June 14, 2012
Cougars back on the prowl
By QMI Agency
Cougars are making a comeback. But don't go looking for them in bars and nightclubs; you'll find these predators in the forests of Canada and the U.S. And their numbers are on the rise, according to new research.
The four-legged carnivores would be at the top of the food chain in midwestern states and provinces had their populations not steadily declined since 1900.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada declared the cougar (a.k.a puma) endangered in 1978, and only limited data and handfuls of sightings have been recorded since.
But researchers have seen evidence in the past 20 years that the big cats are coming back.
Clay Nielsen, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, analyzed the data on confirmed cougar sightings, carcasses, tracks, photos, video and DNA evidence collected from 1990 to 2008 in 14 states and provinces throughout midwestern North America.
He and collaborator Michelle LaRue, of the University of Minnesota, identified 178 instances of a confirmed cougar presence and said the number is increasing.
"This paper provides the strongest quantitative information to date regarding potential recolonization of cougars in the midwest, and these findings indicate that the public and wildlife managers may need to deal with increasing cougar populations in the near future," Nielsen said. "Much of the midwest has lived without large carnivores such as cougars for more than 100 years. How will we all get along...or will we?"
The findings are published Thursday in the Journal of Wildlife Management.