PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Outdoors

February 22, 2014

Chester Moore column: Cougar encounter intense, educational

PORT ARTHUR — In recent weeks I have been working on a project that has required me to recount some of my wild adventures from the past.

     One of the wildest ever occurred in 1997, when my friend and hunting show host Keith Warren to film an episode about cougars near Encinal.

     I would like to share this adventure with you today.

     The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) had a radio collaring to track the cats movements in the Lone Star State. We accompanied TPWD biologist Jim Hillje and his team into this large field with matted, waist high grass. He held a radio receiver and when we got about 150 yards into the field it sounded off.

    “Beep. Beep. Beep.”

    A slow but steady series of beeps according to Hillje revealed the cat was within 500 yards and the closer we got the faster the beeps would be.

    “Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.”

    A quicker series came when we crossed over a ravine in the field. This looked like the perfect spot because it was believed this female had cubs because she had not moved more than a mile in several months and cougars typically move long distances. The rock crevices in this spot would an ideal spot to raise babies and we did find her tracks here but she had set up somewhere else.

    Coming out of the ravine, the beeps intensified and Hillje asked me the strangest question.

    “Chester, do you wade fish in the bays?”

    “Yes sir.

    “Well, I am sure you shuffle your feet so you do not step on the stingrays.”

    “I sure do.”

    “Shuffle your feet here. This cat is in that thick grass and she might not move until we’re right on top of her or step on her,” he said.

    I began executing the absolute perfect feet shuffling which in wadefishing allows you to kick the stingray instead of stepping on it. Getting hit by a ray would hurt. Getting hit by a cougar might be fatal so shuffle I did.

    The receiver was going crazy beeping and Hillje said we were within 50 yards. Tensions mounted as the team looked for the cat which they hoped would be with her young, not out on the hunt. The goal was to fit them with radio collars that would grow with them for a period of months and then recapture to put a permanent one on at adulthood.

    “Look there!” Hillje said pointing at a deep hole in the grass.

    He poked a large metal rod in there and the classic boat motor-sounding growl of a cougar sounded back. She then jumped out of the hole and stood less than 10 feet away from the six of us. It was a tense moment but the cat opted to retreat and shot down through a faint trail in the grass.

    The team found two cubs in the den and immediately got to work fitting them with collars. I have always felt that baby cougars are the cutest of any animal as they have big ears, beautiful eyes and a gorgeous spotted pattern they gradually lose going into adulthood.

    We wore thick gloves and wrapped the cubs in burlap sacks to take pictures with them so that we would not get our scent on them and they look darling as you can in the accompanying photo. The truth is they were vicious little creatures and were trying to rip our faces off. Beautiful but wild after all.                                                                                                  Wildness, of course, is the thing that draws me to the great cats. They are mysterious with some species having the ability to live in the shadow of man virtually undetected.

     (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com . You can watch him on GETV.org Saturdays at 10 a.m. on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore” and listen to “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.)

 

 

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