Sunday, August 7, 2016

New Book Recounts Story Of ‘Adirondack’ Cougar

courgar courtesy Bigstockphoto.comOn a snowy winter night in Lake George, in 2010, Cindy Eggleston’s motion-detecting light came on in her back yard. She looked out her kitchen window and saw a big cat. A really big cat. Her husband, a retired conservation officer, guessed that it must have been a bobcat. No, she said, “it had a long tail.” So he went out to look around. In the snow he found huge tracks and, eventually, a hair sample. DNA analysis subsequently showed that these hairs came from a cougar, an animal whose last proven presence in the Adirondacks had occurred over a century before.

The life and death of this wandering cougar, along with a history of this splendid animal in North America and a discussion of its current status, are the subjects of Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat’s Walk across America, a fascinating book by William Stolzenburg. He debunks myths and spins an engaging and often sad story.

That story begins in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where a male cougar was born sometime in 2008. Extirpated from the Black Hills in the nineteenth century, cougars had clawed their way back by the 1970s, almost certainly from the eastern Rockies. They established a precarious breeding population and were almost immediately subjected to routine persecution whenever encountered, despite a brief period as an endangered and thus protected species. In a way characteristic of attitudes toward this animal throughout American history, legislators, farmers, and hunters pursued and killed them. Against the advice of wildlife experts and despite the absence of any evidence that cougars posed a threat to anyone or any species, wild or domestic, South Dakota declared an open hunting season in 2005. Since then, their numbers have declined, though they are hanging on. For centuries and in nearly every part of their range, cougars have been persecuted mercilessly.

The other side of this coin, as Stolzenburg deftly shows, is a community of true believers, convinced that secret colonies of cougars have persisted throughout their historic range, including the Adirondacks. Every state in the East has periodic reports of cougar sightings, ostensibly “proving” the existence of a resident breeding population. Notwithstanding the absence of corpses, verifiable scat, the discovery of dens with kittens, or any other useful evidence, the faithful insist that the conservation bureaucracy of whatever state they happen to live in is willfully concealing what it knows or even covertly introducing cougars from other parts of the country. Stolzenburg does what he can to point out the absurdity of such a strange brew of hope and denial, but probably nothing can erase it.

Cougar’s Trek nancybernsteinillustration.comInto this contentious mix of cougar hatred and cougar love strode the demonstrably real cougar that passed through Lake George in 2010. And what a story, beautifully rehearsed in this book, that cougar’s epic trek reveals! A young male in search of a mate, this cougar wandered east, probably beginning in late summer 2009, and made his way to Minnesota, where he was videotaped outside Minneapolis heading for the Mississippi River. No fewer than eight verifiable sightings occurred across Wisconsin. These were not the sightings so often produced by the cougar faithful farther east—a fleeting glimpse out of a moving car window, for example, with no tracks or any other evidence. The Wisconsin evidence involved unmistakable footprints in the snow, videos, and DNA samplings. Nobody with scientific expertise doubted the existence of this cougar. While specialists tracked its route, scare stories about threats to children and everyone else inevitably began to clutter the airwaves and social media. Through the winter and spring, Wisconsin newspapers, talk shows, and Twitter threads were full of dire warnings about slavering beasts crouching behind every tree. Nothing remotely amiss ever occurred.

From Wisconsin, the cougar proceeded farther east, into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where it tripped the shutter of a trail camera in May 2010. It probably crossed from Sault Ste. Marie into Ontario and then into New York somewhere around the Thousand Islands. This is a blank stretch in the cougar’s route, but because of the definitive reliability of DNA evidence, the cougar that showed up at Lake George in December of that year was unquestionably the same one that crossed Wisconsin.

Then it was down the Hudson and into southwest Connecticut. In June 2011, he was photographed in Greenwich, and the usual frenzy of interest combined with fear ensued. Parks were closed, children were kept inside, bloggers went nuts. Only a week later, the end came. The cougar was hit and killed by a car on a highway near Milford. The final DNA samples proved without a doubt that this was the cat followed by scientists across Wisconsin and, moreover, that it had originated in the Black Hills, thousands of miles to the west. This cougar “had wandered farther from his birthplace than any big cat ever tracked.”

