Comprehensive coverage

The worm that determines the menu for the cougar

Between 1890 and 1989, 36 human attacks by cougars were recorded in North America; 11 of them ended in death

David Ref

puma. Big as a tiger, purring like a cat. Photo: US Wildlife and Fish Service

The puma, which Christopher Columbus called a mountain lion and the Americans call it a cougar, is a rather deceptive animal. For years, scientists debated whether to classify in the group of small or big cats. The purring test may have tipped the scales in favor of the little ones: the cougar, despite its massive appearance, does not roar like lions and tigers, but rather purrs like a cat.

This gurgling does not prevent species from attacking - even if rarely - humans. For about a century, between 1890 and 1989, 36 attacks on people by cougars were recorded in North America; 11 of them ended in death. 79% of those attacked were children, and of the 15 cougars shot to death near the attack, 80% showed signs of illness or underweight in the post-mortem examination.

In 1994, two women were attacked to death by cougars in California. Immediately after, there were heated demands to eliminate this wild cat, but polls conducted since then show that most Americans feel great sympathy for it and understand that the cases of attacks on humans are few (and probably also result from damage to the cougar's isolated breeding areas).

Situations where cougars attack farm animals are much more common. Over the years, the problem was "handled" in two ways: thinning the cougar population in the area - an action that did not lead to a reduction in attacks; Or removing those few individuals from the cougar population, who have been observed repeatedly attacking farm animals.

Tests recently done by scientists from the state of Oregon in the United States indicate a possible reason for the tendency of some cougars to attack farm animals, while most of them prefer to focus on herbivorous wild animals.

In the first quarter of 2004, ranchers in southern Oregon killed seven cougars after they attacked farm animals. The bodies of the cougars were sent for analysis after death, and in six of them a parasite was found, which was first diagnosed in this species already 15 years ago.

The six infected cougars varied greatly in size and health, but the stomachs of five of them were empty, indicating that they had not eaten in a while. Little food was found in the stomach of the sixth infected cougar - shot to death while hunting dwarf horses on a farm in the area; And in the stomach of the only cougar in which the parasite was not discovered, the remains of a wild animal were found.

The parasite - a worm that goes by the name Cilicospirora Plinaus - weakens the cougars in whose bodies it develops, and according to one explanation, thereby interferes with their normal prey activity, which focuses on agile animals. With no choice, the infected cougars turn to fairly stationary targets: goats and sheep and even horses and cows confined to farms in the area.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.