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Hiking Among Cougars

In the western United States the cougar also answers to mountain lion, puma or 'Hey, kitty, kitty' (they find a high, sweet voice almost irresistible), but in Florida it goes by panther. Before colonization cougars were plentiful from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, but today cougars are rarely spotted east of the Mississippi. Habitat loss along with hunting caused their numbers to decline in the West, but since bounty hunting was banned in the 1960's, their populations have grown and cougar encounters have been on the rise. There have been at least 20 deaths due to cougar attacks in the U.S. and Canada between 1890 and the present, with the majority occurring since the 1970's.

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While it remains extremely unlikely that you would ever see the primarily nocturnal big cat let alone be attacked or killed by one, a wilderness hiker should learn about basic cougar facts and survival tips should the unexpected happen. I was extremely thankful I had read about what to do if I met a cougar just before I ran into a pair of them while hiking early one morning alone in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs ( read story ).

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