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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Monday, May 05, 2008

Chicago's Rambo-Style Cops Corner and Execute a Cougar to the Delight of the Hoi Polloi and Capitalist Media

"They have to disperse and set up a home range of their own, or when they come of age the dominant male will kill them."
-- Bill Heatherly, Missouri Department of Conservation

When a one-hundred-twenty-four-pound, five-foot-long cougar ventured into the North Side of Chicago on April 14th he got a fatal dose of what his ancestors received more than a century ago when they, with the notable exception of the Florida Panther, were extirpated from the eastern half of the United States by farmers and other colonizers. (See photo above.)

The tragic end came at around 6 p.m. when police officers cornered the cat in an alley of the 3400 block of North Hoyne Avenue. Being the same natural-born killers that policemen everywhere are, they wasted no time in discharging somewhere between eighteen and sixty rounds at the two-year-old male.

"It was turning on the officers. There was no way to take it into custody," police captain Mike Ryan swore to the Chicago Tribune on April 15th. (See "Cops Kill Cougar on North Side.")

That was hardly the case. Based upon complaints filed by residents of Roscoe Village, the cat apparently had been roaming the neighborhood for the better part of the day which provided the police with more than ample time to arm themselves with tranquilizer guns, nets, and protective equipment.

The petit fait that the department deliberately chose not to pursue any of these non-lethal control methods is proof that it sent its officers into that alley with the explicit purpose of carrying out an execution. San Francisco police committed the same offense when they executed an Amur tigress named Tatiana at a zoo on Christmas Day. (See Cat Defender post of January 28, 2008 entitled "Hopped Up on Vodka and Pot, Trio Taunted Tatiana Prior to Attack That Led to Her Being Killed by Police.")

Furthermore, a cougar had been spotted roaming the streets of the northern suburbs of Wilmette and Winnetka for weeks prior to the shooting on the North Side. Also, a hunter in the western county of Mercer shot and killed one in 2004 while another cougar was killed by a locomotive engineer in the southern county of Randolph in 2000.

The police therefore do not have a valid excuse for allowing themselves to be caught flatfooted. Moreover, Chicagoans should demand an explanation as to why it took the police so long to respond to their pleas for assistance.

It is a small miracle that Chicago's trigger-happy cops did not kill any bystanders when they opened up on the cat. As it was, they shot up an air conditioning unit on the outside of Ben Greene's house in addition to scaring the living daylights out of him, his wife, and two young sons.

Despite all of that, Greene remains a staunch defender of the cops and their Rambo-style tactics. "As far as I witnessed, they did a pretty good job," he gushed for the Tribune in the article cited supra. "Hypothetically, if there were kids in the yard and the cougar jumps in, what would the cougar have done?"

A love of animals is not a prerequisite for bon sens, but anyone who would defend the reckless behavior of the Chicago Police is not doing his sums correctly. A band of wild-eyed, trigger-happy cops is the last thing that any halfway responsible citizen would want to have invade his or her neighborhood. Doubters should just ask Sean Bell's fiancee.

The hoi polloi's reaction to the shooting was every bit as nauseating and morally repulsive as the killing itself. As soon as word of the cat's demise filtered through the neighborhood residents began to crawl out of their hiding spaces in order to to gawk, giggle, point, and makes jokes. (See photo above.)

Even television reporter Lourdes Duarte seemed to be absolutely thrilled by the killing. (See WGN-TV, April 14, 2008, "Cougar Shot on Chicago's North Side.")

Even in death, the young cat has been unable to find either peace or dignity. Acting upon the pretext of determining his age and origin, Cook County Animal and Rabies Control (CCARC) in partnership with the Brookfield Zoo quickly divested him of his organs, teeth, and brain.

It was then on to the Field Museum where knackers removed the fat and muscle from both his pelt and skeleton. After they dry, his bones will be placed in an aquarium where they will be picked clean by thousands of flesh-eating beetles.

They next will be frozen in order to kill off any remaining microorganisms that Dermestes vulpinus may have overlooked. His skeleton and pelt then will be filed away for researchers to ogle and paw ad infinitum.

In fact, something akin to a free-for-all has already developed among scientists wanting to get their greedy hands on the cat's skin. (See photo below.) "It seemed like every researcher in the world wanted a piece of this cougar so they could test this and test that," the CCARC's Donna Alexander told the Chicago Tribune on April 30th. (See "Scientists Clamor to Study Cougar Shot in Chicago.")

The eventual winner of the cougar sweepstakes, Bill Stanley of the Field Museum, could hardly contain his glee. "We couldn't begin to tell you everything that this particular specimen will serve," he told the Chicago Tribune on April 24th. (See "Field Museum Archives Cougar's Remains.") "Think of this as putting a book on the shelf of the library."

