Cougars Regaining Numbers, Spreading Habitat

cougars, cougar
Cougars have been declining in number for a century now, as victims of hunting and loss of habitat. Now the BBC reports they’re making a comeback. The population is increasing and they are spreading out of their usual western habitats back into eastern and northern areas where they haven’t been seen for many years.

They’ve been spotted from Texas to Canada, and one even made it to Connecticut last year, only to get killed by a car.

Naturalists say that restrictions on hunting and the return of some of their prey, like elk and mule deer, have increased their numbers and forced these solitary animals to search further afield in search of a hunting range.

Some have raised concerns about cougar attacks. Although experts say that cougars generally avoid humans, cougars must be treated with caution like any wild animal. From 2001 through 2010, there have been 36 injuries and four deaths caused by cougars in the U.S. and Canada.

By way of comparison, lightning killed 26 people in the U.S. in 2011 alone. Environment Canada reports, “each year lightning kills approximately 10 Canadians and injures approximately 100 to 150 others.” So it appears that, much like the common fear of wolves and sharks, fear of cougars is based less on their real threat than it is on urban ignorance of nature.

[Photo courtesy Art G]

Airport hotel hookup: a true story

She was very blond and very thin–probably pushing fifty but still sexy in a silver, sleeveless, summer dress that cut off mid-thigh. I had met her back in the line at Managua when they first announced that our flight was delayed . . . for six hours. We groaned in harmony and commiserated: I just wanted to sleep in my own bed that night–she had to make a meeting in Detroit.

He was maybe twenty-five: scruffy from a week of not shaving and deeply tanned from the August sun. His black-brown surfer hair was pushed behind his ears and his board shorts hung low, showing an inch-wide band of boxer briefs. He piped in his own frustrations with a vague accent–half-Latino, I guessed. We were three strangers trapped in a Latin American airport, consoling one another with testimonials of just how much the airline sucked.

Armed with ten-dollar food vouchers, we hunted lunch in a Managua food court. I got mine to go but the two of them found a table and offered to watch one another’s bags. Isn’t it funny how only after a bit of conversation we’ll gladly entrust our stuff with a person who only minutes ago was a perfect stranger?

We eventually made it onto the plane, then sat on the runway for another hour before taking off. At the ding of the seat belt sign, that blonde woman was up again, hovering down the aisle and leaning over his seat, spilling her neckline wide open and flashing her white teeth inside a moving frame of soft pink lipstick. Every ninety seconds or so, she tossed back a burst of long and shiny hair before letting loose with laughter that was as much lighthearted as it was rehearsed. The surfer guy mumbled back his approval, like a hunkier version of Charlie Brown’s unseen teacher.Wait–were they, like, together? I wondered. I often miss these things even as I’m watching them unfold in front of me. They had to be together–this mismatched pair seemed so comfortable and so into each other–but no, they were clearly traveling alone when we were checking in. I remembered them trading their stories early on, asking, “So where are you from?” and, “Where did you stay?” I stared long enough to feel just a little embarrassed before burying myself back into my book. There is such a thing as people watching but there is also such a thing as peeping, stalking, staring and just being a creep. I pretended to mind my own business in the back of the plane but couldn’t help feeling their chatty warmth.

It was midnight in Miami when we landed. At least two hundred passengers were prodded into a line by a sourpuss schoolmarm disguised as a surly airline employee. Most airports feel like refugee camps, even more so when you wait for an hour in line for two bits of card-stock promising food and shelter–in my case a voucher for Holiday Inn.

Surfer dude carried Blondie’s bags out to the curb. Watching the two of them was like watching magnets dancing–pushing then pulling away from one another without ever actually touching. In the glow of an airport shuttle sign, she seemed blonder and he seemed tanner–she kept giggling while he pretended to protest with his giant surfer smile. Their flirting was overt, consensual, and unabashed. It was also fun. For me, the play-acting offered a kind of cheap late-night entertainment after a long day that had failed to entertain. This was better than hotel TV and without any dumb commercials.

I checked in sleepily and asked for a 5 AM wake-up call. As I wheeled my suitcase squeakily across the just-mopped floor, I caught the two of them at it again, huddled in the lobby sharing the world’s biggest secret; still not touching while perusing day-old pastries at the bar. It was one in the morning and they were sipping espressos. What was that about?

Wait. Were they gonna, you know–do it? Beneath the fatigue of air travel and the depression that follows so many long delays, I felt a spark of sultry intrigue towards my fellow travelers. Was it possible? Did that happen? Could two random people just meet up on a plane and then go off and mate? Exhaustion made me more naïve than normal, but I couldn’t stop thinking of those two.

