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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Boone Smith is a big cat tracker who has spent 20 years catching a total of nearly 500 cougars and pumas in Chile, California, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Colorado, collaring or marking more than 150 of them............ A fourth-generation tracker and houndman raised on a cattle ranch in southeast Idaho, Smith has used his expertise to gather data on big cats, their behavior and their landscape to help scientists with conservation studies............... Boone is the host of Man v. Lion, which kicks off Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week (Nov. 28 – Dec. 3) an extension of the Big Cats Initiative, a long-term commitment by the National Geographic Society to stop poaching, save habitat and sound the call that big steps are needed to save big cats around the world.................I hope one day that instead of collaring wild and free animals, some other type non-invasive technology can be utilized in the studying of carnivores.


Collaring Cougars

 in the Name of 


Posted: Updated: 

A large portion of my capture career has been focused on
 mountain lions or cougars as they're also referred to. My
 job is really quite simple: Find, track, capture and radio
 collar these animals so that scientists can obtain valuable
 data to make management and conservations decisions.
american cougar
The process goes like this: After locating a track, I turn 
specially trained hounds loose to scent trail the cougar 
and chase it up a tree. The dogs really do the toughest 
part of the job; they run with unmatched passion and 
excitement, covering endless miles. When I arrive on scene,
 I leash the dogs. A tranquilizer dart is quickly loaded, and
 the cat is darted. My job then becomes a little tricky. I must
 climb the tree, rope up the cougar by the hind legs and 
lower it to the ground safely. Animal safety is priority 
number one, and despite putting myself in what may
 seem like a very dangerous situation, I take it very 
seriously and use a lot of common sense. The protocols
 for animal tracking are designed to do just that -- 
keep us all safe. But the wild is not a controlled 
environment, and sometimes adapting on the fly is
 the name of the game. I have been chased out of trees, 
snarled at and swatted at, and I've literally had to 
wrestle cats to get the job done. The "rodeo," as I call
 it, is what I believe is the best part of my skill set -- 
making it work when things are not going according
 to plan.
american cougar 2

When we have the cougar on the ground, we place a
 GPS collar on it and gather all kinds of information
 (weight, age, blood samples, DNA, measurements, etc.).
 We then give the animal a reversal drug to get it up 
and on its feet. Animals are fully recovered in less 
than an hour. The collar then allows us to learn
 information such as movements, habitat use, 
predation rates and proximity to other predators
 and humans. This data then helps us understand
 unique dynamics that exist for specific species in 
different regions.
american cougar 3

I recognize the capture process is fairly invasive. There is no
 doubt that the animal is stressed from our actions and 
presence. However, these animals are hardy and tough 
and evolved to be very resilient and adaptive. And the means
 justifies the end, because the data we get from the collars is
 so essential to wildlife conservation. People often tell me we
 should just leave these animals alone, and nature will 
restore them, but the human footprint is so large and
 far-reaching. We have to factor ourselves into the
 equation when talking about conservation and management.
So why go to all the effort? Cougars, like all big cats, are
 apex predators. Healthy big cat populations help 
balance ecosystems and environments. Additionally, 
big cats require big spaces. Also, whether we recognize
 it or not, we need these wild places with big predators.
 Perhaps we don't go there often, but all of us need 
that touch of the wild.
Boone Smith-"Big Cat Tracker"
This post is part of a series produced by The 
Huffington Post in conjunction with Nat Geo 
WILD's Big Cat Week. To see all the other posts 
in the series, click here. For more information
 about big cats, check out National Geographic's 

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