By: Barry L. Hatt
Since I wrote my cougar story
that was published in the October 13 issue of the Telegraph Journal, Weekend
Reader I have received many accounts from others who have had their own
exciting experience with the cougar. The experiences remain etched in the minds
of the people to whom they happened. Vern M. Garnett is such a person. Vern
lives in Red Head near Saint John.
Vern takes us back to
November 1975 when he and friends were hunting deer near Hampton, on the
Johnson Road. He had been hunting a 10 point buck for several days and had done
a great deal of walking, watching and waiting. One day he placed himself in a
stand of young, overgrown apple trees. One tree near the center of this stand
was larger than the others and served as his base.
awhile Vern Had the feeling that he was being watched but thought it might be
some hunter after the same buck that he was hunting. After a couple of hours he
heard the sound of a cat purring which was strange because it sounded louder
than it should have.
Because it was getting on towards
lunch time, he put his rifle down and began to eat his lunch. Not wanting a
deer to smell his scent he put out some skunk scent. Above his head he heard a
loud sneeze of the sort a cat will make when it smells something distasteful.
As Vern recalls; " I slowly raised my head with a curse ready to fly at some
poor, unfortunate house cat, and there it was. In the apple tree about 12 feet
over my head, relaxing, was what at the time I called a mountain lion. "
He further adds; " It had been there almost 5 hours and
at this point my rifle was at my feet and I was almost to the point of using my
pants as an outhouse. This wonderful creature just seemed to float down into
the clearing about 12 to 18 feet in front of me, it gave that low throat cat
growl of displeasure, turned to face me, gave a snarl and looked me straight in
the eyes. At this point I could not have gotten to my rifle before this cat
would be on me so I began the Lord's prayer : 'Our Father who art in heaven...'
With this vocalization the cat took a backward step then again started towards
me. I said in a somewhat loud and shaky voice: ' By all that is holy please do
not eat me!'"
The cat then turned and
disappeared into the cover of trees about 30 feet away. Because his strength
had left him Vern related; " I sat there for what seemed forever, but it was
now starting to get to the point where the sun was dipping and I knew I had to
get out of there."
Vern made it to the car and went to
pick up his hunting buddies. When he told what had happened they asked him if
they could have some of what he had been drinking. Because it was a weekend he
had to wait until Monday to go to Hampton to see the Forest Rangers. They told
him that an old fellow in the same area had reported seeing the cat several
times but, as with Vern's sighting, took it with a grain of salt.
Later that day Vern and a good friend, Bill Coffee, went
back to where Vern had seen the cougar. They found some very distinct paw
prints along with the drag marks of the tail. The next day they convinced the
Rangers to go out and have a look. Their comment was that it was probably a dog
with malformed feet. Although they took a sample of scat, that Bill had found,
nothing was ever heard from them again.
Over the next two
week period Vern saw the cougar several more times. Once was when he and Bill
were out hunting birds. The cougar came out on the road in front of them,
looked at them and "Gave a nice, gentle but loud purring and faded off into the
forest cover, and our memories."
Vern said it best when
he related; " I feel blessed by God to have been given the chance to spend
several hours in the company of such a beautiful creature and to be able to
walk away from it and talk about it."
Vern continued: " I
am sad to say that Bill Coffee died around Christmas, 1979, but when I saw him
in the hospital a few days before he left us all he could talk about was the
cougar. To this day I can still hear old Bill saying: ' I wish the Game Wardens
were as friendly as that cat of yours.'"
I want to thank
Vern M. Garnett for sharing his story. If we continue to allow unchecked clear
cutting and urban sprawl to eat up our forest cover then the cougar sightings
will slowly diminish. The noble creature that is still with us will have to
move elsewhere. It is not always easy to believe that such a creature lives
around us if we have never seen one. But if the Department of Natural Resources
and Energy receives numbers enough of our sightings, they will not be so quick
to discount them.
Barry Hatt lives in Dumfries. If you have any
cougar stories that you would like to share, his e-mail address is