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The Puma


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.