Categories: STEEL TRAPS AND THE ART OF TRAPPING.
The puma, commonly known also as the panther or cougar, is the
largest American representative of the Cat tribe, and for this
reason is often dignified by the name of the American Lion. It
is found more or less abundantly throughout the United States;
and although not generally considered a dangerous foe to mankind,
it has often been known in the wild districts to steal upon the
traveller unawares, and in many instance
human beings have fallen
a prey to the powerful claws and teeth of this powerful animal.
The life of the puma is mostly in the trees. Crouching upon the
branches it watches for, or steals, cat-like, upon its prey. Should
a solitary animal pass within reach, the puma will not hesitate in
pouncing upon the unfortunate creature; but if a herd of animals,
or party of men, should be travelling together, the caution of
the brute asserts itself, and he will often dog their footsteps
for a great distance, in hopes of securing a straggler. Birds are
struck down by a single blow of the puma's ready paw, and so quick
are his movements that even though a bird has risen on the wing,
he can often make one of his wonderful bounds, and with a light,
quick stroke, arrest the winged prey before it has time to soar
beyond reach. The puma is a good angler. Sitting by the water's
edge he watches for his victims, and no sooner does an unfortunate
fish swim within reach, than the nimble paw is outstretched, and
it is swept out of the water on dry land, and eagerly devoured.
A puma has been known to follow the track of travellers for days
together, only daring to show itself at rare intervals, and never
endeavoring to make an attack except through stealth. The animal
will often approach cautiously upon a traveller until sufficiently
near to make its fatal spring; but if the pursued party suddenly turn
round and face the crawling creature, the beast becomes discomfited
at once, and will retreat from the gaze which seems to it a positive
terror. So long as a puma can be kept in sight, no danger need be
feared from the animal but it will improve every opportunity of
springing unobservedly upon a heedless passer by. The total length
of the puma is six feet and a half, of which the tail occupies a
little over two feet. Its color is of a uniform light tawny tint,
fading into light grey on the under parts, and the tip of the tail
is black. The puma is one of the few members of the Cat tribe, which
are without the usual spots or stripes so observable in the tiger and
leopard. The lion has the same uniformity of color, and it is perhaps
partly on that account that the panther is so often known as the
American lion. In infancy the young pumas possess decided tiger-like
markings, and leopard-like spots, but these disappear altogether as
the animal increases in size. The cougar has learned by experience a
wholesome fear of man, and as civilization has extended throughout
our country, the animals have been forced to retire from the neighborhood
of human habitations and hide themselves in thick, uncultivated forest
Sometimes, however, the animal, urged by fierce hunger, will venture
on a marauding expedition for several miles, and although not an
object of personal dread to the inhabitants, he often becomes a
pestilent neighbor to the farmer, committing great ravages among
his flocks and herds, and making sad havoc in his poultry yard.
It is not the fortune of every puma, however, to reside in the
neighborhood of such easy prey as pigs, sheep and poultry, and the
greater number of these animals are forced to depend for their
subsistence on their own success in chasing or surprising the various
animals on which they feed.
When a puma is treed by hunters, it is said to show great skill
in selecting a spot wherein it shall be best concealed from the
gazers below, and will even draw the neighboring branches about
its body to hide itself from the aim of the hunter's rifle. While
thus lying upon the branches the beast is almost invisible from
below, as its fur, when seen, harmonizes so well with the the bark
which covers the boughs, that the one can scarcely be distinguished
from the other.
The puma loves to hide in the branches of trees, and from this
eminence to launch itself upon the doomed animal that may pass within
its reach. It may, therefore, be easily imagined how treacherous a
foe the creature may be when ranging at will among the countless
trees and jungles of our American forests.
Although so stealthy and sly a creature the cougar possesses very
little cunning and is easily trapped. The Gun trap, page 20, is
commonly and successfully employed in South America in the capture
of the jaguar, as our title illustration, page 15, represents, and
it may also be used with the same success in trapping the puma.
The Bow trap, page 23, and the dead-fall described in the early part
of the book, will all be found to work admirably in the destruction
of this treacherous beast.
The animal may be entrapped alive, should any of our young trappers
dare to try the experiment.
There are two ways of accomplishing this. The first is by the aid
of a huge coop of logs, as described on page 30 or 33, and the other
by the Pit-fall, as exemplified on page 31. Huge twitch-ups may
also be constructed, using very strong wire. The bait may consist
of a fowl, sheep's head, or the heart of any animal. Fresh meat of
any kind will answer the purpose, and in the case of the Pit-fall
a live fowl is preferable to a dead one as it will attract the
puma by its motions, or by its cackling, and thus induce him to
spring upon his prey, which will precipitate him to the bottom
of the pit and thus effect his capture.
They are commonly taken with the steel trap. The puma seldom leaves
the vicinity of the carcass of an animal it has killed until it is
all devoured. When such a carcass can be found the capture of the
beast is easily effected. Set the trap, size No. 5, page 143, near
the remains, and cover the carcass with leaves. The next visit of
the animal will find him more attached to the place than ever,--so
much so that he will be unable to tear himself away.
The skin of the puma is properly removed by first cutting up the
belly as described under the Beaver, using great care about the
head and face. Use the hoop stretcher, page 275.