WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab is at the cutting edge of proving how predator populations police themselves. How sport hunting quotas that exceed reproduction rates lead to increased conflicts by removing the breeding adults that keep order, research we continue to submit to state agencies stuck in 19th-century fantasies of predator management. Heres’ the Lab’s latest:
December 5, 2013
Dear Cougar Rewilding Foundation Member,
Good holidays. We wish we had reason to join this season’s festivities of celebration, but 2013’s cougar news has been cause for more consternation:
- As we predicted, South Dakota failed to meets its cougar hunting quota for the first time, and its female subquota for the fourth consecutive year. While that’s good news for those cats that were spared, it’s an indication that South Dakota’s deliberately high quotas are taking their toll. Fewer females remaining to restore the Black Hills means fewer pioneering young cats will leave to begin potential new colonies east.
- In July, Nebraska decided to launch an inaugural hunt in the Pine Ridge National Forest, while joining the Dakotas by declaring open season across most of the rest of the state. Home to just 20 cougars, the hunt is meant to reduce the Pine Ridge population and any potential conflicts, though there have been no documented human-cougar incidents nor a single livestock depredation in 20 years of cougar dispersal and recolonization into Nebraska.
- Cougar mortalities and captures east of the prairie colonies has dropped from 16 in 2012 to 9 in 2011 to just 3 this year – two were females killed on the prairies – marking another year that a female has yet to reach the Midwest in 25 years of dispersal. Without females there can be no recovery East. The shrinking number of dispersers means that the expanding gauntlet in the northern prairies is effectively diminishing any chance for cougar recolonization eastward.
- Roadkills of Southern panthers remains at record levels, reinforcing the need for panther restorations outside their dwindling habitat in southwest Florida.
Despite the Cougar Rewilding Foundation’s efforts and the efforts of cougar advocates across the country, we were unable to convince the Nebraska game commission that cougars police themselves, that best, peer-reviewed practice to limit potential conflict is to do nothing. We pray that Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers can do what science and overwhelming public opposition to the plan couldn’t: find a way to block the hunt.
In the Midwest, we are reaching out to Illinois DNR, offering our first-responder cougar incident management training, so that intrepid young toms like this one who do reach the Midwest stop being killed simply for showing up.
Further East, CRF Vice President John Laundre’ made headlines by publishing his cougar habit analysis for the Adirondacks, concluding that the Lower 48’s largest protected region can support up to 350 cougars. In 2013, we’ll be releasing more details on our campaign to establish a megaufauna rewilding in New York’s North Country. There’s no reason the “Daks” shouldn’t be Yellowstone East, home to elk and forest bison, lynx and wolverines, red wolves and cougars, with all the attendant economic benefits from wildlife watching a restored ecosystem would invite.
At the southern end of the Appalachians, we’ve begun a rewilding campaign for the Smokies. Beginning in January ’14, we’ll present a similar habitat analysis for the Southern Appalachians that we did for the Adirondacks.
In 2014, we’ll continue to provide regular cougar news and updates from our blog and Facebook page, report from lectures and presentations, and keep you abreast of our work to restore not only cougars, but collapsing eastern ecosystems. If you missed them, here are links to our 2013 newsletters, some of which were picked up and distributed by the Mountain Lion Foundation (Thank you, MLF):
Christopher Spatz, President
Cougar Rewilding Foundation
A wild female cougar has yet to be documented in a Midwestern state east of the Prairie Colonies. Without females, cougar recovery East is impossible.
Another rare potential eastern female pioneer was shot near Bismark, ND. Despite the school lockdown, a cougar has not been implicated in an attack east of the Rockies since the 1850s. There have been just 3 cougar-caused human deaths in the US/Canada since ’98.
The joyous event back in January is marred by this female’s release location. The Picayune Strand is within spitting distance of the I-75 killing corridor that has claimed countless panthers. Here, too, was a wasted opportunity to put a potential breeder north of the Caloosahatchee River barrier, which a female has yet to cross. The panther’s only chance for long-range survival – recognized in the panther’s federal recovery plan – is to get them out of southwest Florida.
P-22’s source colony west of Hollywood is a notoriously fragile one. Cut-off by highways and development to other cougars, fewer than a dozen cats hang on by a genetic thread in the Santa Monica Mountains. We often talk of how cougar populations require little management. In this case, they do, and the National Park Service shutdown is hurting them. A wildlife corridor or bridge across Route 101 would provide exchange between cats beyond the Santa Monicas.
Sep 19th, 2013 by CRF
New York State Museum, Albany
Sunday, October 6: 1PM – 2:30 PM
Bill Betty, a Rhode Island resident and mountain lion lecturer from Cougars of the Valley, will review their year-long Connecticut field camera initiative, mountain lion biology and behavior, and the perspective of cougar recovery in New England based on compelling eye-witness testimony.
Cougar Rewilding Foundation president Christopher Spatz will review a decade of CRF’s (and others) remote camera surveys from seven eastern states, 15 years of field investigations, and will analyze why cougar sightings don’t produce evidence.
With the critical decline of eastern forests as the ultimate evidence of absent cougars, CRF advocates that a megafauna rewilding of eradicated native ungulates and predators could drive the economic recovery of interior New England and the Adirondacks – Yellowstone East – while restoring collapsing ecosystems, just as wolves and cougars have restored biodiversity to Yellowstone, Olympic, Glacier, Zion and Yosemite National Parks.
Sep 13th, 2013 by CRF
Everywhere cougars roam, even in the lowest dispersal densities, what we call incidental evidence appears: cats treed, hit, shot, snared, and found wandering into towns and cities. And increasingly, the proliferation of remote game/wildlife cameras is getting terrific pics of cougars along the urban/suburban interface. Folks even get pics of cougars on cell and point & shoot cameras: looking in windows, staring down house cats, entire families wandering leisurely across yards.
However, such photographs virtually stop (the CT cougar left all of this incidental evidence across 4 states and 1500 miles) in the East at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A decade of our own remote camera surveys in seven eastern states failed to capture a single cougar photograph; neither has a Smithsonian cam-study at 447 sites along the Virginia Appalachian Trail. A massive collaborative Adirondack carnivore research study using cameras, track plates, and scat analysis at 54 locations found no cougar evidence. We realized that there was no objective reason why random remote cam pics, with other incidental evidence, shouldn’t be appearing up and down the Eastern Seaboard, if cougars were here.
Sure, cougars are elusive, but they betray their legendary stealth all the time, even at moments most vulnerable and rare: a cougar, for instance, makes a deer kill once every 10 days – linked below on camera are 3.
So, we continue to ask, objectively:
Why Everywhere but the East?
Santa Monica deer kill
Colorado deer kill
Santa Cruz: kittens nursing & napping
Santa Cruz: cougar trapped and photographed in an aquaduct culvert, tranquilized, captured and released
Griffith Park: Hollywood, Los Angeles
Indiana: cell phone pic from tree stand
Wisconsin: Spooner cougar treed three days in a row
Wisconsin-Michigan UP: radio-collared cat trips multiple cams across two states
Chicago: the first cougar confirmed in Wisconsin in a century taken out in Chicago two months later
South Dakota: cougar treed by a 17 lb. Jack Russell Terrier
Missouri: cougar caught live in a bobcat trap
Roadkills: about 1/4 of all panther deaths – 12-20 annually from a population of 150 cats – occur from vehicle collisions. The CT cougar remains the lone road kill north of Florida and east of Illinois (where one was hit by a train!).