January 8, 2008

My Cougar Huntin' In-Laws

What follows is an unbelievable story. Simply unbelievable. And yet, I tell you anyway because I'm into futility.

Sunday night my father in law came home to his mountain Utah ranch and heard loud banging and crashing noises in his garage. He peeked inside and saw a full grown cougar thrashing around. He slammed the garage door, and ran inside to call all his sons to come out and see the cat. In no time, my brothers in law and assorted uncles and cousins were there with their guns and video cameras.

After they had all gotten looks at him through the cracked door, they raised the main garage door to let him out. The cougar didn't budge. So they shined headlights in at him, started shouting and throwing things at him. Nothin' doing. At this point, grandpa had the idea to run inside the garage where the cougar was, get in the cab of an old truck and turn on the engine, filling the garage with exhaust fumes. Eventually the cougar had the good sense to get out before they both died.

No, they didn't bother to call animal control. Don't interrupt again. Trust me, it gets better.

After the cougar was out of the garage, the discovered one of the family's best loved cats dead in the garage, its side ripped open. Unfortunately, the young grandkids were there to see it and were shattered.* We are guessing that two more cats were in the garage and were eaten as well.

The next morning, my brother in law went down to feed the horses at the barn. He found cougar tracks leading straight into the barn. Then he saw the dead horse. From the looks of it, its halter had got stuck on a bolt on a fence post and the horse had either strangled or broken its neck trying to escape. There were marks on its body indicating a cougar attack. It was a terrible, freakish way to die. The family took this death very personally as the horse, Fancy had become like a family member after 23 years of good riding. Revenge came into play.

Today, there were fresh cougar tracks around the sandbox outside my in-laws home and by the garage. Apparently the cougar was back for more delicious, finger lickin' kitties. My brother in law called his friend who had a cougar hunting tag and was ready to use it. The hunter arrived with his two $8,000 hunting dogs, GPS collars, and guns to put an end to the beast's rampage. They tracked him through the snow all morning, through a few more barns, over a river, up a mountain, and past a recent deer kill. The two hunting dogs finally treed the cougar on a steep mountain face and were going nuts barking at him while he roared back. Despite the thigh deep snow, the guys finally caught up. As soon as the cougar saw them, he began to jump from the tree. As he did, the hunter shot him three times with his .375 revolver. The cougar was hit, but not dead and ran down the mountain, dogs and hunters in close pursuit. One dog got snarled up in a fight with the cougar and if it hadn't been for his thick GPS hunting collar, would have had its throat ripped out for sure. Luckily, the hunters caught up before the cougar could finish off the injured dog and with one final shot, they killed the cougar.

The guys slid the bloody cat down the steep, snowy mountain until they hit a river. At that point, they picked him up and carried him back to the truck. They say he weighed about 100 pounds. By the time they got back to the truck, they were both covered in blood, frozen, and soaking wet.

See? I said it was an unbelievable story. I never lie.

So here's the deal with cougars. You are allowed to kill them without a license if they are on your property or eating your animals but you can't keep the pelt. Only tag holding hunters can. I think you can get one tag per year for cougars. But this type of cougar was especially dangerous because it had lost its fear of humans and probably would have attacked a small child with no hesitation. Boy oh boy, I can't wait to bring my kids back to grandpa's house to visit!

Okay, you can talk now. I know, they are all insane. But I say in this case, crazy makes for an awesome story and some even better photos. My brother in law sent these of the hunt. Warning for those with weak stomachs, some of these are bloody and graphic. View at your own peril. For those bloodthirsty hunters out there, feel free to click the photos to enlarge for some up close and personal gore.


Footprints outside the house


Footprints at the back door next to the sandbox


The freakish death of Fancy the horse begged for vengeance.


Following the trail up the mountain past the deer carcass


The dogs attacking the cougar right after the killing gun shot



Carrying the cougar through the river back to the truck




*My niece Chelsea is especially torn up devastated about the whole thing. She's about 10 and it was her cat that they found ripped open in the garage. The cat's name was Crookshanks, or Crookie for short. This is what her father had to say about her reaction:

It was one of those tragic moments when we discovered poor Crookie. He was born 3 years ago on Chelsea's birthday, and has been her best kitty ever since. Those of you who were here for Christmas probably remember her heartfelt song "crookie the orange kitty" sung to the tune of Rudolph.

