Put caution down a step

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2006

By Staff
You can't say people aren't concerned about safety and their environment. More than 150 people gathered Monday afternoon in Berrien County to discuss their concerns about possible cougar sightings and the brutal attack of a horse.
Caution is good, but so is putting the dangers in perspective. We agree that the chance of a person being hurt in an attack by a dog is far greater than meeting and confronting a cougar even in a rural area.
Attending the session, along with the media, were representatives from Michigan's Wildlife Conservancy, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Berrien County Sheriff Department, Berrien County Animal Control, Andrew's University, a Berrien County administrator, Berrien County commissioners and government officials. Additional, many residents of Berrien and Cass counties voiced their questions and concerns about the possibility of cougars.
A comment from a wildlife biologist, Dave Bostick, may quell those overly concerned that southwest Michigan is being overrun with cougars. Domestic dogs are responsible for 20 deaths of humans each year. Deaths attributed to cougars have totaled 20 - since 1900, he said.
It is important, like preparing for a possible flu pandemic, that our legislators and government officials meet and discuss solutions, before tragedy unfolds.
The many people who have reported sighting a cougar, or have seen evidence of tracks or damaged livestock, should not be discounted.
The story of the horse which had to be put down after a brutal attack in Berrien County touched our hearts. Farmers should be careful with their livestock.
Parents should be aware small children alone are vulnerable.
All suspected attacks or signs of cougar activity should be reported to animal control.
There's also a 24-hour Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline, 800-292-7800. Or, contact the DNR Plainwell office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday at 269/685-6851 or log onto the DNR's Web site.
Better that we be safe, than sorry.