Rescue
Two officers save cougar caught in trap
The officers dropped everything to try and save the poor cougar.
Rachel Shapiro
10.05.21

Cougars are large cats who are incredibly skilled at pursuing prey. They also have enormous strength.

And so, when a DWR conservation officer named Mark Elkins received a call about a cougar caught in a bobcat trap, he was sure something was wrong.

Cougars are typically able to free themselves from these traps without human help. The traps are specifically designed not to seriously harm them.

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It was clearly one of the largest cougars he ever needed to release from a trap.

Mark immediately went to the site and when he saw the said cougar, he was amazed by its size.

With the goal of increasing public awareness, he decided to catch the incident on film.

“Anytime we do something that the public doesn’t see all the time, I will video some of it,” Mark said.

With the help of the trapper, Mark went to work and cautiously move to free the cougar. Usually, he uses animal tranquilizer darts when rescuing animals. However, for this case, he wasn’t able to take one with him as the tranquilizers need to be stored in the main DWR office. He can’t always have them, particularly when he’s called to such remote areas.

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So instead, the two men used several catchpoles. They aimed to get the cougar’s head and its back foot so that they can make it lie down and stretch out on the ground. That would make it easier for them to release its front foot.

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The challenging part of the rescue was making sure that they don’t get hit and clawed by the big cat.

Cougars are generally territorial. For any sign of threat, they are highly likely to retaliate. So in addition to the catchpoles, the two men also needed to cover its head with a piece of fabric.

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“If I wasn’t nervous or started to lack respect for the power of that animal, it could potentially be very dangerous,” Mark shared.

After a few attempts, Mark and the trapper were able to finally release the cougar.

It didn’t run or escape right away, as you would expect. That gave Mark and the trapper enough time to momentarily leave the scene and hide for their safety.

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The big cat rested for a few moments before running off and shaking loose the catchpole around its neck.

When they felt it safe to follow the trail, the men went ahead to check where the cougar headed. Not far away, they saw the pole and a few paw prints.

Trappers are generally used to control the smaller predator population in the said region. However, it is not legal to target mountain lions. In the event that they were caught in any trap, the trappers are required to report the incident with 48 hours.

The trappers can try to free the trapped animals if they are trained and skilled to do so. However, for their safety, they are highly encouraged to call the DWR to ask for help.

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The idea of getting near big animals like this cougar is very scary, especially when the animal is nervous and lashing out in fear. That’s why you should never try to help one of these animals on your own — always call for professional help. Rescuers like Mark have the skills and experience to safely these rescues.

Check out the whole incredible rescue below!

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By Rachel Shapiro
hi@sbly.com
Rachel Shapiro is a contributing writing at Shareably. She is based in New York and can be reached at hi@shareably.net.
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