The sharp eyes of kids playing outside at lunch at the Boys and Girls Club’s Lake Country Daycare in Winfield Wednesday may have saved them from death or injury when they spotted and reported a cougar up in a ponderosa pine tree in the playground.
Caregivers rounded up the youngsters and got them inside, then called the Conservation Officer Service to deal with the wildcat.
CO Ed Seitz admitted it was a “very scary situation; the worst situation you can imagine.”
He figures the noise the kids were making could have attracted the cat, who could have viewed them as prey.
This was a juvenile cougar, about two years old, weighing about 40 or 45 pounds.
“Typically these juvenile cougars haven’t learned to hunt successfully on their own. They’ve been pushed away from their mothers and are out looking for easy prey,” he explained.
Normally, cougars are nocturnal hunters, not seen during the daytime, so he wonders if it might even have entered the playground earlier in the day.
It would have had to cross busy Highway 97 from the nearest wild area, and it had taken refuge up a big tree adjacent to that busy highway.
Seitz advises anyone who sees a cougar not to turn and run because that can make the big predators think you are prey. Instead, appear as large and threatening as possible, while slowly backing away and try to grab a stick.
If attacked, fight back, because they’re not used to their prey fighting back, so they might change their minds about the attack.
Seitz said there have been a number of incidents and complaints involving cougars this winter, so he feels there must be a burgeoning population of the big cats.
Generally, their numbers rise and fall along with those of their favoured prey animals such as deer.