On the way home Chelsea paraphrased her Warriors books (books about tribes of cats living in the forest) to come up with an epitaph. It was something along the lines of "crookshanks lived a more interesting life and died a more heroic death than most cats. Some cats get old and sick, others get run over, but Crookshanks died with fangs bared and claws unsheathed, (maybe protecting the other cats we think?) He now joins Starclan in the great Silver Pelt (the milky way)."

Chelsea wants to make sure crookie is buried in Katalia, which is her imaginary land up by the water tank. I don't know how I am going to dig in the frozen dirt, but I'll have to try. She thinks that now maybe Vladekia and Blue Star (the other two cats) might get along better, because she thinks they were both rivals for Crookshank's attentions. (but we fear they might be dead somewhere...we didn't see them tonight).

A few weeks ago for Speech class, Chelsea had to make a Worry Chart listing the top ten things she worried about. She listed "my cat getting killed or injured"......and that was the only thing she could think of to be worried about. The rest of the chart was left blank.

58 comments:

Chris & Allie said...

Dang! I live in Utah! At least I'm not in the mountains. That whole thing is so something Chris would get into.

Caroline said...

good story. But I'm so sad for Chelsea!

Chris & Allie said...

After I posted that comment I read the post to Chris and he wants to know if you meant .357 revolver aka .57 magnum? But he's also wondering why the picture showed the end of an AR-15 rifle? Which did they shoot it with? Yeah, this is what I live with.

Chris & Allie said...

Sorry, I mistyped. I meant .357 magnum. gees. I stand corrected.

The Ed said...

WOW! Amazing photos! This illustrates for me why hunting is a very handy skill. Protect those littluns from the critters. Good job, men! WOW, wow, wow! Love the last pic of the guy carrying Cosmo on his shoulders.

Hollywood said...

My brother in law brought his AR-15 rifle along just in case. He never took a shot- let the hunter do his thing, but he wasn't going to pass up a chance to actually use the thing.

By the way, I'm oh-so-impressed that your hubby was able to tell that from the pics! As far as the magnum/revolver, I'll have to let my brother in law answer that question.

Jessica G. said...

Great...I'm gonna have to sleep with the nightlight on now. I live in Utah up against the mountains. At least I don't have a cat!

FoxyJ said...

That's so sad about the kitty! My parents are both from Wyoming and it was years before I realized that most normal people don't have taxidermied animal heads on their walls like all my relatives. One of my uncles has a stuffed cougar (that he shot) mounted on the rail of their loft. It's pretty cool.

Colleen said...

Cool story, but poor Chelsea! And who on earth named those cats?!

Sue said...

WOW. I am totally showing this to my husband. He will be fascinated. It's the kind of thing he loves. Great storytelling, I was riveted.

My heart goes out to poor Chelsea. RIP Crookshanks.

kibler said...

I feel for the tragic death of the poor family horse... What a way to die. The cat was riped to shreds in seconds, the horse had to hang there...

Karen said...

Wow, wow and wow. Poor Chelsea, and Crookshanks, and Fancy. My burning question is why on earth didn't they shoot the thing in the garage when they showed up armed anyway?

Chelsea's mom said...

Colleen, Since you asked, Crookshanks is the name of Hermione's beloved ginger cat in the Harry Potter series. Chelsea considers herself to be Hermione's true life form (looks like Hermione, way into reading, knows the answers to all of the questions in class etc...) and she waited through 3 batches of kittens before one of them was orange so she could name it Crookshanks. That is why it was especially painful.

Vladekia was named by my son after a Lego Knight named Lord Vladek (or is it a bionicle?). Blue Star is named after one of the cats in the Book Series, "Warriors."

Also, Karen, I don't think they shot the cougar in the garage originally because grandpa (owner of ranch) thought it was illegal to kill it. But next time, next time.....

Also, kibler, you are nice to express your sympathy for the horse. It had been in the family for 23 years, and it was pretty sad for everyone who grew up with it as a big part of their childhood.

BTW, the family is mostly just glad that no kids were up at the ranch during any of this. Our boys have been known to wander out to the garage to putter around. I am totally with "the ed" on being grateful for hunters in situations like this.

Lindsay said...

Wow! What a story! I was all into it, and even stomached the photos, but when I got to the very last paragraph about Chelsea's list of worries, I just about cried. I hope another lovely kitty comes her way soon!

