Those along with puma, catamount and ghost cat are all regional names for what science calls Puma concolor.
This is America’s great cat of the Sierra Nevadas, Florida swamps and Texas brush country and last week a very important one found a new home.
Craig DeRosa brought his cougar “Takoda'” on a 19-hour trek to Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City, Fla.
Takoda has served as an ambassador for the species, having appeared on national television and also as a loved companion to his owner.
It was however time for this cat to make a home among others of its kind and serve out the rest of its days inspiring thousands of annual visitors to the facility.
“We’re excited to have this beautiful cat here at Bear Creek Feline Center,” said founder Jim Broaddus.
“Cougars are such an exceptional beauty and representative of wildness and Takoda is quite a striking cat. He fits right in.”
This facility has taken in many cats, some well cared for like Takoda and others not so much. While they have been a refuge for cats in need of a transition from different private captive settings, the key here is education.
“When people see a cat like this in a safe and intimate setting it moves their heart. People can see their grace and beauty and then we can help teach them how important they are to the ecosystem,” Broaddus said.
Along with servals, Siberian lynx, bobcats and jaguarundis, there are cougars from several subspecies including the highly endangered Florida Panther.
“There is a lot of diversity among cougars and they inhabit everywhere from Canada to Argentina and a lot of people don’t know that. We are glad to educate people and when we have a chance to take in these animals it helps to make it real to the public. There is something special about seeing these cats in person,” Broaddus said.
My life at age 14 was changed when I saw a cougar making its way over a rice levee in Orange County, TX.
At a distance of only 10 yards, we locked eyes for a moment and many years later that is a feeling I cannot shake.
And I do not want to.
In its eyes I saw wildness and have spent my entire professional career trying to communicate to the general public how important wildness and wild animals are-in large part due to that encounter.
As Takoda walked out of his transport enclosure into this spacious new home, I saw a familiar gleam in its eye.
It reminded me of the cat I saw so many years ago and made me excited for its prospects representing its kind-the great cat of America.
Chester Moore, Jr.