A couple of familiar names pop up in this book. One is that of John Laundré, whose Phantoms of the Prairie: The Return of Cougars to the Midwest I reviewed for the Explorer in 2012. Laundré is a wildlife biologist whose academic career has been devoted to the habits and status of large carnivores, including the cougar. In Phantoms he chronicled the spread of cougars out of the Rockies and into parts of their ancient range in the Midwest. Stolzenburg, in his efforts to deal with this magnificent cat realistically and accurately, refers frequently to Laundré’s research.

Another name some of us have seen before is that of Chris Spatz, who last summer, at the annual meeting of Protect the Adirondacks held at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center, delivered a superb lecture on the possibilities of cougar restoration in the East. Spatz is an interesting fellow. Growing up in New Jersey and eventually settling near New York’s Shawangunk Mountains, Spatz developed a feverish faith in the eastern cougar’s existence and energetically started “down the rabbit hole of Eastern cougar lore—into a world of true believers.” He searched doggedly in New York and New Jersey, coming up, inevitably, with nothing. Unlike some of the faithful, however, he looked cold facts in the eye and accepted reality: there were no breeding cougars in the East.

But that didn’t mean there never could be breeding cougars in the East. Spatz refocused his efforts: he began to research the whole story of the handful of cougars spreading out from the Rockies and the Black Hills. And he began pressuring various eastern state wildlife offices to consider actively reintroducing cougars to suitable parts of their ancient range, including, as Laundré had also suggested, the Adirondacks. Spatz now works with the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, advocating for cougar restoration, promoting sound research on the movement of cougars beyond their current range, and educating the public about the importance of bringing back these peak predators to eastern forests.

Beside the sheer joy of knowing that a charismatic creature like the cougar was once more occupying former habitat, there are other reasons for hoping that they can once again dwell in our forests. Chief among these is the explosion of white-tailed deer populations throughout the East. Not only are deer giving headaches to farmers and gardeners, spreading Lyme disease, and causing car accidents wherever they proliferate, out-of-control deer populations are also threatening the ecological diversity of entire forest communities as their voracious browsing virtually eliminates some plant species and allows others—not appealing to deer—to become overrepresented and out of balance.

Heart of a Lion by william stolzenburgThe cougar—usually called mountain lion or panther in the classic Adirondack sporting and touring narratives of the nineteenth century— was once a rarely seen but vital feature of the Adirondack ecosystem. But, hated and feared by nearly everyone, they disappeared from northern New York around the turn of the twentieth century. Since then their absence has been an unavoidable reminder of the wilderness that once was and the wilderness that might be again.

As Stolzenburg, Laundré, and Spatz all know and as Stolzenburg in particular points out in this fine book, the odds of both male and female cougars making their way this far east from the Black Hills (or from anywhere else they have an established population) are slim; so far, all the emigrants from the Black Hills have been males. Equally unlikely is that a state wildlife agency, such as our Department of Environmental Conservation, could muster the millions of dollars it would take to initiate a viable restoration project, not to mention overcoming the certain public resistance to releasing such an impressive carnivore so close to Adirondack towns.

Cougars may some day come back or be brought back to the Adirondacks but probably not for decades. In the meantime, this delightful book tells us about one that certainly did pass through our Park. The journey of this remarkable animal from South Dakota to an undignified death on a Connecticut highway is a tale of amazing persistence, a suggestion of the feline nobility that we have lost. Stolzenburg’s depressing account of the unscientific, baseless hostility to cougars in the Black Hills and all along this one cat’s trek east also reveals the greatest obstacle to their eventual return.

Photos from above: Cougar, courtesy BigStockPhoto.com; Cougar’s Trek courtesy NancyBernsteinIllustration.com; and Heart of a Lion by William Stolzenburg.

A version of this article was first published in the Adirondack Explorer.

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Philip Terrie

Philip Terrie is an Adirondack and environmental historian, and the author of five books on regional history, including Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks (2nd ed., Syracuse UP, 2008) and Seeing the Forest: Reviews, Musings, and Opinions from an Adirondack Historian (Saranac Lake: Adirondack Explorer, 2017).




75 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    It is a shame that Americans insist on being THE top predator and miss the entire point about what predation is all about and how predators keep ecosystems in balance.

