TERRE HAUTE — A different kind of trap was set for a missing cougar Monday afternoon after fresh tracks were found over the past several days, said Joe Taft, owner of Exotic Feline Rescue Center.
Donner, the 70-to-80-pound cat, escaped from the center Jan. 5 in Clay County after scaling a 14-foot fence. The center is on Ashboro Road, in Center Point.
Previous trapping devices consisted of a spring-loaded, offset, leg hole trap placed on the ground. It is circular, with a small triggering device in the center.
The new traps are “box traps.” They are big enough for the 7-year-old cougar to crawl in and go to sleep, Taft said.
Once she enters the box, a door closes behind to keep her inside as opposed to just holding her foot, as with the other trap.
Traps are baited with a scent made from cougar anal glands and covered with dirt and sticks.
The cat escaped from a specially constructed cage with a recurve at the top. It’s about 70 by 80 feet in length/width, 14 feet high and has slender, tall trees inside and vegetation.
“It’s absolutely amazing that she was able to escape,” Taft said days after her escape. “Donner lived in this cage for six years. Something obviously had to stress her very much.”
If recovered, Taft plans to keep her in a circus cage temporarily while modifications are made to the existing cage she shares with her brother, Boomer.
Conservation Officer Max Winchell said there haven’t been any recent sightings reported, but some came in last week in the Dietz Lake area of Clay County.
“People still need to be aware that it’s out there and take any precautions,” he said.
Winchell doesn’t think the weather is a problem for the animal’s survival.
“Most animals as long as they can get shelter from the wind, they can survive,” he said. “Obviously there’s plenty of prey out there for it to survive on – raccoons, small game and birds.”
Taft estimated the cougar could spend up to five years in the wild.
Report any sightings to local police agencies.
Crystal Garcia can be reached at (812) 231-4271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.