Doug Taylor said...

Outstanding. You have some great in-laws. Call animal control? They obviously did.

Anonymous said...

I posted some more pictures on picasa for the husbands out there. http://picasaweb.google.com/troyflake/TroyGetsRevenge

It was a .357 magnum revolver.

Also, I wouldn't quite say that it's clear that the cougar didn't attack Fancy. In fact, I think it's likely that it did. It just wasn't what killed her.

Do you want me to write a blog post about how good revenge feels?

Amy said...

Oh my gosh...poor horse and cat.
But wow, your brother-in-law is very, very handsome!

Summer said...

Wow!!!

MAGIRK said...

Holy freak of nature, Batman!

Sheesh! I can't believe I stopped in here to read this - er, uh, I mean, I actually AM sensitive to blood and guts... :-P

emmy said...

Terribly sad story.

Kate said...

Poor horse, what a horrible way to die. May he rest in peace.

The Wiz said...

Poor horse. Poor kitty. Poor Chelsea.

Thank goodness for the hunters in this situation.

Why did they not call animal control? They wanted to do it themselves, knowing they could?

I have no idea what I would have done had I found a cougar in my garage. The closest we ever came was a moose in our front yard. Man, those things are HUGE.

Angie said...

I think I read a book like this once. Or saw a movie. I keep hearing Dualing Banjos for some reason. Hooray for the right to bear arms, I guess?! Great post!

Anonymous said...

They did call animal control. The hunter who killed the cougar was a private contractor for fish and game (or whatever department cougars are under). The hunter said that he kills around 100 cougars per year to keep them under control. He can either turn the pelt over to fish and game, or if he kills a really great one that he wants to keep, he has to use his tag for that one. Hence the $8,000 hunting dogs that he owns.

Anonymous said...

No no, he's not a contractor for fish and game. He's just our neighbor. He just had a regular hunting tag.

We only called fish and game because sometimes they will compensate you if a wild animal kills your livestock.

We only let him out of the garage because we didn't know what he had done to our animals.

Heather O. said...

Wow. It's like the Discovery Channel, right in your own backyard. Glad everybody is safe.

Barbaloot said...

Wow! What a crazy story. I'm so sorry for the people and animals-especially the horse:( My brothers would have had a hey day trying to kill the cougar.

Priscilla said...

OH MY GOODNESS! HOLY CROW! MERCIFUL HEAVENS! JIMMINY CRICKET!

Sorry I've run out of clean exclamations.

That's quite a story. I just can't imagine. How awful for Chelsea however it appears she has the right attitude about nature and loved ones.

tracy m said...

Tell me again why you live in LA instead of with the Wild Kingdom family?

Anonymous said...

I am not quite sure what to make of the comment by Tracy M. Were you trying to say that it was safer and less "wild" in L.A. than in a peaceful mountain retreat where there is practically no crime? hmmmmmmm. I will take my chances of getting eaten by a cougar over what lays lurking in L.A. anyday. Or maybe you were referring to the hunting culture as if it dominates life. Really I would love a clarification.

JLJ said...

This is a sad, sad story. I have no way to relate to the fear this family must have felt and the sadness at loosing their loved animals. What an incredible story!

Kerri said...

What do your in-laws charge? They could probably solve our continuing skunk problems in about 10 seconds! Meanwhile, we are just too wimpy to do anything drastic while living in a smelly house!

I have never really understood hunting as a sport, but have to agree with The Ed that it is a major skill that definitely came in handy.

P.S. You should become a journalist, Hollywood! That was captivating!

S'mee said...

first off, this was exhausting.

That poor little girl, I ache for her. So sad. Sad for her. Sad for the cats. Horrifying for that horse...and I'm not a huge horse fan. Sad all around.

Second, as far as names for pets, how about Lewison, Googiewhump, and Prozack? Yea, those were our kitties.

Third, Next time I'm at the BY-u, I will hesitate before lunching at the Cougar-Eat.

Barbaloot said...

Random-but I just saw the comment you left for me about my "chocolate review." Thanks for the nice compliments! I'm glad you liked the music. I had fun putting it together.
Also, oreos are not beneath me, I think it's the other way around. And they always get stuck in my teeth...not all that attractive.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I gotta say, Troy, you are looking very manly and rugged and handsomer than anything! Revenge becomes you. Really, so sorry about Fancy. The pictures on your site were so touching. Rest in peace, sweet horse!

