Cougars in Heat–a Chilling Encounter!

Okay, before I get started here. Absolutely no jokes about attractive older women in pursuit of younger men or randy Washington State University students here. This post is about mountain lions following nature’s orders to make more mountain lions. And it’s about how a few autumns ago I nearly walked in on a mating couple. I was on a solo hike on the Barnaby Buttes Trail in the Kettle River Range of Northeastern Washington. It is a wild and lonely area where I was once stalked by a cougar. You nearly always sense big and wild critters around you here even if you don’t actually see them! I was just making a mental note to myself on how good of cougar habitat this area is. Lots of game for them-lots of open space-and very little human activity. Lots of footprints and scat in the area confirmed my observation.

As I left the lonely summit late in the day and headed down a shadowed slope through rows of lodgepole pine, I soon tuned into a disturbing sound. It grew louder as I continued down the trail. What the hell is making that wretched noise, I thought. It sounded like someone or something having rough sex-or something caught in a leg hold trap. My spider senses began tingling telling me that it is something I probably don’t want to interrupt. The sound grew more audible as I marched down the trail. My heart racing grew more audible too and I picked up my pace. The noise makers were just below me. I had to make a big switchback in which the noise makers were soon above me-then I bolted down the trail to get the hell out of Dodge.

Upon concurring with others and listening¬†to some audio clips, I have concluded that the culprits to this unnerving sound were a pair of cougars mating. It is not a really pleasurable experience for the female cougar so hence the groans of agony and not ecstasy. And while I relish in yet another cougar experience in Eastern Washington (I saw my first cougar in the Blue Mountains two years ago) I’d rather not stumble upon or near big kitties rolling in the hay again. Okay, now you can make your jokes. But I am seriously interested in some of your cougar (that would be the big cats) experiences as well!

For information on hiking Barnaby Buttes and other great trails in the Kettle River Range–consult my (co-written with Rich Landers) Day Hiking Eastern Washington book.

The most comprehensive guide to hiking Washington state east of the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers. 125 Hikes in all. Get your copy today!

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