been between 15 and two dozen fatal encounters with mountain lions in the last century. By contrast, dogs kill an estimated 25,000 people a year.

While we refrain from discussing politics or ideology on PITB, primarily because we want all readers to feel comfortable as regulars on the site and we believe politics shouldn’t poison everything, we agree with writer Abigail Weinberg’s assessment:

“Puma. Cougar. Mountain lion. There are many names for the big cats that roam the Americas, rarely attacking humans.

But there’s only one name that springs to mind for Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte: Asshole.”

Montana, you can do better.


All images from Wikimedia Commons.

What’s The Real Reason Cats Love Boxes?

Buddy is not overly obsessed with boxes.

I think that’s because he feels safe here, he’s got plenty of places to hide if he wants, and he’s got a big cat tunnel with four ways in or out. He doesn’t need another little space to crawl into.

Still, like any cat, the little dude likes a good box. When he gets to play with a new box he likes to sniff it, rub against it once or twice, then jump inside and determine if it’s comfortable. Then he gets serious, looks around, and slowly sinks down below the top of the box…

…and remains there for a few seconds before cautiously raising his head and looking around. Usually this is accompanied by a delighted trill, and I get the strong sense that he thinks he’s invisible to anyone outside the box while he has the advantage of seeing them.

“You cannot see Buddy, but Buddy sees you!”

Does he ambush me from the box? Does a bear crap in the woods?

There isn’t an abundance of research into why cats love boxes so much, but the existing data combined with what we know about the feline mind strongly suggests that, first and foremost, boxes have a strong psychological effect. They make cats feel secure and well-protected.

Anyone familiar with cats knows the little furballs like to wedge themselves into hideaways, scurry under tables and hide in laundry baskets. The behavior starts in kittenhood when they’re tiny enough to crawl into shoes and sneakers.

In 2021, animal cognition grad student Gabriella Smith conducted a study in which she found cats will happily sit in Kanizsa contours with the same enthusiasm they have for boxes.

Kanizsa contours are two-dimensional. The participants created them by using tape and paper to make the shapes on the floor. They’re not even proper boxes, just the illusory suggestion of boxes or general square shapes. That doesn’t seem to matter to cats:

Of course pieces of tape or paper on the floor do not afford any real protection, so the feline affinity for boxes seems to be more about feeling protected.

Since cats are territorial, it could be that they also like clear boundaries around their personal space.

The key here seems to be having the boundary without blocking access, as cats are notoriously not cool with closed doors or being confined. If they want to spend an hour in a tiny space and it’s their idea, they’re fine with it, but they don’t like to be restricted by when they can come and go.

Notably, this isn’t behavior limited to felis catus. So far there doesn’t seem to be any exception to the box-loving rule among felines and felids of any species. Tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, snow leopards and pumas seem just as fond of them as their smaller cousins, as you can see in this video from Big Cat Rescue:

Boxes are comforting, cozy, fun to explore and make the perfect hiding spots for ambushes. If you’re a cat big or small, what’s not to like?

Finally, The US Is Poised To Outlaw Big Cat ‘Ownership’

Even though Tiger King, the tawdry Netflix documentary about a redneck and his “zoo” full of tigers, focused more on the eccentric people involved than the plight of the big cats in their “care,” it got people talking about the problem of captive tigers in the US.

In 2020, congress passed a rare bipartisan bill to ban all big cat ownership in the US. The bill stalled when the senate failed to vote on it before the end of the legislative session, but now it’s back — and the recent saga of a confused tiger wandering around Houston may finally provide the nudge for politicians to pass the badly-needed bill.

jaguarwiki
After almost exterminating tigers, Chinese poachers have turned to South America, where they’re poaching jaguars at unprecedented rates to feed demand for big cat parts in the traditional Chinese medicine market. Jaguar poaching has increased 200-fold in the past five years to fuel Chinese demand for their body parts.

