Wyoming wildlife experts are warning the public about cougars that are emerging from hibernation.

They're restless, and hungry, the experts say.

Unlike sage grouse, grizzly bears or wolves, cougars aren't endangered species.

If anything, they're proliferating.

Wildlife experts believe they can be managed, but like wolves, cougars elicit strong and sometimes emotional responses from the public.

There are worthwhile arguments to be for and against cougars.

Cougar advocates assert they are beautiful and are fun to watch as they cavort in the wild.

Opponents, however, say cougars are notorious predators, and they cite wildlife experts' reports of 45-year-old cougars who have shamelessly pursued 20-something-year-old quarry.

The cougar problem isn't helped by the ignorance on the part of some of our elected officials. A half-dozen years ago, our lone U.S. House Representative said on national television that she didn't know how many cougars there are in Wyoming.

Our state Legislature isn't much help, either. Most legislators are old and out of touch with the average Wyomingite because they've never had to face cougars on the hunt. Besides, most legislators are tasteless and are stringy to eat.

Legislators probably don't want to deal with cougars because, like trying to deal with wolves for the past dozen years, they're concerned the fallout from anything they do will end up in the courts. They probably have a point since most cougars already have been through the courts and know how to manipulate the legal system.

 

Despite that lack of leadership from the Capitol, wildlife experts have suggested two ways to deal with cougars.

One suggestion is to make them "trophy game" statewide.

Another is to create a "dual status" system, where they would be considered trophy game in some places especially in western Wyoming, but not elsewhere where they would be just regarded as predators.

But the "dual status" system becomes a problem because trophy cougars can be found throughout Wyoming. While their numbers are disproportionately large in Teton and Park counties, they can inflict their wily pursuits in Cheyenne and Casper, too.

Despite wildlife experts' warnings to stay away from cougar watering holes -- the Cadillac Grille in Jackson, the Irma in Cody, the Occidental in Buffalo and the Wonder Bar in Casper -- some foolish men won't stay away from cougars.

These men are more than happy to hang out with cougars even though they'll get their hearts ripped out.

The wildlife experts can only do so much to warn the public and offer management proposals, but they hope this first day of April will mark a new awareness about cougars.