The puma is a mysterious cat, an animal of the night and of the shadows, silent and cautious as a rule, but exceptionally noisy when moved to utter its fearful cries of love or rage. Walking on well-padded paws, it makes but the merest whisper of sound as it travels through its range, lithe and graceful and perhaps more alert than any other North American predator.
The lion prefers to hunt between dusk and dawn, and usually spends the daylight hours resting in concealment. But if it has not hunted successfully, if it is motivated by the breeding urge, or if it is disturbed, it will readily travel during full light. Sometimes, made restless by the heat of the summer or by pestering flies, it will cover considerable distances during the day, pausing to stalk game, or even stopping to investigate some tantalizing scent. Nevertheless, this wraith of the wilderness is always difficult to detect and for this reason it is one of the least studied animals on this contitent.
Led by trained dogs, man can often locate a puma, but then the cat will run, sometimes seeking safety in a tree, on other occasions moving right out of its territory. Or it may turn at bay and attack the hounds and be shot by the pursuing hunters. To understand the true nature and character of this lovely savage, it is necessary to stalk it and observe it within the wild places that it favors. This is a monumental task that requires much time, considerable patience, a thorough knowledge of the forest, quick eyes, a lot of experience in the art of tracking, and a measure of luck.
Time can be found; patience and tracking experience learned, just as one can get to know the ways of the wilderness. Even luck can sometimes be influenced. But there is a final requirement imposed on any man who is seriously interested in studying this animal, one that is probably the most difficult to fulfill: the job demands total personal commitment.
If one is fastidious or squeamish, if one loves comfort unduly, or if one is not prepare to follow wherever this elusive quarry leads, failure become inevitable.
The would-be puma observer must be truly interested in the cat; he must feel sympathy for it and relate to it fearlessly.
There must be no gun in hand when stalking through the forest or during a lonely vigil in the dead of the night, for a weapon alters the psychology. A man becomes arrogant when he is armed; consciously or otherwise, he sees himself as the master of Creation. And yet, in contradiction, the fact that he feels the need to carry a firearm signifies that he is afraid. The rifle becomes his crutch; with it, he stalks like a killer, forgetting that he should be moving as an observe, with all his faculties focused on the quiet pursuit of knowledge. It is impossible to be at peace within oneself while carrying an implement of destruction. And it is imperative for one to achieve full inner tranquility if one expects to understand the nature of wild animals.
“The Ghost Walker” (c) 1983 by R.D. Lawrence ISBN 0-7710-4733-9