Wednesday the dogs and I plodded around our trails, me with my trusty Kougar Konker in hand. I noticed a couple of odd things on the trail, and the dogs were doing a lot of slow smelling at a lot of things. I felt a bit uneasy, and I kept checking all around.
Thursday morning was much the same, some pretty darn interesting smells out there. We were on a part of the trail that heads to the southeast corner of our property, just before it turns west along the property line, and then loops back to the north, parallel to the dried up creek bed. I smelled something dead. I looked to my right at the piece in the middle of the loop, but didn't see anything, and thought I would look when I got to the other side of the loop, as it was more open there. Just as I got to the corner, Luna, who was ahead of me, took off barking after something, and crashed through the bush down into the creek bed. Jake burst out of a little side trail, all set to join in, but I got him stopped, and Luna came back right away when I yelled for her. We continued on and came across a dead mole, that I had to drag Calli past, but couldn't smell anything there, so knew that wasn't it. Got around to the other side of the loop, and walked in, and there was a dead deer. Most of it was intact, but the abdominal cavity was empty, there was a hole in the chest I think, and then it was eaten or injured in the neck/throat area. There were a billion flies buzzing around, and it stunk, and I was there by myself, and it was just too creepy, so I didn't hang around. My first thought was cougar kill!
We went straight out of the bush into the open, instead of continuing on down the trail, and headed back to the house. I said to Larry, what do you think killed a deer in the back bush? Coyote? he said. A bit later when I had started on some jam, I asked him to do some googling, and told him what I wanted to know. He couldn't find anything, I kept suggesting different ways to word it, but he said no luck. He told me to come down and read a cougar website he had found. And there it was, what I was looking for, in black and white, but in a different context to what I had suggested he google.
On Wednesday as I went down the trail from the other direction, up ahead Luna had picked up something and was eating it. I yelled at her to drop it, not sure if she did, but she continued on up the trail. When I got to the spot she had been, I saw a perfect circle of debris in the middle of the trail, with scratch marks all the way round it, like a flower or flaming sun. There were droppings on the top, what Luna hadn't managed to eat, uggh, dogs! So the first thought was cat, really? a big cat, really? a big cat as in a cougar cat? really? Further along the trail I saw another pile, not as perfect as the first one, but obvious on the dry hard ground of the trail, just the same. Now I don't know why I didn't just get the hell out of there, there and then. It seemed like my brain couldn't accept it. I had forgotten about it by the time I got back to the house, and didn't even think about it on Thursday morning until I saw the dead deer.
I was trying to get Larry to find out if cougars bury their poop like a cat does. He couldn't find anything like that, and he didn't clue in where it said that cougars will mark their territory with a pile of debris, often containing feces or urine. Bingo!
I was encouraged to phone and report the sighting, which I did on Friday, and received a call back from the Conservation Officer. He asked me different questions, and said it was probably a male cougar passing through. The fact that the deer carcass didn't have any debris pulled over it indicated that he wasn't planning on coming back to it. He told me two interesting things. The first was that a cougar won't defend it's kill, and the second was that coyotes move out when a cougar is around. The coyotes were silent on Friday evening, and usually they put on quite a performance around dusk. We heard a few very close tonight, for a few seconds, and I did see a coyote just the other side of the fence in the field next door. Maybe that is a good thing?
Needless to say, we are finding somewhere else to walk the dogs in the morning for the time being. Now I must get myself to bed, the alarm will be ringing in five hours. Market Sunday has rolled round yet again.