Close Encounters with a Cougar

Pictures and narrative from Bob Ford:

Jan 15, 2012

I went about 50 miles up the Tongue River day before yesterday (1-13-12) to one of my “secret” diamond willow “digs”.

When I got there I spooked 4 or 5 whitetails out of the river bottom below me. My day had just been made!

After an hour and a half, and 5 willow sticks, I went back to the jeep to eat my lunch. As I sat there eating a sandwich, with my window open, I caught a movement out of the corner of my left eye. When I turned to look I saw a beautiful cougar walking fast through the brush toward me. I’ve seen a few cougar in the wild over my 25 years as a Washington State Game Warden, but never have I had one walk up to me as this one did. I was awe-struck. It appeared to be a young animal, maybe 100 lbs, beautiful coat, very muscular, large bright eyes, full face-just a magnificent animal. It looked me straight in the face, walked past me at a right angle, stopped in front of the jeep and stared into the river bottom below. I couldn’t take my eyes off the animal as I felt around on the seat next to me for my camera. I quickly turned it on, held it above the dashboard pointing out the windshield at the cougar, and snapped the picture.

cougar track

When I lowered the camera the cougar was gone, obviously into the bottom. I quietly got out of the jeep without shutting the door and slipped over to where it would have gone in hopes of getting another picture. The big cat was nowhere in sight (the bottom was more park like than brushy). I walked about a hundred yards along the edge searching and watching for movement. Nothing. When I opened the picture all I found (as you can see) was brush. Obviously the cat went over the bank ahead the camera.

It had snowed the day before so I went back to where I had first seen the cougar and took several pictures of the prints left in the snow. I’ve attached the best photos.

almost cougar

I’m very disappointed in myself for not grabbing the camera and snapping away as the cat approached-what pictures that would have made!

But I’m most thankful for having experienced what I did. The pictures are still there, in my mind, and will be for a long time to come.