That last statement pretty much says it all. Whether the offending party is the police, the hoi polloi, or the monsters from the scientific community, the sanctity of life, whether it be animal or human, counts for little or nothing in twenty-first century America.

With the notable exception of the critically endangered Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi), the normal range of these solitary and crepuscular cats extends from the Yukon to the southern Andes. In recent years, however, the North American subspecies (Puma concolor couguar), has begun to stray across the muddy Mississippi and into the Midwest.

In addition to the sightings in Illinois, a one-hundred-pound male cougar was shot and killed by -- who else? -- a wildlife officer in Scottsbluff, Nebraska on January 20th and the body of a cougar kitten was discovered in Chadron, Nebraska last year. There also have been numerous sightings in Missouri in recent years. (See USA Today, February 14, 2008, "Central USA Sees Mountain Lion Migrations.")

Various reasons have been advanced in an effort to help explain why cougars are migrating into the Midwest. Ken Logan of the Colorado Division of Wildlife blames both habitat fragmentation and overpopulation.

"There are more people living and recreating in cougar habitats than at anytime in human history," he told National Geographic on April 17th. (See "Cougar Shot in Chicago: Was One-Thousand Miles from Home?") "In the 1960s you only had a few hundred per state. Now each state has thousands."

Clay Nielson of The Cougar Network concurs. "It's gotten to a place where there's no space, and cougars have to go outside of the Black Hills," he told the Tribune in the April 30th article cited supra.

The reintroduction of gray wolves into the Rockies about a dozen or so years ago also has impacted negatively upon cougars in that they must now compete with them as well as brown and black bears and coyotes for their share of the deer and rodents which comprise the main staples of their diet.

Bill Heatherly of the Missouri Department of Conservation astutely realizes, however, that there is more than overpopulation at work here and in particular he lays part of the blame on the males' dispersal instinct. "They have to disperse and set up a home range of their own, or when they come of age the dominant male will kill them," he told the Washington Post on April 17th. (See "Young, Restless Cougars Roaming Eastward.")

In practical terms, by the time they reach somewhere between one and two years of age male cougars must set out in order to find their own habitats, food supplies, and mates or be killed by their fathers and other older cats. Since it is estimated that each cat needs a range of at least two-hundred square miles in order to survive, their search for Lebensraum is pushing them farther east.

Since females normally do not need to disperse, the males' search for mates is often in vain. On the positive side, the dispersal instinct markedly reduces the incidence of incest and therefore promotes genetic diversity which ultimately contributes mightily to the health of the species.

Preliminary DNA tests conducted by the United States Forest Service indicate that the cougar shot in Chicago was related to his cousins in the Black Hills. Further examination of radioisotopes left on his claws by the food that he had consumed may eventually make it possible for scientists to determine whether he was actually born in South Dakota or was merely genetically related to the cougars that reside there.

It is, of course, possible, that the cougar was being kept as a pet and either escaped or was deliberately released. That is the explanation favored by Alan Rabinowitz of the Panthera Foundation.

"A mountain lion walking right into the city of Chicago makes about as much sense as you and me walking into a den of rattlesnakes," he told National Geographic in the article cited supra. "Behaviorally, it makes no sense for a big, wild cat."

Although humans and cougars have no more business sharing the same habitat than do lions and humans, a myriad of forces have conspired to place the two groups on a collision course. As the case in Chicago so vividly illustrates, cats invariably lose these battles.

This is in spite of statistics that demonstrate that individuals are more likely to be attacked by dogs than by cougars. For example, since 1890 there have been only one-hundred-eight confirmed attacks on humans by cougars in the United States and of those only twenty were fatal. The fact that fifty of these attacks have occurred since 1991 cannot be taken lightly, however.

On the other hand, humans always have slaughtered cougars with impunity and this trend is only going to increase as capitalists and newcomers continue to push them out of the west and into the crowded east. For example, another cougar's life is in mortal danger after it was sighted in the Chicago suburb of Stickney on April 21st. (See CBS-2, Chicago, April 22, 2008, "Another Possible Cougar Sighting in Chicago.")

Conflicts with humans both in the west as well as in the east already have triggered demands that the cats be culled. In contradistinction to Latin America where hunting cougars is outlawed in all countries except Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guyana, they are legally hunted in all American states with the notable exception of California.