There are more tigers living in Texas and Florida backyards than there are in the wild, an ignominious fact that says volumes about humanity’s indifference to the plight of the Earth’s most powerful and iconic predators. Devastated by habitat destruction and poaching to feed the bottomless Chinese appetite for tiger parts used in traditional Chinese “medicine,” the worldwide wild tiger population is about 3,900, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

By contrast, there’s an estimated 7,000 tigers kept as “pets” in the US, with as many as 5,000 of them in Texas.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban the private ownership of tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cougars and cheetahs. It would also outlaw the practice of taking tiger cubs from their mothers so guests can hold them and take selfies with them, which has become an increasingly-popular and controversial feature of “roadside zoos” — unregulated, poorly run, unaccredited facilities — in the US.

cheetahwikicommons
Cheetahs, already critically endangered due to habitat loss, are on the verge of extinction as they’ve become the exotic pet of choice among the wealthy of the UAE and Russia.

The Houston tiger, named India, is one of those unfortunate cubs. While the public freaked out and Houston residents huddled in their homes, hoping to record footage of the wandering tiger, an important fact was often left out of media reports: India is only eight months old. He’s essentially a baby, albeit a 175-pound one, and he had no idea what was happening to him, where he was, how to feed himself, or how to escape the endless sprawl of urban and suburban Texas.

Despite the fact that he was a confused-yet-playful cub, India could have easily been shot by authorities. Thankfully he survived his ordeal, and while his “owner,” Victor Cuevas, is sitting in jail on $300,000 bond, India has been relocated to a sanctuary in northern Texas, where he’ll be looked after and will get to live in the company of other tigers.

In the meantime, we all have an opportunity to lobby our respective senators and demand that they vote for the Big Cat Public Safety Act. You can fire off a letter to your senators and congressional representative in less than two minutes using the Animal Welfare Institute’s site — just punch in your address and the site will draft automated letters to all three, with fields to sign your name and to personalize the letters.

Tell them you support the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and you’ll take their vote into consideration the next time you head to the ballot box.

All images credit Wikimedia Commons.

tigerwikicommons
In the wild, tigers range more than 50 miles a day. Backyards, no matter how large, are not suitable environments for them.

 

What Kind Of Cat Is This?

A reader in Alabama sent this image to the Bangor Daily News and asked for help identifying the cat.

Like many other states, Alabama is home to bobcats and cougars, but we can cross them both off the list: The long tail eliminates the possibility of a bobcat, while the coat pattern and build of the cat rules out a puma.

Aside from puma, bobcats and the lynx, almost all other species of wild cat in the western hemisphere are found only in South America.

The cat in the photo is muscular and looks like it’s taking a leisurely stroll, but something in the wooded area has caught its attention. The dipped tail may indicate uncertainty. Its tabby stripes are well-defined but broken, a trait often seen in domestic cats.

Finally, although Bangor says there’s not much to help put the cat’s overall size in context, it’s almost certainly smaller than it looks, judging from the barrel in the background. In fact, if you expand the image and look closely at the barrel, you can see there’s an arched entry cut out of it, and it’s secured to some kind of foundation. Who knows, maybe someone converted it into a small shelter for this cat and other strays.

I took the image, cropped it close, tried to enhance the details as much as possible without ruining the data, and got this:

The mystery cat of Alabama

My verdict: It’s a domestic cat.

The proportions, tail and gait are all consistent with a domestic cat, as is the coat pattern. The cat in the photo doesn’t resemble any local wild cats, and the cat isn’t as large as it may initially appear.

What do you think?

Can You Spot The Cat? Mountain Lion Edition!

This is the real deal, friends. Not a cheesy low-res photo or an intentionally obtuse shot with three pixels of a tail visible.

There’s a cat in this photo — a puma to be exact — and finding it is a good reminder of how awesome these elusive felids are, as well as how well they hide themselves from humans and fellow wildlife alike:

Hidden mountain lion in Nevada
Credit: John Tull, US Fish and Wildlife Service

The photo comes courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Services and eagle-eyed photographer John Tull, who spotted the well-hidden cat in rural Washoe County, Nevada.

Mountain lions are the second-largest cats in the Americas behind jaguars, and although they look like lionesses, they pose little danger to humans. About 15 people have died in conflicts with mountain lions over the past 100 years. Dogs, by contrast, kill between 30 and 50 people a year.

Mountain lions are also known as pumas, cougars, catamounts and panthers, among other names. The word “panther” is a nonspecific word for large cats and is often used in association with jaguars and leopards.

Known scientifically as puma concolor, these mysterious cats are more closely related to small cats (felis) than big cats (panthera), and have the distinction of being the largest cats who can meow.