  2. Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

    Rewilding is an appealing idea, but not a simple one to implement. Restoring cougars (and wolves) to New York State would help restore some balance to a landscape missing key predators – but it’s not the whole story by any means. We have to factor in other things like acid rain, invasive species, climate change, human development on the land. The landscape is in flux and ever faster so now. There’s also the fact that cougars were eliminated from New York so recently we forget what else is missing. We’re still missing the Eastern Woods Bison, Passenger pigeons – and all the megafauna that got wiped out at the end of the last ice age.

    • Boreas says:

      Yes, much has changed. The biggest predator we have now is the automobile, but it isn’t very selective.

    • AG says:

      Most people have zero idea that “buffalo” actually lived in NY before the Europeans got here. To your point.. What you said is true – but we will never get all the way to what it was – but there is plenty we can restore. In reality the large predators could come back on their own if not for bullets and car hoods. Both of those could be solved – but it would take multi state effort. The State DOT told me wildlife crossings we see being built elsewhere in the world is too expensive in NY.. Smh..

      • Boreas says:

        Don’t forget elk also lived in the NE for some time. PA might even still have their token (reintroduced) herd managed by the PA Game Commission.

        Yeah, too expensive…. It all depends on our priorities. NYS alone probably has a bigger GDP than entire nations that can afford these crossings.

        • AG says:

          Yes elk as well. Ontario, Canada and Pennsylvania have both “successfully” reintroduced them. I put it in quotations because As soon as they started reproducing they have been legally hunted… So like many other large animals – it will be difficult for them to return naturally here. Maybe from Ontario though… A few year years ago there was a proposal to reintroduce them to the Catskills – but I believe deer hunters got it killed for fear of them passing disease..

          True to your last paragraph…

  3. Cranberry Bill says:

    I got down to the part where he cougar was killed and I could not read more. Then I google “this cougar”, and learn more. If one is here and interested, the links are plentiful. I was not going to post until I read the book, but I want to read the book while I am in the woods the last 2 weeks of this month. The cougars seem to be the same kind of bellwether for endangered four legged animals that the loons were in the eighty’s when I helped survey loons at Cranberry Lake. Now the cougars need more help than the loons ever needed….

  4. Marco says:

    Cougars are smart and generally non-threatening. However, one child lost in any of the ADK communities to wolves, cougars or any “reintroduced” predator will cause an uproar against the DEC that none have ever seen. People are important to the ADK’s, predators are not. It would be the end of the DEC and also mean a massive bear hunt.

    Yes, I agree that the ADK’s could use another predator. Coyote do not make good predators of deer and other over populations of larger critters (‘coons, porkies, turkey, beaver, otter, etc.) They like mice, and other critters that are easily caught (with no danger to themselves,) overlapping the foxes.

    Reintroduction is an interesting problem, with no practical solution.

    • Dan says:

      I know for a fact that coyotes kill their share of deer, especially fawns. Every hunter I know in and out of the Adirondack region seems to have a trail camera photo of coyotes carrying dead fawns, or parts there of. But, my biggest question/concern with re-introcuding a large predator is whether they would stay in the ADKs? The foothills and agricultural lands surrounding the Blue Line have much more to offer including higher deer populations and also that of pets and livestock. A poster above is right about the automobile and what became of this cougar. And yes, cougars would be a threat to humans.

      • Boreas says:

        Dan,

        The biggest threat to humans are themselves and other humans. People in other parts of the world live with more dangerous predators than we have here. They live with a healthy respect for these animals and fear the consequences of their inattention. They probably don’t use ear buds while texting and play PokeMon phone games in danger areas. They grow up learning to be careful, not coddled. When was the last time you saw someone look both ways before crossing a street?

      • AG says:

        Bears kill plenty of fawns. Coyotes and bears are all over the state… They are not denying deer numbers at all. Even in NYC – the Bronx has deer and coyotes in 2 parks (Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt). Both are under 3000 acres. You would think the coyotes would feast on the deer. The deer are still thriving. Most of the coyotes diet (which they observe on camera) is rats – squirrels – birds – raccoons. They do eat deer – but it’s a tiny part of their diet. They are not at all able to kill as many deer as wolves or cougars.

        • Marco says:

          Yes. They are not generally capable of taking on a full grown deer. Sometimes, a fawn is left alone. It is found and killed. I have stumbled across a fawn that let us walk up to it…literally. Bear and coyote don’t generally take adult deer (well, if they are starving.) Fawns stay still and quiet. Coyote like ‘coons, but, they have to catch them before they head up a tree. Mice, rats, squirrels, ground birds, etc make up the majority of their diet. In this they overlap with the fox, hurting their population far more than the deer.

