Sunday, December 18, 2011

In Touch with My Wild Side

Today, I got to do something (again) that the majority of humans don't have an opportunity to do.  Interact with big(ger) Cats.

Today was my first day at the zoo.  I won't bore you with the hours of details on enclosure cleaning, promise.  I won't tell you about interacting with the red pandas, prairie dogs, or langurs.  What I will tell you about are the amazing cats that I had an opportunity to interact with today: snow leopards, bobcats, and my beloved cougars.

A photo I took of one of our
Snow Leopards in 2011.
These are really some amazing animals and each are vastly different.  The snow leopards (aka Panthera unciawere great to be near - and so very close!  The ones here are a family - mother (whose name I can't recall - it was long!), father (Czar), and new daughter (Kenji).  The two females were in the outside enclosure while Czar was in the inside enclosure.  He weighs about 110 pounds (visual estimation only) and was quite mellow.  Of course, to him I'm merely 'the keep'... there to sweep up and spray down his room while he pretended to sleep and not notice me.  He liked to grunt at people, though, which amused me.  Of note, their fur is just as thick and luxurious as it looks; while I see the draw to making them into garments I detest the mere idea of it.  His coat is by far prettier on him.  What I think made him truly adorable to me was his teddy bear.  Yes, his teddy bear.

The bobcats (aka Lynx rufus) were cute - named Gene and Joan (like Gene Simmons and Joan Jett).  It's assumed that they are brother and sister.  Both were prior 'pets' and found released in the city some time ago.  I was distracting them with mice and was enthralled when they kept swatting my hand to get my attention - so very house-cat like!  They are much smaller than the snow leopards, both the size of medium dogs with Gene being a little larger than Joan.  Once again, a great example of why people should NOT assume they should have exotic pets... how irresponsible to force animals to imprint on humans only to them release them to fend for themselves just assuming they will find their wild side.  Amazing little animals!

A photo I took of Coby earlier in 2011.
Of course, that leaves only the cougars (or Puma Concolor - meaning 'cat of one color') to tell you about: Miamya (mee-ah-mie-ah) and Coby.  First off, neither cat has their tail - the most prominent sign on a cougar - each for different reasons.  Coby, who is quite a big boy, lost his in an 'incident' at one time with another animal.  They are also both declawed.  Coby, despite his lack of tail or claws, is still a very impressive cat to behold.  He probably weighs in around 180 lbs and, without his tail, he's probably 4.5-5 feet long.  With his tail, he'd be an easy 6-7' cat.  His head is the perfect shape and his teeth were still incredibly large.  He grunted while I was there but I didn't get to his hear his token cougar growl.  Miamya is quite different.  She was... amazing for different reasons.  Her story is long, but the short version is that she was once a school mascot... but as the school was the bobcats and she is a cougar, they had her tail bobbed and also did a relatively bad job declawing her and filing down her teeth.  It's also suspected that she was once hit by a car in her 'prior life' and she has a pronounced limp.  She's a small cougar, maybe 90-100 lbs at most.  She had an awesome disposition and, due to her perfect little 'meow' and purring, I fell in love with her.  Her sordid history makes the plight of her species all the more prominent in my mind.

I can't wait for my next day!

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