1 Close Encounter With A Cougar

Class dismissed. Have a good afternoon. Wayne Culling announced. Thirty middle school kids jumped out of their seats and rushed for the door. School was done for the day. Wayne breathed a sigh of relief. As a substitute teacher he liked the kids, just sometimes they wore him a little thin. He felt a need to relax and decided to go for a nature hike to revive his spirits.

He drove to his home near Crescent Beach on the Olympic Peninsula. His home was one of a few scattered in this remote area. When he arrived home, he pulled on his hiking boots and went down to the beach. He felt refreshed as he breathed in the fresh sea air and felt the ocean breeze.

Close Encounter With A Cougar 2

He walked by large sea stacks of solid rock that rise like giant pillars out of the salt water. He heard the pounding surf and the incessant cry of seagulls. He stepped over many tidal pools careful not to loose his footing on the rocks covered with slippery seaweed. After walking the length of the beach he turned inland. He hiked up a trail that led into the foothills.

The terrain is rugged in the foothills. Tall evergreens with wild undergrowth carpet these hills. Foothills occupy the narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains. Wayne was feeling better with the hiking exercise. He walked a long distance down the trail without seeing another hiker. Once in awhile he would look back and get a fantastic view of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

As he walked along he just started feeling strange. He couldnt understand the cause of it. He tried to shake-off the feeling so he could enjoy his walk but it did not help. He walked until he heard a slight noise behind him. He turned around and saw a tawny brown blur through the leaves of the undergrowth many yards away. Suddenly the cause of the strange feeling dawned on him an animal was following him. The blur was the color of deerskin but he knew it wasnt a deer. Deer dont follow people. He quickened his pace careful not to show any signs of panic. Although he hadnt seen it clearly, he knew that he was being stalked by a mountain lion.

In the wild you see cougars for one of two reasons, you have either surprised them or they are stalking you. Wayne stooped down and picked up a large broken branch. Holding a branch makes a person looks bigger than they really are and sometimes that is enough to scare a cougar away. In all the years he had lived in this remote area he had never seen a mountain lion. Young mountain lions often have a hard time establishing their own territory in the mountains and sometimes come close to human populations looking for food. He decided to whistle to show the mountain lion that he wasnt afraid. He wanted it to know that he was not panicked. Predators such as mountain lions know that panic in an animal makes them easier prey.