          • AG says:

            Yes… To your last sentence yes – they (coyote) do suppress fox numbers. In the same way wolves suppress coyote numbers. That’s how the predator hierarchy works. Cougars will kill bobcats (and coyotes).. African lions go out of their way to kill cheetah and will kill leopards if they catch them on the ground.

            • Paul says:

              AG here is some more info for you:

              “A 1975-80 study based on 1303 coyote scats (fecal material) collected near Newcomb, Essex County, determined that the white-tailed deer was the primary food in all seasons, followed in importance by the snowshoe hare”

              http://www.esf.edu/aec/adks/mammals/coyote.htm

              • AG says:

                Ok – nothing earth shattering there. It says as I suspected it is a lot of scavenged deer and weak or sick deer near death. So no – they in know way affect the population like wolves and cougars could. They do good mop up work – which does help the herd overall – but they don’t actually keep deer numbers in check. That’s been known. Nothing in that study contradicted what I said. They actively hunt smaller animals – but clean up dying or dead deer.

                • Paul says:

                  I can send you some additional links that show the ongoing work there. Many of the deer the coyotes kill are healthy adult deer. There is also extensive fawn predation. As I am sure you know these coyotes we have in the Adirondacks are much more like wolves than their western cousins. Their impacts on deer numbers are well documented. I will send you some links for that as well when I have time.

                  • AG says:

                    Strange that they don’t dent the numbers in Canada where they are even closer to wolves… Of course coyotes can kill a healthy deer. So can many pet dog breeds. The same coyote/wolf hybrid exists in the rest of the state. So that is very peculiar then that they don’t dent the numbers as you say. Studies show that they don’t in the Catskills either. So yeah they can kill a healthy deer just as two German Sheperds can… Based on all other evidence everywhere else on the continent – most like that scat is due to scavenging deer carcasses.

              • Boreas says:

                Another thing to note is there were several years there with a lot of snowfall.

                • Paul says:

                  Yes but if you look at figure two here you will see that deer are the major source of food for coyotes in the Adirondacks winter and summer and across a number of years studies with normal and low snow amounts as well.

                  These newer studies show that deer have become more and more the most important source of food for coyotes in the Adirondacks.

                  They may not have much of an impact overall statewide but that is only when you factor in all the areas outside the Adirondacks where deer habitat is much better.

                  http://media.syracuse.com/outdoors_impact/other/Coyote_Progress_Report_2014.good.pdf

                  One things seems clear that if we had wolves we would have fewer coyotes they would not tolerate the competition.

        • Paul says:

          “but it’s a tiny part of their diet” – not in the Adirondacks. Studies at the SUNY-ESF field station in Newcomb have shown that deer is the major component of the diet of Adirondack Coyotes.

          • Boreas says:

            They are opportunists and will eat virtually anything. Winter? Summer? What part of the ADKs? ALL ADK coyotes or just the ones shot or trapped? Depends on other predators. Depends on snow cover. Depends on rodent population cycles. Depends on their habitat and the opportunities therein. Probably why studies do not agree…

          • AG says:

            Where is this study? It takes into account the entire ADK’s…?? That would be very very unique then. But more importantly – I seriously doubt that would be all from deer they kill. Most likely it would be from scavenging deer carcasses that died from other means. I’d like to read this for myself.

            • Paul says:

              There have been additional studies. Yes, much of the winter consumption is from scavenging or killing weak animals. The story in the summer is quite different. The major source of food for these Adirondack coyotes is fawns that they kill.

              http://media.syracuse.com/outdoors_impact/other/Coyote_Progress_Report_2014.good.pdf

              So the question is really in these parts of the state where deer numbers are low with single digits per square mile is there sufficient populations of ungulates that we need to support large predators like wolves and cougars?

              But we could release a few and see what happens. If they leave. That would probably answer the question. But if we know that the prey numbers are too low it would be a shame to try something like that. I am not opposed to the idea, just not sure it has a chance to work.

              • Boreas says:

                Personally, with coyotes already present, I would think cougar would have more of a chance of success than wolves. Since wolves typically hunt in packs and cougar are solitary, packs of wolves will have a lot more effect on deer herds than 1-2 cougars. Therefore, they will need to move around more for food, meaning they will be more likely to move out of the park and into trouble. I would instead prefer to see 1-2 pairs of cougars introduced as a test.

