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The Jaguar Is Made for the Age of Humans (theatlantic.com)
195 points by pmcpinto 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

A somewhat relevant and fantastic read on how large animals have shaped society (and some other interesting thoughts), David Quammen's Monster of God, still remains one of the most fascinating reads I've managed to get my hands on, to this day.

David Quammen is a treasure. The Song of the Dodo is one of my all time favorites.

> “I’m much more afraid of walking in grizzly-bear country than I am of walking in big-cat country,” Rabinowitz says.

Interesting. Given that big cats (mountain lions and the like) are ambush predators I tend to worry more about them. If a bear were coming at me, I would bust out my bear spray. If a cat comes at you, you'll never know until the moment.

I grew up in bear, mountain lion, wolf country, and I can see both points of view. SOP for a mountain lion is stand up tall, open your jacket or shirt (to make yourself look bigger) but do not yell, speak calmly. Throw rocks and fight back if necessary. This mostly works. The main incidents of mountain lion attacks are in places where their habitat buts up against a dense human area where they get lazy and stalk trail runners, bikers, etc.

A grizzly though. Make yourself look big... and don't run... but everything else is pretty much what to do once you are already on the ground getting chomped.

Black bears are fucking pussies most of the time.

That said, it's important to distinguish between the type of encounter, between a surprise and stalking. Stalking (repeated sightings, etc) means the animal is already considering you as prey.

You are right that if a big cat comes for you, you won't see it coming until the last few seconds (read up on non-dog big cat hunts...) but honestly a big cat is normally just warning you off it's territory. A grizzly is much more likely to decide you look like a threat that needs dealing with or eating...

So I agree with Rabinowitz in general.

Story time, I recently was going up a canyon in a very remote area and came across a track in the creek bed that froze me in place... because at a glance I thought it was a mountain lion (remote canyons are a favorite for their dens). My heart raced until further inspection indicated it was a black bear track and was at least 2-3 days old... and I breathed a sigh of relief. (sometimes its hard to tell what made traks, other times not)

Here, I found the pic I took for those curious.


Story time: Last fall I was out deer hunting at a place I randomly chose off the map due to my regular place being ravaged by a forest fire. So I'm creeping along and I come up over a little rise, and I see an animal lying on the ground up ahead. Can't really see any detail except for a lot of brown fur, but it doesn't move so I assume it's a dead deer. Was about to go up and poke it with a stick, when it jumped to its feet, looked at me, and bolted into the woods. Adult mountain lion. It was a fun walk back to the car.

Sorry, I didn't understand what you meant re the grizzly. Don't run and then? What ought one to do?

An (large adult male) human (maybe with a knife or stick) at least has solid odds against a cougar/puma/jaguar/leopard, particularly if not taken unaware; a grizzly bear is going to win, and your only real chance of survival would be if it breaks off the attack. Even with a firearm, a brown bear is terrifying.

The brown bear is more formidable like you said. But your odds are terrible against a full-size cougar or leopard one-on-one; even with a knife or stick. Even if you're facing the first rush (unlikely), they'll have better reach and strength to parry your first swing. Then they'll get to your neck and it'll be over. Or they'll slash out your legs or abdomen and you'll bleed out.

A full-size large cat has killed for just about every calorie it has ever consumed. All those encounters with animals fighting for their lives and it's still here.

I think it was in Jim Corbett's book, The Temple Tiger and More Man-eaters of Kumaon (Or it may have been one of his earlier books) where he describes being pounced on by a big cat while in his tent one night - From memory a Tiger - and the only thing he had at arms reach to defend himself was a small cheese knife on his supper plate. He managed to get lucky and kill it with the little knife.

Several years later, he got into an argument with a shop assistant while trying to describe how he had killed a Tiger in India/Africa (memory escaped me) with a similar little knife as he found in the shop. After the shop assistant didn't believe him, Corbett got angry, abused him and was then arrested for causing a 'public hysteria'... Or so the story goes.

A Bit of an off-topic point, I know.. But I thought it was interesting to bring up. I definitely recommend reading Jim Corbett's work, it's an interesting view of life when there was a real chance of you being eaten by a man-eater, and seeing how his work hunting man-eaters led to the establishment of the Corbett national park in India.

Thanks for bringing that to attention. Hadn't heard of Corbett before. I'm not immediately sympathetic to a guy killed a bunch of big cats. If they were man-killers, ok, maybe that's reasonable. But I'm still suspicious about who would take up that job.

