Wednesday, April 30, 2008
This is ridiculous. I live in Chicago. Occasionally, if we're lucky, Chicagoans will see a stray deer in the viscinity of the forest preserves. Indeed I pulled over on my way home from the airport last week to show my grandsons Bambi and a friend of hers, two doe grazing in an empty lot.
Last October, in 2007, as I was on my way to work early on a Sunday morning, a coyote zipped past me on the bike path near the Chicago River. I spotted a few of them trotting down Sacramento Ave just last week. Understand, this is the third largest city in the country. Non-domestic animal sightings are a little weird. We have to drive to Lamb's Farm (a nice non-profit organization in Libertyville that you should check out with the kiddies) to see sheep.
But 2008 is apparently the Year of the Cougar. A few weeks ago police shot a wild cougar (is there such a thing as a domesticated cougar?) in front of Ravenswood Hospital, not that far from my office.
Animal rights activists were up in arms, as cougars are generally after deer and smaller mammals, not people, but this defense has yet to be tested here in town. Cougars can kill people, we think. They're armed. The protesters opine that Chicago's Finest should carry yet another heavy piece of equipment, stun guns with animal tranquilizers, something less lethal than bullets.
The cops I see in my office are overdressed as it is. They sink into my sofa. A bullet-proof vest weighs in at about 22 pounds. And guns aren't light. This is not an easy profession, law enforcement in Chicago.
The cougars follow the Chicago River. Native to the Americas, probably from the Dakotas, they have theoretically been chased from their natural habitats and are hungry. They have found the big city and can't get a seat at McDonalds or won't try.
We thought this one cougar sighting/assassination outside the hospital only a few weeks ago, a fluke. Probably someone's cat got loose. People do this. They buy exotic animals and keep them at home, squirreled away in their family rooms. The psychology behind this is flirtation with danger, a need for excitement, primarily, under the guise of a love of animals.
But then we heard that indeed, this isn't the case! The cougars are not pets. They are following the river, some say from northern climes, the Yukon, some say from the south, perhaps as far as the Andes of South America. A long way away. Not an easy trip.
Cougars, as in, plural. More than a rogue cat.
This morning CBS warned us of yet another cougar sighting at California and Lawrence Avenue, again, same neighborhood.
As a relatively cautious, environmentally green individual, I tell people that when I ride my bike to work I am safer than they are driving around in cars. And I take the river route, too, which is scenic. The only danger is an occasional dog off a leash (a $500 fine) that likes to chase bicycles, and I tend to outride them.
So I need to know, real soon. Someone tell me, please, because the weather's getting good and I'm ready to roll.
How fast is a cougar?