Cougar or Panther or Puma in Georgia, RIP

9 12 2006

In the pitch blackness of the Georgia woods late last night, the Milky Way glowed an eerie white-green glow. What I love about being in the middle of the woods is the absolute lack of light pollution and the sky is alive with millions of stars – the stardust spreads from edge to edge. The rising moon had started to drown it out a little, but it was still unlike anything you’d see near a city.

I was really in the middle of nowhere – even seeing a road or a light was a rare occurrence in this southwestern section of the state. As I zipped along, something that looked a bit like a cat darted into the road and went right under the side of my car before I could react. I felt it go under my rear wheels with a nasty krrump.

Awww, shit.

I slowed and pulled well off the side of the road – don’t want to get hit if another car comes along (one won’t.) I got out my big red Mag light and started a walk back to the scene of the impact.

I hope it’s either gone or absolutely dead.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at first. There, on the side of the road, eyes and mouth open and dead as a doornail, was what appeared to be a small cougar or panther. Could this be? They have these things? Big meaty paws, distinctive dark markings around its eyes and mouth, and dark spots along its tan body.

Wow, bummer. Poor little dude.

I crouched down. Yep, most definitely dead.

“I’m sorry, man. You came out of nowhere,” I said, as if he could hear me and understand.

A cougar cub? Seriously?

I debated walking back to the car and getting out the camera and such and taking a picture. Neh, I decided. I was tired, feeling really bummed out about it, and the scene was creeping me out. Plus, I don’t want to be a roadkill photographer.

I walked back to the car and checked out the car. All is OK. Tires and wheels good. Onward.

Today I was talking with a friend who knows a bit about this sort of thing and he said that yes, I was describing a cougar cub pretty accurately. And yes, while still considered rare, there is a resurgence of cougars in this part of North America. Then, he said something that was more than a little creepy,

“You know, at that age, the mother cougar wouldn’t have been far away from the cub at all, and was probably rather upset about what had just happened. I don’t know how long I would have stuck around on the side of a quiet road, crouched over her dead cub, in the middle of the night. And she probably would have matched you for weight.”

So setting up the tripod and getting a shot or two wouldn’t have been the best approach?

He also suggested I inform the Eastern Cougar Foundation, which I have done today.

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