The claim of killing a tiger with a cheese knife...yeah right. Tigers hunt big prey with sharp tusks and horns. They fight other Tigers from time to time. A dude taking one out with a cheese knife isn't even plausible.

No problem. Remembering that this was a different time, and in most cases the animals only became problem man-eaters after something like an injury has forced them to target people. Corbett's books are a fascinating read because even though he's a hunter, he's very interested in conservation of the habitats.

The cheese knife thing is a bit of a laugh, but again - having read enough about the man, I wouldn't have put it past him.

I can't help but say this: your last paragraph makes cats sound fucking bad-ass (which they are).

I watched this video and tried to think of the reflexes, coordination, instinct, and skill needed to pull this off.


I don't know how general that is but I remember reading a book about something that happened maybe in the 1950s, 1960s Soviet Union. Geologists explored a remote area, and they were ambushed by a human-killing bear. He hid in the bushes next to the path they took to get water, the sound of the bottles the person sent to get water carried told the bear someone was coming. They lost several people. If only I could remember the title... the main story line was about the bear, the background story for why they were there was that they followed stories of hallucinations and found mercury, a valuable resource at the time (today I'd be more scared of the mercury than the bear).

Isn't that reassuring in its own way? If a bear charges at you, even with bear spray, there's still a reasonable chance you're going to meet your end. And you'll be looking at it in its face. At least with an ambush it will be over near instantaneously, you probably won't know except for a moment of pain.

The game is over in an instant but you wont die in an instant.

From the article:

"Powerful predators that kill by puncturing skulls with their tremendous bite"

"we were a leap away from an apex predator that kills with a single bite"

In this lone case you might just be wrong.

Yeah big cats are one of the more merciful predators in that regard, many animals begin eating their prey without bothering to kill them first.

About two years ago there was a well-known incident in which a daughter called her mother while being eaten alive by bear cubs. The mother heard the whole long, agonizing thing by telephone. The call was even recorded: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/olga-moskalyova_n_...

After an hour on the phone: "Mum, it’s not hurting anymore. I don’t feel the pain. Forgive me for everything. I love you so much"

Good story, but two points strike me as odd. How did they record the call? I wouldn't even know how to do that on my phone. Also, does Russia have such good cellphone coverage, even in areas where bears live?

Yes, Russia is not the US. Cell coverage is excellent, even outside cities. If you get deep into the Taiga of course there will be no coverage, but in this case the camping ground was not too far outside a city of 200,000 people.

Almost all the cheap Chinese phones, such as Xiaomi, come with call recorder built in. My exwife has one, for better or worse, I need to be careful what I say!

I agree. It super suspicious sounding.

I couldn't help but take that as a challenge..

> While the jaguar often employs the deep throat-bite and suffocation technique typical among Panthera, it sometimes uses a killing method unique amongst cats: it pierces directly through the temporal bones of the skull between the ears of prey (especially the capybara) with its canine teeth, piercing the brain

So maybe, maybe not.

I thought they killed by clamping the neck and suffocating their prey.

Not jaguars. They have much stronger bites proportional to body size than the other big cats, and kill by puncturing the skull and brain.

Don’t bears eat their prey alive?

Bears are terrifying... the only good thing is that in areas where people hunt them, they very quickly learn that human smell is bad news, and go out of their way to avoid humans.

Agreed. Bears in Japan avoid humans if they can; the general advice when walking in the forest is to make a lot of noise (singing songs etc) so that they can give you a wide berth.

Reminds me of a joke.

A young couple are about to go trekking through some woods but first have to listen to a talk from the ranger on the danger of bears. The ranger gives them each a little bell and some pepper spray and says "bears tend to avoid humans mostly and are most dangerous when surprised, so ring the bell at intervals so the bears will know humans are around and can avoid you".

He continues "if a bear does attack you, spray it in the face with the pepper spray and it should run away".

Finally he says "it's best to avoid areas containing bears completely if at all possible, so look out for bear dropping and if you see them you will know a bear is somewhere about and should change direction".

The young man say "how will we recognise the bear dropping sir?" and the ranger says "that's easy, it has little bells in it and smells of pepper"

My first thought when reading the title was the Atari Jaguar and I expected it to be a piece trying to justify the UX of the console or something like that.

I thought it was talking about some new cars. It would have been clear if they hadn't capitalised it.

Just wait until the SpaceX satellites get internet coverage to the Jaguars. They'll have worldwide stalking capabilities, 24-7-365


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