As an animal communicator, I get invited to do many fun and exciting things. This is a cougar who has been trained to take a chicken leg offering through a chain-link fence. It’s safe because even if he’d also like to eat the hand that’s holding the chicken leg, the wire doesn’t allow that much contact. I’ve wanted to cuddle with tigers and lions and leopards, and even though cuddling wasn’t always allowed, I’ve petted many of these big cats without worrying one bit that they’d hurt me on purpose. But I’ll tell you true: I’ve never met a cougar I’d want to cuddle. I haven’t yet met one I’d trust that far.
All the cougars I’ve met had a much stronger predator energy than even the lions and tigers I’ve known. With the lions and tigers, I usually wished the chain link fencing wasn’t between us. But with the cougars, I was always glad the fencing kept us both safe. (Me from them, and them from the certain repercussions that would come back on them if they harmed a human.)
When I visited this cougar at the Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City, FL, I was impressed with the way another cougar’s golden eyes tracked my every move, stalking. It was clear he was wishing that the fence wasn’t between us so he could take me down. Tapping into his energy and emotions at that moment was interesting. He wasn’t being mean or hateful; he wasn’t feeling desperate or hungry. His entire being was hardwired to hunt, to recognize prey, to assess possibilities and implement a strategic plan of attack. He was watching me the way a chess player studies the board. “If that fence wasn’t there, and then if she turned around…”
I’m glad that the folks at Bear Creek Feline Center aren’t trying to tame these big cats but are allowing them to be their wonderful wild selves as much as possible in their captivity. I remember when people used to rain and rail again zoos. (And yes, some zoos were horrible, and some still are. And some people are still ranting, often for good reason.)
But many species would be extinct if not for conservation efforts by zoos and small rescue and conservation groups. It’s sad that the eastern cougar has been declared officially extinct. But I hope that one day, other cougar species can be introduced around here, because large predators are important to the ecosystem. For that to happen, though, we’ll have to invest in land conservancy instead of mowing down every inch of foliage to install another subdivision. Maybe one day, our shared values will fully support such a mission. Meanwhile, I’m grateful that there are still nearby places we can go to meet up with the magnificent cougar and encounter their primal energy.