Lions, lambs

You know, the cougar-in-the-alley thing was funny, in a too-surreal-to-really-be-dangerous sort of way. Of course it was a serious situation — as having any alpha predator in your midst would be — but when you receive community news bulletins that start with “no doubt by now you all are aware of the 150-pound cougar that was on the loose in our neighborhood yesterday” you have to chuckle.

Well, the chuckling is over with the latest newsletter.

Tuesday afternoon, police officers brought to my attention a letter that they have received threatening the safety of Audubon’s students and community. The letter appears to have been written by someone angry about the shooting of the cougar in the neighborhood. The letter threatens the safety of Audubon students and makes threatening statements regarding the Spring Gala and the Audubon Family Fun Fair.

My children don’t attend Audubon, but it is right around the corner. It is being targeted because the first report of the lion in our neighborhood came from the school.

There’s been a minor kerfuffle since the shooting about whether the police acted rightly in killing the lion instead of trapping it or tranquilizing it. The city says that a wild lion in an enclosed area is a threat to public safety and that they did what they felt they had to do. Tranquilizers, they say, take time to act and require very precise insertion. And besides, they were not equipped for that.

It is true that there were dozens of shots fired, only a few of which hit the lion. And I admit that I don’t have a hard time envisioning a phalanx of adrenalized Chicago cops shooting with more abandon than perhaps warranted. But I have a fundamental problem with the criticism of what happened.

Cougars track humans in the wild. This is a fact. Cougars are predators; they’re strong; they can kill a man easily. Moreover, a cougar wandering through a city is clearly addled to begin with. Roscoe Village is a couple dozen square blocks full of hundreds of children under six-years-old. This is a very real threat.

To now have someone threaten the safety of children as retribution for killing the lion seems not only evil and stupid, but deeply ironic.

I’m kinda done with the cougar. Can we just enjoy the fact that it isn’t snowing outside?