Delayed ReplyRe(1): Cougars from South Dakota

Sorry this was too much for my smartphone had to do from home.

“You are obviously passionate about cougars in the East”.

Passion has nothing to do with it. We are taking an carefully thought out approach with this species. It is science, reason, logic... and “the numbers” that are driving this argument, not emotion, intuition or beliefs. We set out to acquire all available sources of information about cougar and obtain existing data on sighting reports, evidence discovered, pdfs from Mountain Lions Work shops and other information available from the various states. Then we applied this knowledge to the situation in New England and eastern Canada. What are the similarities? Are cougars behaving here much like they do in the West? Private organizations have to take the bull by the horns in a manner of speaking with this issue. The public wants to know what’s going on. Can we rely of states to provide accurate information about the presence of these predators in their jurisdictions? Don’t count on it.

“I fear 50 years from now, when I am long gone, people will still be looking for evidence—occasionally finding it but no indication of a continuously breeding population.”

50 years from now when you are long gone, there will so many cougars in the region, we’ll be hunting mountain lions in New England. This is an extremely shaky argument you make. In the 1970s, you could hardly find evidence of any cougars in the Black Hills. Now they shoot 125 every year and an equal number are road kills. If we were to assume (we don’t, by the way) that there are no cougars in the, from any source, they’ll start showing up here within a decade or two anyway because pumas dispersing from other parts of the nation, are already being hit by cars, being video taped and so on in states like Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. The next generation of young animals -males mostly, will be dispersing to other points on the compass in a few years. Some will end up further east and south.

“There will not be enough cougars to carry out their ecological functions in New England”.

We believe there are enough here and especially in eastern Canada to accomplish that now and officials (some) we talk to share that view.

“Maybe they will recolonize from the Midwest, but right now cougars in the principal source areas in North and South Dakota are overhunted and the number of confirmed dispersers is declining.”

The Mid-West is already being colonized. That leaves 50 years for dispersers to reach us. I’m betting they make it in 20 years, not 50. The Black Hills are the principal source areas for some parts of NA but what about Eastern Canada? We’ve made the case which you have chosen to ignore, that a considerable number of pumas are found in the 4 Provinces. Natural reproduction is the only logical explanation for this. Hundreds of cougars didn’t walk to New Brunswick or nearby areas in just last few years and that many pets didn’t escape from captivity either. Most lions in these Canadian provinces had to have been born there.

“The South Dakota Dept. of Game Fish & Parks has a standing offer to other state wildlife agencies. If they want cougars, South Dakota will provide them. What if a few radiocollared males were introduced to suitable spots in New England?”

50 years from now when no one will think cougars are such a big deal, South Dakota will still have no takers on their offer to New England wildlife agencies to accept collared mountain lions. Liability is the issue even if it is true that these critters really don’t pose that great a threat. Lions appearing here by dispersal in one thing... letting one go 50 miles from Albany is out of the question. If this is such a good idea, why don’t you ask the other New England agencies yourself? We have all the phone numbers if you need them. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you on this issue. Let us know how you make out. The other option already suggested is that individuals may unlawfully make such a transfer and let lions loose without any one approving of it. This makes this proposition by private groups unnecessary and redundant

“If there are females, the males will find them and kittens will be born.”

As we have pointed out kittens are being born here and the ECF site which you cited lists the Craftsbury incident with the Mother and Kittens. Doesn’t that count? Maybe you mean you want MORE natural reproduction in the region to speed up the process of reoccupation and re-colonization and eliminate any chance of inbreeding from a limited gene pool. In most previous posting you suggested that only males are here now- hence no breeding. Now you are saying females may be here and if so, we can bring some males in. Males are the long distance dispersers and can also walk here from Quebec in a few weeks. Why would we need Montana cougars of either sex to repopulate the region?

“If not, people would have time to get adjusted to the fact that undoubtedly real cougars live in the area, and females could be introduced”.

New Englanders are getting used to having cougars around, there are newspaper articles about it all the time.

“We agree that only one subspecies of cougar exists in North America, so the fact they originated in the Black Hills would make no difference.”

We may agree but the USFW doesn’t. They make all the calls on this. They won’t accept Culver’s study. Actually a small population in the NW apparently escaped glaciation and managed to survive the great extinction somehow. It isn’t the same sub species as the others in NA.

“Instead of using all your energy looking for evidence,..................”

This is reminiscent of “Forget New England, you’re wasting your time.” While you and the catch-and-release groupies have been focusing on relocation, we have turned our attention to finding evidence using a more novel approach. The race is on to find proof and finally we have a method that is virtually 100% effective-scat dogs. With your organization’s considerable resources to provide funding for this, you should have no difficulty in this new area of inquiry. I am surprised you haven’t done it already. If, however, you fail to make such an effort or don’t make such work known to the public, questions will be raised about your real motivations here. The groups credibility will be called into in question. People will conclude that you don’t want to find any proof. I will be one of them.

Western sources are much too expensive ($400.00 a day) but locals have volunteered their services. In New York there must be ten thousands coon and bear hunters and all you need as a few to come forward to train their hounds on scat, which is also readily available. For once, we will applaud if you win the race and come up with multiple examples of cougars in the Empire State or in nearby Vermont before we do. Unlike you, we will not send it to Missoula, Montana for “you know who” to test and hope for the best but will rely on private labs with a national reputation.

.”...................begin the public education process.”

Where have you been for the last decade? Lots of people are involved in this already including Halfpenny, Sue Morse, Bill Betty, and Tougias. Cougar blogs are doing something similar and Mass Wildlife recently suggested it needed to start doing programs on cougars “not because they are here now (sic) but just in case” etc. etc. It’s only fair to point out Chris does a show on pumas as well but the approach is much different. He devotes much of the presentation explaining why no mountain lions are in NE and why your organization wants to release them in the East. That’s a propaganda message which explains your philosophy, not an education program that tries to show where cougars have been seen in the past and what evidence has been recovered.

“To start with, a scientific study is needed to if determine suitable habitat is present (DONE) and public attitude surveys (NOT DONE as far as I know).”
Western states have done these kinds of things in the past so we have a general idea what folks in these regions think about this but the East is a whole different ball of wax. All state biologist do talks on mammals like bears, moose and the like but none on cougars yet (Maine excepted). Good luck on convincing them to go along with that suggestion; you can’t make state agencies do anything they don’t want to do. Right now, most don’t want the subject of mountain lions brought up.


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