Monday 5 January 2015

NEWSLINK: Collaring Cougars in the Name of Conservation

Posted: 12/01/2014 11:11 am EST Updated: 12/01/2014 11:59 am EST

A large portion of my capture career has been focused on mountain lions or cougars as they're also referred to. My job is really quite simple: Find, track, capture and radio collar these animals so that scientists can obtain valuable data to make management and conservations decisions.

The process goes like this: After locating a track, I turn specially trained hounds loose to scent trail the cougar and chase it up a tree. The dogs really do the toughest part of the job; they run with unmatched passion and excitement, covering endless miles. When I arrive on scene, I leash the dogs. A tranquilizer dart is quickly loaded, and the cat is darted. My job then becomes a little tricky. I must climb the tree, rope up the cougar by the hind legs and lower it to the ground safely. Animal safety is priority number one, and despite putting myself in what may seem like a very dangerous situation, I take it very seriously and use a lot of common sense. The protocols for animal tracking are designed to do just that -- keep us all safe. But the wild is not a controlled environment, and sometimes adapting on the fly is the name of the game. I have been chased out of trees, snarled at and swatted at, and I've literally had to wrestle cats to get the job done. The "rodeo," as I call it, is what I believe is the best part of my skill set -- making it work when things are not going according to plan.

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