A tribute to Charlie CougarApril 16th, 2012 by Dan Bodenstein
A friend of mine recently passed away. Some people may find it odd that I considered a cougar a friend, but I did. Every time I visited Panther Ridge Conservation Center I’d always stop by Charlie’s habitat. Often he’d be on top of his platform above his house looking down at me. I knew what he was thinking. From the first time I photographed him, I knew he didn’t like flash photography. But a simple growl and a piercing gaze told me all I needed to know. From then on, I didn’t use a flash around him, and encourage others as well.
Charlie would often come down to the enclosure fencing to see me. As a volunteer at Panther Ridge I knew what types of interactions were allowed and what wasn’t allowed. No, I wasn’t going to stick my hand in an enclosure, but I sure could use a scratcher to give him a treat. His soft blue eyes, and powerful purr told me he liked it. He would sit at the enclosure near me and we would just talk.
Charlie came to Panther Ridge in 1998, after being kept in the garage of a South Florida resident. He was three months old and had a severe case of metabolic bone disease. But that didn’t stop him. One of his favorite toys was a plastic boat bumper. He would gnaw it and bat it around his habitat. When a 200 pound cougar smacks a boat bumper, it goes pretty far.
People who have toured Panther Ridge may have experienced his kind nature with Judy Berens, the owner and operator of Panther Ridge. Charlie was a shining example of what humans and animals are capable of … harmony.
You will be missed Charlie. I’m sure you are in a better place, where there is no flash photography allowed.