Apparently the eastern cougar is officially extinct.
Meanwhile, the western cougar remains alive and expanding, which is good news, unless you're a jogger who gets mistaken for prey. I confess a completely foolish desire to come face to face with one of these creatures. I get excited every time I see a cougar track on one of my hikes. (Mind you, I also carry mace with me and keep an eye out for rocks to throw.)
When I moved to California, Em and I made a stop at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. Now, I realize that these are giant carnivores who will eat my face (and other soft bits) as soon as look at me. While we were there the center workers were unloading an entire cow (already dead) to feed the cats.
But isn't that part of the attraction? The incredible combination of sleek beauty and bone crunching force. The dark expressive eyes and the killer instinct behind them. The instinct to play as much as to hunt. We saw all kinds of cats at the center, including three 700lb tigers. And yet, it was the cougar whose face stays with me. Her name was Cou and she'd lost the tips of her ears to frostbite before the center rescued her. She came right up to her fence and stared at us as we approached her compound. And then she offered us the lazy blink and shrug that is the universal cat sign of non-aggression.
I'm against keeping wild animals for pets. But I still think about Cou and her giant Cleopatra eyes. I want to sink my fingers into the tawny fur around her scruff and massage those fuzzy, damaged ears. I want to bury my face against her shoulder and hear the sound of the only large cat that can purr. The lion may lie down with the lamb, but when the kingdom comes, I want to throw my arms around a cougar.