I slid my key card into the slot and then pushed, taking in my sterile but comfy room with a view of a street-lit parking lot. I brushed my teeth and confronted my droopy face in the bathroom mirror, feeling sad and alone in an airport hotel. Of course it happens–all the time. I considered my two fellows travelers in a sexual situation: the half-Latin surfer with curly black chest hair; the blonde MILF who looked like she could be a newscaster on some local affiliate. I considered all the children conceived from these travel exchanges, both real and potential. Human lives that sprung up from chance meetings in airport hotels–during blizzards, breakdowns, strikes and long delays. I wondered about the front desk and what they saw; the secrets that housekeeping never tell.

We joke about the mile high club but what about the casual layover club? Back in the days of passenger ships, port cities had a reputation for that sort of thing–I’m thinking New Orleans, San Francisco, Rio and Bombay. Airports play the same role and airport hotels make it that much easier. Obviously, sex happens everywhere but it’s the travel element that I find so intriguing: that two people’s missed connections offer the chance for another kind of connection.

We were a random group of travelers that night: business people, vacationers, families, and flight crews. Everyday we all live separate lives at disparate addresses but for that moment, we were all bedding down in the same spot for a few hours of rest before our next transit. This was Miami but surely every night, the scenario gets reproduced in hundreds of airport hotels all around the world. Random sexual encounters enlivened by the randomness of air travel today.

The wake up call worked too well. I showered and dressed, then waited alone on the curb to go back to the airport and start the process all over again–the long lines, the taking off and putting on shoes, a disappointing breakfast. Airports are awful.

From the darkness, the blonde emerged with a face full of fresh makeup that spelled out her determination to get home. She sighed when she saw me, then fiddled with her purse. Behind her walked the young man–a man at least half her age, I thought. He wore the same clothes as the night before, except for a baseball cap that was flung backwards on his head.

There was no way anything happened. I chided myself for being so dirty-minded–a typical male with sex on the brain. I explained the last night’s events away: the two of them had merely hit it off. They probably spent much of the night talking at the bar, sharing their innermost feelings, finding some common bond and having the kind of memorable travel moment one has out on the road.

And then there it was, like a morning newspaper headline. I saw it clearly, despite the darkness of a pre-dawn shuttle back to the terminal: the over-dyed blonde lady brushing her French tip nails across the small of surfer dude’s lower back, secretly, knowingly.

They totally hooked up. I knew it.

Air New Zealand in hot water over new cougar ad

Air New Zealand has a history of fun and creative TV commercials. In the past, they used their own bodypainted staff to promote their service, and this time, they recruited cougars. In case you missed it, a cougar is an older woman who preys on young men. Air New Zealand describes them as “too old to be your girlfriend and too young to be your mom”.

Even though the ad has very little to do with air travel, it is absolutely hilarious. Of course, as with any controversial TV ad, a group complained about it, and Air New Zealand pulled it from the air. Despite the humor in the clip, rape victims in New Zealand were not amused, claiming the clip was “appalling, disgusting and degrading to women”. What do you think?

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Carnival says “no way” to cougar cruises

Back in September, Tom wrote about the first “cougar cruise”. For those out of the loop – Tom describes a cougar as “an older women who happens to enjoy the … ummmm … “company” of younger men.”

The cruise was on board the Carnival Elation and obviously the story made quite a bit of news. So much news in fact, that Carnival has now told the organizers behind the cruise that they are no longer welcome on their ships.

Someone from Carnival issued the following statement: “This theme group was not sponsored nor organised by Carnival but rather by a travel agent and the cruise line will not be allowing any future groups to be booked and marketed under this theme.”

I find this statement to be pretty dangerous – what grounds does the cruise line have to ban this “theme”. What is next? A ban on gay single groups? Older men and women? I’m not entirely sure why older women seeking a “cub” (the name given to the younger men) would force the cruise line to tell them to go elsewhere. The cruise was described as a huge success, so I can only assume Carnival either hates its guests having a good time, or they are making so much money, that they feel they can decide what kind of guests are welcome on their ships.

Still, the organizers has no problems finding other cruise lines who had no problem with the concept, and the second and third cruises have already been scheduled (on Royal Caribbean and NCL).

December is cougar season on San Diego cruise

Women of a certain age and vigor will leave San Diego in December on the first “cougar cruise” to hit the high seas. Singles Travel Company and singles group The Society of Single Professionals are collaborating on this three-night experience … and they’ll be packing the ship with younger men for the cougars on board to hunt. For a change, man becomes prey and cougar the prowler.

In case you’re unaware, a cougar is an older women who happens to enjoy the … ummmm … “company” of younger men.

The appropriately named Carnival Elation leaves the harbor on December 4, 2009 – unlike the action on board – it will actually make a stop (in Ensenada, Mexico). For $125, not including government and port fees, guests will enjoy three nights of cougar coupling. For young men eying the ultimate trophy, Miss Cougar America 2009, Gloria Navarro, will be on board. But, if you think you call the shots with her young man, you’re out of your mind.