                • AG says:

                  For a variety of reasons – people see more moose in Algonquin than they do here – and there are a few hundred “full” eastern wolves in Algonquin. But that’s part of our issue – animals don’t go by our boundaries.

              • AG says:

                Well I think releasing cougars would be ok – if done right… Wolves though I’d much rather see come back naturally. It’s much easier for them since we have breeding ones not too far over the border in Canada. Plus wolves are much more complex since they live in packs. They need to be further from people. People have noted the moose population here – but the wolves that would/could migrate here are the same ones who live in Algonquin with moose. They hunt the moose – but there are still plenty. If they are protected from hunting and trapping they could re-establish themselves naturally. The same way they have re-colonized California from Oregon.

                Cougars on the other hand are solitary. Cougars could do fine throughout most of the state above Orange and Putnam counties. They live in more dense areas elsewhere. In fact studies show that in California when they live near people cougars eat less deer “than usual” and more raccoons and coyotes.

                http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0158006

      • AG says:

        Sure Cougars are a threat. They also live in increasingly crowded South Florida with nary an incident. They live in the densely populated San Francisco and Los Angeles regions. While incidents happen in both – they are rare. More people are killed and injured crashing into deer in all three than by cougars. That’s not pie in the sky – just fact. More children have been killed by pet dogs even… Sad – but true.

    • Dave says:

      Isn’t it strange how we have tolerance for all sorts of things that kill humans… from car collisions as a result of deer overpopulation, to annual hunting accidents, to drunk boaters, to the numerous ATV and snowmobile accidents each and every year, you name it. We read about those incidents monthly and say “oh how tragic” and move on. But the thought of even one person being killed by a predator sends us into hysterics.

      • Boreas says:

        Dave,

        I believe a lot of it is due to deep, instinctive fears such as spiders, snakes, and indeed predators. These were necessary in our evolution and are still part of us.

  5. Tim-Brunswick says:

    There is plenty of balance/imbalance in the ADKs predator wise right now. Quite frankly Cougars DO stalk, kill and eat humans, among which have been hikers, bikers and all walks of life that happened to be in the wrong place and didn’t plan on being dinner.

    Highly suggest that Cougar lovers read the following books:

    — “The Cougar” by Paula Wild
    — The Beast in the Garden by David Baron

    Thank you

    • Boreas says:

      T-B,

      My favorite is “Night of the Grizzlies” by Jack Olsen, told in a factual fashion.

      Have you listened to many interviews from survivors that have been ‘attacked’ by bears, cougars, moose, sharks, etc.? I can’t think of many that blame their attacker for being a bloodthirsty human killer, but rather, they were acting according to their nature. Virtually all cases are related to stresses put on the animals – human encroachment stresses, drought stresses, starvation stresses, and defensive reactions. Most survivors say they have no animosity toward the animal.

      Humans put themselves in danger – whether purposely or absent-mindedly – every day. We want to be close to nature – even live in nature, but not so close as to force us to think or be aware of our surroundings or accept any responsibility for our actions. In stark contrast, Native Americans survived for millennia elbow to elbow with the same predators we fear and persecute. They may have rarely killed predators out of self defense or food, but in general ALL animals were revered as spiritual. European invaders with their European mindset of Man’s superiority over nature decided we would use certain animals for food and fancy hats and kill all predators on sight – never mind exterminating buffalo simply in order to exterminate humans we couldn’t get along with. We have to account somehow for that behavior. Who is the bloodthirsty killer?

      7 billion humans on this earth are putting incredible stresses on our flora and fauna. That is the problem in a nutshell. If any other species was getting this overpopulated we would be wiping them out in droves. We should probably be encouraging predation on ourselves.

      • Tom Vawter says:

        It’s not so clear that Native Americans lived side-by-side with the megafauna for millennia. A huge extinction of large animals, especially mammals, occured with the arrival of the ancestors of those we call “Native Americans.”

        • Boreas says:

          Tom,

          Are we talking prey or predators? I don’t know many many successful prehistoric humans that hunted and drove predators to extinction. Megafauna, possibly, and predator extinction from megafauna extinction possibly. But even the newest peoples we call Native Americans that were here when Europeans arrived were at least here a few thousand years prior, which qualifies as millennia in my book.

