On April 14, police in the north side of Chicago killed a 122-pound, 2-year-old male cougar in a hail of bullets after they put him in a no-win situation by trapping him in an alley.
The cat might have been an escaped pet, but most likely he had come 1,000 miles from the Black Hills of South Dakota. He crossed several state lines through populated areas where many people reported seeing him, and had managed not to get in trouble with the law until he reached Chicago. Then, as is too often the case in Man vs. Cat, his reward for being a resourceful survivor who wasn’t bothering anyone was a violent death.
Cougars were a threatened species protected by the government. But now they’re crowding each other out of their rapidly-dwindling natural habitat. Young males often roam off in search of territory they can call home before one of the older males kills them or they feel compelled to mate with female relatives. Incest grosses them out.
Animal lovers said the cougar should have been tranquilized and relocated. Others said he needed killing because he was “real close to a grade school” and might have attacked a child, although he hadn’t previously shown any aggression toward humans.
Cougars are misunderstood cats with a bad reputation they don’t deserve. People also call them mountain lions, pumas, or panthers. In 119 years, there have been 108 cougar attacks on people, with only 20 proving fatal. Given a choice, cougars would avoid humans altogether.
Dogs, on the other hand, are reported to kill about 26 people a year in the U.S. alone. But you don’t see the police cornering and shooting them while they’re just going about their business, do you?
So Chicago feels safer because it rid the world of one smart cat who was only hoping to find his place in the world.