In Illinois, cougars are left unprotected because the Department of Natural Resources does not consider them to be a normal part of the ecosystem. Besides the patented absurdity of such a designation, it conveniently overlooks the fact that the reason the cats are now so rare is because the people of Illinois killed all of them during the nineteenth century. Wildlife officials in Illinois quite obviously play as fast and loose with the truth as does the National Audubon Society and the diabolical American Bird Conservancy.

Hunting is usually conducted with packs of bloodhounds who chase the cats up trees where they are then shot at close range by hunters. More akin to planned executions than to any known sport, the behavior of hunters is on a par with that of the Chicago Police.

In 1994, voters in Oregon banned the use of dogs but the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife responded by lengthening the hunting season and drastically reducing the price of licenses to hunt cougars from $51 to $11.50. (See Humane Society of the United States, April 6, 2006, "Oregon's Cougar Management Plan: A Scientific and Political Nightmare" and Baker City Herald, November 9, 2006, "Cougars: Hunters See More Success.")

Although cougars have been known to live for up to twenty years in captivity, in the wild they usually have a life expectancy of only eight to ten years and this only includes those that survive infancy. Females only give birth once every two to three years and out of the trio or so kittens that they give birth to only one normally survives.

In addition to predation by older males, wolves, bears, and hunters, the cats also succumb to various disabilities, diseases, starvation, and tragic encounters with motorists and locomotive engineers. Wildlife proponents kill some of them by repeatedly trapping them in order to equip them with radio-collars and relocation efforts bring them into deadly conflicts with other cougars.

By way of comparison, the Chicago Police's search and destroy mentality stands in stark contrast to the restraint shown by officers of the Kitigan Zibi Algonquin First Nations' police force in the capture of a runaway Barbary Lion named Boomer on May 1st in Maniwaki, Quebec. (See photo above on the right.)

Instead of going after the seven-month-old, seventy-kilogram male with blazing guns, Officer Chris McConnini lured him to within striking distance by repeatedly calling out his name before grabbing him by the collar. He next tied the lion's legs and wrestled him into the rear of his squad car.

Boomer was then taken to the Kitigan Zibi jail where he spent the night. Neither McConnini nor any other members of the force were harmed in any way during the capture.

"He (McConnini) handled it very calmly and with a whole lot of professionalism," Gordon McGregor, chief of police, told The Canadian Press on May 1st. (See "Boomer the Lion Nabbed after a Day on the Lam in Western Quebec.")

Rising to the occasion, McGregor took it upon himself to make sure that Boomer, who had been on the loose since April 29th, did not go hungry any longer. "They called me at home and I knew the little guy was going to be hungry, so I grabbed three or four of the best steaks in the house then headed for the police station," he told The Ottawa Citizen on May 2nd. (See "Police Find Little Lost Lion Safe, Hungry.")

In addition to treating Boomer humanely, the Kitigan Zibi police did not leave local residents to fend for themselves like the police in Chicago did last month. They instead ordered all schools and day-care centers closed and set up a security perimeter around the search area. Public warnings were issued and a helicopter equipped with a heat-seeking camera was pressed into service.

While there can be no denying that the threat posed by Boomer was significantly lower than that of the cougar, the police in Chicago did not even take into consideration the safety of either the cougar or residents.

As for Boomer, he is now in quarantine at the Granby Zoo, east of Montreal. His owner, Dennis Day of Cobden, Ontario, has promised a legal challenge to regain possession of him. Extinct in the wild for the past one-hundred years or so, there are fewer than one-hundred Barbary Lions in zoos around the world. (See BBC, March 25, 2008, "Tower's Royal Lions 'from Africa'.")

Although the gleeful reaction from the people of Chicago to the killing of the cougar was nothing short of reprehensible, there apparently are a handful of animal sympathizers in the Windy City. This is demonstrated by a makeshift memorial that has been established on the spot where the cat was cruelly gunned down. (See photo above.)

The remembrance consists of an image of the cougar and bears the date of his death and the nickname "Cougey." Also included are a potpourri of candles, a hip flask, wine cooler, beer bottle, candy, a torn Northwestern University Wildcats' jersey, and a wrapped condom. (See WBBM Radio, April 28, 2008, "Possible Suspect in Audubon School Threat.")

The memorial is nothing to write home about but it nonetheless exhibits a level of decency and caring that is beyond the grasp of both the toffs at the Field Museum and wildlife officials working in the field. Failing to recognize any intrinsic value in the cats or anything morally wrong with killing them, they instead look upon them as merely a commodity to be manipulated at will for profit, fame, and the thrill of domination.

Photos: Candice C. Cusic of the Chicago Tribune (dead cougar and celebration by the hoi polloi), Scott Strazzante of the Chicago Tribune (pelt), CBC (Boomer), and WBBM (memorial).