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TwinCities.com – Pioneer Press

December 12, 2009

A letter to the editor:

Understanding cougars

Contrary to the purported threat of a cougar wandering Twin City suburbs, the statistical chances of the cat attacking a person are about as rare as being struck by a chunk of meteor (“Cougar faces a deadly fate if it stays in town,” Dec. 9).

In states such as California, where wildlife officials routinely handle cougars marooned in the suburbs, their first response is to secure the area, back everyone off several blocks and let the cat escape on its own. California officials know from decades of experience that such an animal poses little risk to the public.

A dispersing cougar from the Dakotas is following landscape corridors like streams and rivers, typically at night. Sometimes, they end up caught by daylight in residential areas. Given the opportunity, they’ll continue on their way. Experienced wildlife officials can and do tranquilize cats too scared to descend from the sanctuary of a tree. Lethal force is used only as a last resort.

Deer collisions injure and kill far more people every year than all other wildlife combined. Has the Pioneer Press called for euthanizing every deer in your suburbs? A little research and understanding, combined with progressive wildlife management interventions like those adopted by states where cougars are common, can teach first-responders, the press and the public to co-exist safely with cougars.

The Eastern Cougar Foundation (www.easterncougar.org) has trained cougar researchers available to educate first-responders on managing the full suite of scenarios for residential cougar incidents, including immobilizing and capturing these cats for relocation. We would be pleased to offer our services to any Minnesota law enforcement and wildlife officials interested in learning to handle these situations, where the safety of both the public and the cougar is advanced and respected.

Christopher Spatz, Rosendale, N.Y.

The writer is president of the Eastern Cougar Foundation.

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