Cougar Populations TRIPLE in a decade

The story that appeared in the CBC News last month has some application for us in the Northeast. Our understanding about how things work in the wild places occasionally gets a dose of reality when we discover how well deer and cougars actually do in our midst. At the 11th mountain lion Workshop in Utah, Canadian biologists from Alberta described how cougar populations spread across the valley. Young lions established home ranges that encompassed parts of the suburbs. They took advantage of the deer, raccoons and feral house cats that were found there in great numbers. Provincial representatives stated that even if they could keep deer out of the suburbs, that alone wouldn’t stop pumas from entering developed areas because of the other sources of food available for the taking in the middle of towns. Half of Alberta is boreal forest. The rest is prairie, woodlands, low foothills and mountains. Surprisingly, New England actually has more forested areas than this western Canadian province. Even in the two most southern NE states, about 60% of the land mass is wooded. Despite the differences in geography, we are experiencing something similar with the arrival of mountain lions in the Northeast. Eastern Canada is experiencing it too. Deer and other wildlife populations are highest around towns and cities, especially along the coast. Cougars are searching for prey and finding it right where people live. Not everyone has made the connection yet. Some never will because they are locked into a thesis that is written in stone, making adjustments difficult when new discoveries are made. When someone insists that there is no natural reproduction in New England, for example and then confirmations of females with kittens are reported, and the most respected expert in the nation says he believes a breeding population sits in the region, how do they walk back earlier statements that no longer make any sense? And when people claim no proof exists and Canadian officials list all the evidence that has been found over a period of decades and estimate the number of cougars in the hundreds, what happens to their credibility? Lots of folks who use science as a shield or who exclude all eyewitness accounts except those of their closest confidants while ignoring hundreds of other extremely competent witnesses get it wrong more often than they’d like to admit. They are years behind the curve when it comes to discoveries and playing catch-up all the time. In places like Michigan or Canada they seem unable to come to grips of the latest findings, as if this really isn’t happening. Who is going to listen to doubters and deniers who can’t see the forest for the trees or who can’t see the shadow cats in the forest of the Northeast because they are too busy tracking cougars in Wyoming or focused on outdated twenty year old studies nobody cares about any more?. They may still be baffled by all of this but at least one Alberta resident has it figured out. This posting hit the nail right on the head;

"Cougar encounters have to do with shifting habitat: The Forestry is clear cut and looks like a nuclear waste dump now, so the deer all moved to the fringes of the agricultural land and with them (came) their natural enemy, the cougar, (along with) bears and wolves. In my many years of deer hunting I have never ever seen so many signs of cougar and wolves as these past 5 years. Treating Alberta as an Industrial Park has altered the ecosystems."


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