Jul 132011
 
canton-mountain-lion-art-bztat

"Canton Mountain Lion" digital Art by BZTAT

In recent weeks, there have been several sightings of a mountain lion, or some large cat-like creature, in the Canton, OH/Stark County area. Although the animal has not been close enough to any human beings for anyone to get a clear photo of it, the mere possibility of such a creature in the area has provoked fear and anguish.

Sadly, the response from wildlife officials has been lackluster and seemingly heartless. They suggest that the animal would be killed, not tranquilized and relocated, should it reappear in their sights.

Experts have speculated that the animal that has been seen in Stark County was likely a captive animal that someone was keeping. Experts suspect that it either escaped or was released.

I am an advocate for the humane treatment of animals. I generally only get involved in causes related to domestic animals, however, this animal’s plight, and several others like it, has struck a nerve with me. Why is it that humans feel the need to keep wild, aggressive animals as pets?

Why do we feel the need to bend the things that fascinate us to our own whims and keep them as our own?

I love having pets – domesticated pets. Aggressive wild animals have needs beyond our comprehension, and simply should not be living outside of natural habitats. At least zoos and sanctuaries go to great lengths to recreate habitats, using experts and research.

A home or cage is no home for a wild animal.

They get loose, struggle with their new unfamiliar habitat, and then they become a potential public safety threat.

Being a Twitter buff, I decided to take to the social media platform to raise some awareness and have a little fun. I created the @CantonMtnLion Twitter account, somewhat in the style of the viral @BronxZooCobra to see what would happen. It has not gone viral, but it has raised the attention of local media. I was interviewed today for a story by Action News 19 from Cleveland, and two local radio hosts have enjoyed tweeting with the mountain lion.

I am not sure where the Twitter account will go from here, but I hope to use it to raise awareness to animal welfare issues, as well as have a little bit of fun. There have been no actual sightings of a real cougar in the area for days, so I suspect that it has moved on. But there is no reason why we cannot use its misadventure as a way to raise awareness.

The state of Ohio and other states have initiatives to reduce the wild animal trade and the inappropriate care of exotic animals as pets. The Humane Society of the United States has initives going on all over the country. How can you get involved? Check out these websites and follow the mountain lion on Twitter to find other resources.

I urge you to think about how we treat animals in our world and think about how we can be more humane. We share this world with them, not control it for them. How can we be better neighbors?

UPDATE: View the Action News 19 story:

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