Living Alongside Wildlife
The blog of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation
Jun 19th, 2013 by CRF
Living Alongside Wildlife
A New Scientist article titled, Scared to Death: How Intimidation Changes Ecosystems, and featuring CRF VP John Laundre’s groundbreaking research on predator ecology, was reprinted by Psychology Today.
The decision on a limited hunt proposed for the Pine Ridge National Forest of Nebraska was delayed Friday pending review of public and written comments by Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners. CRF commented questioning whether the proposal to take 2 males and 1 female of an estimated 22 cats was below the 14% take recommended by Washington State’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, who have found that takes above 14% are unsustainable and disrupt cougar social order. CRF also questioned the proposal’s suggestion that the hunt was necessary as a safety measure; leaving a cougar population to police itself, and taking out problem individuals at the source has proven to be the most effective method for keeping pets, livestock, people and cougars safe.
CHADRON, Neb – Nebraska’s first regulated mountain lion hunting season is on hold.
Surrounded by several million people, the Santa Cruz Mountains along the Bay Area peninsula – an area about half the size of the 700,000 acre Catskill Park in southern New York State - supports about 30 adult cougars and 40 kittens. The Santa Cruz’s largest protected area is the 18,000 acre Big Basin Redwood State Park. In fact, the region in area and location is more similar to the NYC Metro Hudson Highlands than the Catskills. The range’s road and human densities are higher than the prime cougar habitats of the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Cypress Swamp of South Florida – and potential habitat in the Adirondacks – yet we continue to hear from eastern wildlife officials with no cougar research experience that core roadless wilderness areas are necessary to support cougar recovery.
In this new study by UCSC’s Puma Project, you will see from the building and puma landscape use maps that the cats have home ranges right up and into the suburbs of San Jose and Santa Cruz, that they’re successfully co-existing with interior towns of several thousand people like Lexington Hills, Felton and Scotts Valley, that they’re routinely crossing four-lane Rt. 17 bisecting the 20-mile wide study area, and that they’re barely using some of the more remote, protected “core areas” in Big Redwood and Nisene Marks State Parks.
If cougars can make it in the Santa Cruz, they can certainly make it in the Adirondacks and the Monongahela and the Smokies.
The Santa Ana Mountains of Southern California between LA and San Diego maintains a cougar population despite continued poaching, roadkills, fragmentation and habitat loss. One of the first urban cougar populations ever to be studied, twenty years later, Paul Beier’s Santa Ana cats are still holding their own.
Reviewing pics like these from Wellsboro, PA used to be our bread and butter. But 14 years of looking at hundreds of bobcat and housecat photographs reported as cougars, with only one cougar confirmation from Nova Scotia to Mississippi crossing our desks (Greenwich, CT 2011) since 1999, helped us realize the ubiquity of misidentifications.
Compare the Wellsboro Abyssinian housecat to the young panther released this week in South Florida.
Note the absence in the Abyssinian of the panther’s dark mustache, the panther’s white markings through the nose, throat, chest, belly and legs, and compare the Abyssinian’s pointed ears with the panther’s more rounded ones.
If, as reported, this was a one-year old cougar, it would likely retain the spotting still evident on the two-year old panther. Also, as we see so often in such reports, a pic for scale of the raccoons and skunks (or a person) the camera was meant to capture is not provided.
In such cases, we’ve used the Scott Ratio to help us further distinguish cat species. Cougars have small heads and long tails in proportion to their bodies; house cats have large heads and shorter tails proportionally.
We wish we could bless the release this week of two captive-reared panthers into the wild. However, releasing a pair of captive-raised two-year olds into a system at carrying capacity, unequipped for the territorial fights – especially the male – that take so many young cats in South Florida, might be a virtual death-sentence.
Letting them be the seeds for recovery North of the Caloosahatchee River barrier, where the only hope for this marooned population resides, would give both these young individuals, and the population as a whole, a non-fighting chance.