Cougars are making a serious comeback, and no, we’re not talking about middle-aged women in tube tops.
After severe population declines over the past 100 years due to hunting and a lack of prey, American mountain lions, more commonly known as cougars, are re-populating parts of the United States. According to documentation in the Journal of Wildlife Management, the cougar is even spreading further outside its traditional habitat in western regions. That’s interesting to hear after the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar extinct last year.
This obviously creates concerns for how humans will live with these predators roaming freely. For decades, these animals have been seen as a threat to livestock and humans, with states even paying a bounty to hunters who killed them.
Mountain lions began spreading far and wide across the country in the 1990s, and last June, a young male cougar was hit by a car and killed in Connecticut. According to genetic analysis, the animal had traveled about 1,800 miles from the Black Hills.
New research indicates that cougars are back in the midwest and can be found as far south as Texas and as far north as Manitoba and Ontario. Studies have also shown that limits on hunting and the return of mule deer and elk, two animals preyed on by cougars, have contributed to the population increase, which is now around 30,000.
Researcher Michelle LaRue stresses the point that humans don’t have to worry about cougars as much as we’d expect, since they are very solitary and don’t like people. They prefer to stay in remote rugged wilderness areas and unlike bears, don’t have much of a taste for humans as food.
I guess that means that even though cougars are making a comeback, you don’t have to worry about your safety. That makes it easy to feel good about the fact that at least some species are thriving and returning from endangered population levels.