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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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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Our friend and Carnivore Biologist John Laundre(the co-author of THE LANDSCAPE OF FEAR Theory) shared his latest article with me regarding the Cougar that was recently road killed in Connecticut......Out of the Dakotas,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,searching for a mate unsuccessfully through the great Lakes States...............pushing on either through Southeastern Canada or the Middle Atlantic and ending up in Connecticut still seeking to find a female and reproduce.................As John clearly states: There apparently are no females in the States the Cougar traversed(and therefore not a breeding population currently)............People need to re-introduce both males and females if the Cougar is to make a comeback and fulfill its top-down, trophic function of helping to keep deer(and lymes disease) in check in the East.....................Cougars are very content to leave people alone as this inexperienced Cat did not intrude on humans once in his 1500 mile journey................Cougars can cross roads successfully(even though ultimately after several years a car did end this Cougars life)............As we all knowWild prey(deer) is aplently in the East as the Cougar did not kill livestock or pets in his great cross Country journey.............John sums things up eloquently: "There is NO reasonable argument against returning cougars to the East. They have the ability to move and live in the eastern landscape with minimal contact and conflict with humans. Unfortunately, the many articles by people who know nothing about cougars, tells us a lot about human nature and how we would rather deal with unfounded beliefs and fears rather than the facts"

The Champlin-Milford cougar, what has it taught us?

With the death of the male cougar in Milford Connecticut and the tracing of its origins back to Wisconsin and ultimately the Black Hills of South Dakota, there have been a lot of people writing their views, their opinions over this epic journey.  These articles have ranged in tone from poetic praise, looking for love, to blatant fear mongering, hide your children, the cougars are coming, the cougars are coming!  Unfortunately, the commonality of them all is that they are written by people who know nothing about cougars!  As a result, they may provide interesting and provocative press but leave the public little information to decide if the cougar in question was just a lovelorn traveling looking for a partner or the harbinger of a public threat to ourselves.

Let's strip aside the romantic fanfare and the fear mongering rhetoric and look at this from an objective, yes, scientific, viewpoint.  What does this epic journey tell us…about cougars, about the East, about us?
First, as many articles did point out, the driving force behind the journey of this male was in search of a mate, he was looking for sex.  Whether cougars experience "love" as we profess to is really not of concern.  We know all species need to reproduce to survive and so the sex drive in the individuals is probably the strongest one we experience.  For male cougars, this means they need to travel until they find females who are available.  That is, not protected by other males.  The fact that this male traveled from western South Dakota to Connecticut indicates that he did not find any females in the states he crossed.  So, it is very likely that there are not female cougars, necessary for a population, in Minnesota or Wisconsin or any of the other states he crossed.  This tells us that, unfortunately, cougars are extinct in these states. 
 With that knowledge we can then concentrate on efforts to reintroduce them rather than wasting our time hoping they will magically reappear.

What else does his journey tell us?  Well, although we are not sure of his exact route after he left Wisconsin, he either had to go through Canada or down through Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.  All of these are very heavily populated states and he would have had to circumvent around many populated areas. Regardless of the route, he did this UNDETECTED!  This incredible feat attests to this species' ability to cryptically live close to humans, which they commonly do in the Western U.S.  This tells us that IF they do return to the East, most times we will not even know they are there! 
  Although he eventually died from an accident on a road, this animal had to have crossed hundreds, if not thousands of roads, including high speed interstates to reach his final destination.  This debunks the arguments that there are too many roads in the East to support cougars.  Yes, some will die on highways, as this cat did, but most will successfully maneuver these dangers, as this cat did, and as many cats in the west do daily. 

By all measures, this cougar was in good physical shape when killed.  He had fed well along his journey.  However, nowhere along whatever route he had to take, were there reports of missing pets or attacks on livestock.  This means he had to have lived off of natural prey, deer mainly.  This debunks any alarmist claim that cougars in the east will present a threat to our pets and our livestock, it will just not happen.

The last point is that along this 1,500 mile journey past towns, through towns, he passed thousands of people, undetected!  And not once did this cougar, again, a young and inexperienced individual, EVER show aggression, attack, or otherwise even interact with people!  This unequivocally repudiates   any and all arguments of the fear mongers.  Cougars are NOT "Beasts in the Garden".  Of all large wildlife species, they are one of the best and safest neighbors people could have.  Some Easterners who moved west may still look over their backs when hiking but people born and living in "Cougar country" know there is no need to do so.  

So, this epic journey of the Champlin-Milford cougar tells us a lot.  There is NO reasonable argument against returning cougars to the East.  They have the ability to move and live in the eastern landscape with minimal contact and conflict with humans.  Unfortunately, the many articles by people who know nothing about cougars, tells us a lot about human nature and how we would rather deal with unfounded beliefs and fears rather than the facts.

 John W.Laundre

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