Mountain lions, also referred to as cougars, can pose a hazard in populated areas and ranch and farming areas where they prey on pets and livestock and can pose a direct threat to hikers, hunters, and other people who unexpectedly come into their territory.
A cougar can range in size from 65 pounds for a small female to 220 pounds for a large male and, typical of cats, they are agile, accomplished hunters with lightning reflexes, strength, and formidable teeth and claws they can use as weapons. Cougars tend to be solitary and shy away from civilization, but when stressed, sick, confused, and/or hungry they have been known to attack livestock as large as horses and cattle and to pose a danger to pets and people. For this reason, hunting cougars with dogs specialized to track and tree the big cats is sometimes necessary to either kill a dangerous cougar or tranquilize and relocate a cat that could potentially cause a problem.
Because of their size, strength, and skill, cougars are formidable prey and can pose a danger to dogs used to track and hunt them, and to hunters or handlers of cougar dogs. Specialized training to mitigate risks and successfully tree a cougar without injury to dogs is required.
Cougar hunting requires a dog with the physical and mental ability for the job. Cougars are very dangerous quarry, and dogs with physical ability, obedience, mental aptitude, courage, and ability to work as a team member are required. Breeds such as Rhodesian ridgebacks, coonhounds, and Argentine Dogos are commonly used to track and tree cougars.
Hunting cougars is usually accomplished with teams of dogs that work together to locate cougar scent, track and locate the cougar, and then chase the cougar, sometimes over long stretches, until the cougar takes to a tree to escape the pack. Handlers can then move in and shoot or tranquilize the cougar as required. Dogs used for hunting cougar need to be in excellent physical shape, learn to work as part of a pack, and have excellent obedience and off-leash control. Dogs can be started early, training to scent at about 6 months of age, but much more maturity will be required before training a dog to scent, track and hunt actual cougars as part of a team.
Hunting cougars may require the ability to transport a team of dogs, that are used to working together and well socialized with each other, over long distances. An off-road vehicle with crates for transporting dogs is used. Dogs used for hunting cougar often are equipped with tracking collars, as they may need to range far from their handlers, tracking, and chasing cougars. A locator collar allows handlers to locate the dogs when they are out of sight and hearing range. The use of cougar scent to develop the dog's cougar tracking abilities will be required. Dogs being trained for cougar hunting should have excellent off-leash recall so that handlers can call them back from dangerous situations, or to protect the cougar if the cougar is being preserved for relocation. Using feral barn cats for training dogs and protecting these cats with a secure cage is useful in simulating cougar hunting.