PAWS Magazine

Issue 59, Winter 2004

On August 9th, 2004, a female cougar was shot and killed by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officer after she killed livestock near Duvall. On August 22nd, PAWS Wildlife Center received three cougar cubs, believed to be about five weeks old. Based on DNA testing, it’s virtually certain that the cubs are the offspring of the female cougar that was killed. The cubs received exceptional care at the PAWS Wildlife Center and became healthy and very active. Rehabilitation and release of the cougars was explored, but not found to be a suitable option because of their young age. The WDFW made the decision to place the cubs with the Memphis Zoo. On October 14th the cubs were flown via FedEx to Tennessee.

The Gift I Cannot Give
by Dr. John Huckabee, PAWS Wildlife Veterinarian

Just one of many shades
In your eyes
As the morning sky at dawn
Abrasive pink velvet tongue
Grey nose rimmed in black
Coat spotted
Dappled as the forest floor
Soft and sleek, tipped in black
Ending in the cold curves
Of unused claws
Tiny teeth
White as pearls
Sharp as little daggers
Precursors of mighty fangs
That will curve magnificently
To hold future prey.

You came into my hands
By circumstance
Not realizing that you would
Never have the chance
To manifest your destiny
As an elegant
And powerful

Your mother
The swift, sleek huntress
Taken by surprise
While providing for your needs
Chased into helplessness
In an instant she was gone
Leaving you and your siblings
To make your own mark
In a world
You will not understand.

So young
So vulnerable
Life only just begun
Unable to know the skills you need
To grow up just like her.

Things might have been easier
Had you not been found
Left to die quietly
In the arms of your mother, the earth
Where you first breathed
Where you felt a spiked tongue
Softly and gently
Clearing the way for your first breath
Where you first smelled her breath
And tasted her feline milk.

Now you chirp with your breath
An impish snarl curls your lips
In a vain attempt
To intimidate
To protect
Yourself and your siblings
Found by happenstance
By a human
A caring and nurturing
Who fell in love with your presence
Succumbing to your magic
Totally unaware that the lure
Of your eyes
Your nose, your ears
Your tongue, feet and tail
Would portend your future.
Great hopes
For a life that is not to be.

Voices call out
"What a shame!
The babies must live
At all costs."
What a shame.

The directive is made
The kittens will not die
Yet where will they live?
Not in the wild
They are too young to survive on their own
They cannot return
To the life from which they were taken
They will only grow larger
They may someday be a threat to others like us
They must not go back to the wild.
Too cute to die
They must live
No matter the cost.
No matter the cost.
Oh, if only you wouldn’t grow up
You can no longer learn from your mother
How to take only what you need
From the place you call home
And avoid the only predator
Who stalks with dogs
And harbors fear and hatred of you
Because of your nature.

Spirited away into the sterile confines
Of concrete walls and floors
Of bulbs rather than sunshine
And a plastic place to hide
An alien world
Nothing like home
At least there are three
To play and keep warm.

Three little lives
Not significant in the grand scheme, perhaps
Three little lives
Unbearably adorable, enchanting little lives
Meant to live free
Destined for captivity.

The option of release
From decades in a cage
Because of the pleas of those
Who cannot envision your future
Or realize the fate
That has been sealed
And the prospect of a short
Yet meaningful life
With no hope
For pardon or parole.

My apologies, little one
For the gift I cannot give
Is the life you cannot live.

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