CALAIS, FRANCE-NEWS AND COMMENT: There are reports of a big cat, thought to be a mountain lion (puma), in the area of Aux-le Chateau, south of Calais, France. The authorities want to shoot it dead because they say it would be hard to capture the animal with a tranquilizer gun.
“The straying of such an animal could be dangerous for the population” – Louis Le Franc.
More than 17,000 people have signed a petition started by animal welfare advocates who said that no one has been attacked. They accuse Louis Le Franc, an Interior Ministry representative who issued the order to shoot the cat, of ordering the death “of a wild animal that has caused no trouble to the ecosystem”. And they said that if the puma were killed, Le Franc would have to “answer for himself before animal protection associations”.
Police and rangers have rushed to Ligne-sur Canche on Sunday after the locals said that the mountain lion was in the area.
Comment: the authority’s reaction is typical of all authorities, pretty well. It is to kill. It is to take the easy route and just eliminate the animal and be done with the whole episode. The citizens who live in the area take the more complicated and far better and more decent route which is to protect the animal and find a humane solution. That is if the animal exists in the first place.
And this is the real comment: this is not a puma. This is positively not any type of big cat. “We are not sure that it is a lion or lioness,” said the gendarmerie, “but it is certainly a ‘big cat'”. However, the photograph gives the game away. It is, as usual, and incredibly poor image but even judging by that poor image, the body conformation strongly indicates a domestic cat. And on every occasion that I have investigated so-called big cat sightings accompanied by poor photographs, I have invariably decided that a nervous individual has mistaken a domestic cat for a big cat. Usually it is a black domestic cat because they can then say that they seen a mysterious black panther.
The black panther is automatically mysterious because they lurk around the countryside at night. The whole thing is an overreaction by the villagers who spotted the ‘big cat’ which has been exacerbated by a blinkered overreaction by the authorities.
And even if the cat was a big cat, and even if it is hard to capture such an animal alive using a tranquilizer gun; a tranquilliser gun should be used. This is what they normally do, if at all possible, in America where there genuinely are pumas occasionally walking around suburbia. Sometimes they get it wrong and put too much tranquilizer in the dart which kills the cat but at least they try. It is a tricky process but they have to try it first.
In America there is a genuine reason why pumas are sometimes seen in human settlements. It is because those settlements have been built on puma land, their ‘home range’. But the puma does not exist in France or anywhere else in Europe for that matter. If this was a puma it would be a pet that has escaped which is highly unlikely.
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