Friday, June 15, 2012

Cougars Expanding Their Range: At Last!

If you haven't heard the article about "Cougars make a comeback after a century of decline" then I would suggest you do.  This along with the new newsletter from the Cougar Rewildling Foundation brings the research of cougar sightings to new light.  After a long time of speculation about cougar expansion and even more denial about whether or not they were found outside of the known western states, a new report confirms that cougars have been migrating to "greener pastures."

To summarize, since the 1990's mountain lions have began to expand to other territories. This includes female cougars, not just the typical "roadtripping" young males.  The well established populations act as the Mainland population of a Mainland-Island Metapopulation.  The cougars move into pockets of suitable habitat outside of the main population, and the main population supplies more individuals to help a burgeoning new population.  With the new evidence of cougars traveling incredible distances to new habitat (a cougar from South Dakota ended up in Connecticut), its not impossible for cougars to recolonize the lower 48.  Although there are a few major obstacles in the cougar's way. 

The two most detrimental obstacles to the reestablishment of cougars in the east coastal states are limited habitat and public opinion. The coastal states have seen an increase in population (of humans that is) in the 100 year absence of the cougar.  More development of cities, and fewer large, intact, undisturbed tracts of forest for cougars to call home.  That doesn't mean there isn't ANY, just that its not as abundant.  But I have to say that mountain lions seem to cohabitate well with close human proximity in California.

Secondly, the public is not unanimously happy with cougars in their backyard.  In states which currently have been mostly cougar free for a century, the public is scared to allow large predatory felines to live near them.  In fact, that was one reason why they were extirpated in the first place. People also have an opinion that cougars will interfere with their hunting of game species.  The public has tow opinions: there are too many deer, or there are too few deer.  Some believe that cougars are greatly decreasing the population of deer and that fewer cougars means more deer.  However incredibly narrow-sighted that is, this has become a sticking point in the Black Hills population.

Where it is good or bad in your opinion, cougars are making a comeback, and I for one am incredibly excited with these prospects.  To read the BBC article on information, you can find it HERE.


HemlockMan said...

It's the same with grizzly bears. Populations of humans who have been living without them for a very long time don't want them repatriated, no matter how it happens. Same with wolves and coyotes. The propaganda against top predators by hunting groups and those who want to exploit mineral riches are against the return of large predators to former ranges.

icopywriter said...

I didn't know how to contact you about a sighting, but yesterday I saw a cougar right outside my house. I live in Banner Elk, NC, in the middle of the Cherokee forest surrounded by mountains and trees. My Maltese dog was tied out front around 8 PM and I went out to see what he was barking at. The cougar was as big as a deer, fawn colored, with a long tail like a house cat. He stood less than 50 feet from me. I stared at him, trying to figure out what he was and he just stared back for a few seconds until I realized that it wasn't A. a deer. B. a dog. C. a bobcat D. a lion or E. a domestic cat (it took me a minute). Then I grabbed my dog and ran for my front door! He skulked off to the forest, moving just like a typical housecat, but he was 10 times bigger. It was really strange to see!! I couldn't find any tracks or get photos :( but I'll keep an eye out. I believe he was stalking my 9 pound dog. When my boyfriend told his co-workers about it, they said they regularly saw 2 cougars running around the area, possibly a male/female couple. Eastern cougar extinct? Don't think so!

icopywriter said...

Hi, did you get my comment about the North Carolina cougar sighting? I dunno if it went through.

- clark - said...


Sounds exciting. First I want to say NEVER RUN from a large animal, especially a large feline as it may trigger them to chase you. I'm glad you and your dog were able to get inside safely.

Sadly, there aren't too many places anymore that are interested in sightings. However the ECF still would like to hear about every sighting and has a form here:

As well as looking for prints, you could try a trail camera or game camera to capture a photo of the cougar if it stays around.

Good luck and look up ways to stay safe in cougar country.

Shannon said...

I was recently in Tennessee for a road race and I saw a large cat that looked like a cougar, but the only thing was his tail was bobbed. He looked like a mountain lion, but without the tail. He didn't have the pointy ears or the tufts of hair around his face like a bobcat would and he was larger than my German Shepherd. I was crossing a creek above him on the road and I saw him walking through the creek looking down. Then he came out on the bank and then crossed the stream, swimming, until he reached the other side. He came out and shook off, then squatted like to pee (or poo). That's when I got scared and got the heck out of there. Could it have been a cat that someone had? Do people bob cats tails on exotic animals? He just did not look like a bob cat at all,except for the bob tail- but even it was abnormal short. Plus, he was so big.

Tim McDaniels said...

Recent cougar sighting in Urbanna, VA. This area is a couple hours from the mountains near the Chesapeake Bay.