Catherine M. said...

Cats eating cats! Now that's sick sick sick!

Mary said...

Holy Cow!!!

Abby said...

Damn cougar...bastard! That horse picture is heartbreaking, and the last picture is super cool...mean old cougar. I suppose we should chalk all this up to global warming? Where's Al when we need him, or should I say, when Fancy needed him?

Chelsea's Dad said...

I liked the post. Thank you everyone for your sympathy for Chelsea. She cried that night and the next day, but has been really brave ever since and seems to be getting over the loss of poor Crookie really well.

S****, since your readers are so sympathetic and nice to act interested, I posted a few pictures of Chelsea and her cat in happier times.

http://picasaweb.google.com/cannonflake/InMemoryOfCrookshanks02

Erin Koch said...

Wow! That is a nutso story. We live in Missouri and last year during deer hunting season a cougar walked right under my husbands deer stand. He sat up there all day scared and then walked out with his gun drawn ready to save himself. Those things are big and scary- way to go blood thirsty hunters!

Sarah said...

Your family isn't crazy! Unless mine is too... this sounds like a story I would hear from my BF about his day out ...

Very exciting stuff though! Extremely sad about the cats and horse.

Vivian Love said...

I'm glad this story didn't happen here in CA...although my kids lost a cat to coyotes that come around here when someone is building homes in the hills. It took them a while to get over that. Sorry for Chelsea.

Nathan said...

We live in Utah at the base of mountains in Santaquin, right near the mouth of the canyon. We have a cougar who has shown himself around the house on occasion - and I'm always a bit freaked out when I am up in the hills mountain biking alone. Now, I think I'm more freaked out. I have not seen or heard anything being killed by the cat in the neighborhood, but here is always a first time. Guess I'll be on the lookout a bit more. Amazing story and pics.

Anonymous said...

Oh my...I should stop making fun of my husband's "gun collection" and make him learn how to use it. We have wolves around here and I swear I see footprints in the snow sometimes that are way to big to belong to my dog.

Poor cats and horse! That is horrible.

brad r said...

AMAZING! Sarah, we need many, many more stories like this.

Oh, and for "the ed" (i know who that is, btw) that was NOT Cosmo. Cosmo isn't cruel enough to eat little kitties (unless it's another university's mascot) and is way too good to be shot. That was his evil cousin, OMSOC. COSMO IS THE BEST! COSMO IS INVINCIBLE!

kaff said...

I am still speechless.

So sad. The pics of the hunt were very exciting! The pics of Chelsea and the cat were so sad! I'm glad everyone is safe.

Beth said...

Finally, Sarah, I'm breaking the silence. I've peaked at your blog sporadically over the last couple of years, only you never knew it 'cause I've never commented (I'm still very much alive, by-the-way), but this post necessitated a comment. That story is un-be-lieveable! (The pictures are great, too!) I had to share with Nate who had me send the link to his work so he could share with an NRA-member friend and co-worker at work who now wants to meet the cougar-killer. Great story, I'll be passing that one along.

soliluna said...

The juxtaposition of the disney princess birthday post and the cougar post were almost too much for me.

Amanda's cousin said...

We live in UT, about 15 minutes southwest of ALTA ski area, and in a huge gated community. My neighbor has had a cougar in her backyard twice, that she knows of and has seen with her own eyes. It attacked her huge dog, but luckily the dog lived. Both sightings were right after a big snowstorm. Just across the canyon from us a cougar was found in a guy's garage in the MIDDLE of the day, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, not a ranch. He had left the garage open, and went out later to find a cougar...can't imagine my reaction to that one. I think it'd make me even more skittish than I already am. Animal Control did catch and release (far away)a cougar just after that, but I hear they can make it back to their own territories pretty quickly.

Prior to moving to UT, we lived in Colorado for four years, and there were at least five attacks per year that we heard about while there (several were published in Reader's Digest). They started to teach kids that, unlike most animals, even bears, cougars are NOT afraid of humans and will attack to eat you. Yikes. I hate to be a freak-a-zoid about things, but cougar sightings in my neighborhood really freak me out.

I am all for protecting docile animals, but not killers. Go hunters! (And Amanda...ah! I know we've talked of riding horses with the kids. I am sad that Fancy is gone. How are the kid's coping with all this drama and trauma?)

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