          The point is, all of these ancient peoples managed to survive in close contact with large predators, otherwise we wouldn’t be here today to kill them wantonly.

        • AG says:

          Whether caused those extinctions. Now if you want to talk recorded history – when the Europeans got here in what is now NYC – there were wolves and Cougars – along with native tribes.

          • AG says:

            Stupid auto type. It should have read “weather” (as in climate changes) caused most of those extinctions.

    • gulo says:

      The habituation theory promoted in Beast in the Garden is bogus, and has never been endorsed by a single cougar biologist. 25 years since Scott Lancaster’s death, and telemetry data from places like the Santa Cruz Mountain suburbs reveal that cougars get smarter the closer they live to us, adapting to avoid conflict: http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=2c2c8cf3bcd76e459d327b65f&id=9a034af8c8

      Beast in the Garden is the single worst influence on public perceptions and cougar-human coexistence; Heart of a Lion is the antidote.

  6. Worth says:

    Very nice article, typical of the high quality content we have all come to expect from the Adirondack Explorer!

  7. Tom Vawter says:

    Cougars roam the hills of the San Francisco Peninsula and other places much more densely population with people than the Adirondacks. It’s time for a rewilding of both cougars and wolves in the ADKs.

    • Paul says:

      Do you think that there is enough food for either? There is lots of development where there used to be prey in the past.

      The Lynx re-introduction seemed like a good plan (with lots of wild food sources for them) that didn’t go well.

      • Boreas says:

        Paul,

        In hindsight, the lynx experiment was doomed from the start if you look at changing climate and the fact they are prey specialists, not generalists. But both cougar and wolf are much more adaptable than lynx in both regards.

        If I were trying to re-introduce cougar, I would only bring in one or two breeding pairs at a time and add more gradually over time if it looks like they are relocating well. In contrast to the lynx experiment, why bring in many pairs of one pair doesn’t work? I think a very gradual re-introduction of cougar could actually work. But they aren’t likely to do it on their own, as females do not wander like males.

        • AG says:

          Actually just in the past two years they have recorded females in Western Canada and Western US states migrating between 300 and 500 miles. Unfortunately 3 of the 4 were killed. The other was injured and they don’t know what happened to it yet.
          So as long as they are not killed unnecessarily (meaning aside from them attacking someone) they could do it naturally. It would just take longer. Unfortunately, too many states in between don’t take it seriously.

      • AG says:

        The Lynx reintroduction was poorly done for various reasons (such as poor acclimation of the animals) – but in reality climate change has altered the Lynx range. That and the fact that bobcats muscle them out when their territories overlap. Combine the two and Lynx can’t make much of a living in NY anymore – unless they change their diet. Wolves could make it in the ADK’s. Cougars though would probably do better outside – but there is plenty of real estate in NY for them to thrive. I mean even as far south as Ulster and Dutchess counties (and maybe the extreme northern parts of Orange and Putnam). Wolves though couldn’t thrive that far south. They need more territory and don’t like being near people.

        • AG says:

          and when I say change their diet – it’s because they focus almost solely on snowshoe hare..

          • Paul says:

            Lynx seem to do quite well in areas where these other “challenges” are present.

            How many deer or moose would a small wolf pack need for say one year? If there isn’t sufficient prey they will turn (they may anyway, I would if I were them) on other sources of food. The kinds that cause major conflicts out west.

            With these animals moving around like some are describing here maybe we should just sit tight and see what happens (as we did with Moose).

            • Boreas says:

              Bear, wolf, cougar, or lynx – deer, rabbit, birds, or rodents none can be expected to respect our political borders. And why should they? We made them for our sake, not theirs.

            • AG says:

              Like where??? Aside from Maine and a few places along the Canadian border – Lynx are not stable.. Where do you get your information???

              In any event – what causes the conflicts out west is mostly ranchers grazing on public lands where predators are boxed in. Predators and prey lived for thousands of thousands of years in balance. When there is little human interference – the balance is kept. When predators kill off their prey – they starve themselves (or breed less) and then the prey numbers rebound. Habitat is the most important for prey species. Even Alberta – in it’s slaughtering of wolves to “protect caribou” have been recorded admitting it. The energy industry destroyed the caribou habitat… It mean it doesn’t take a Phd to know that the same wolves hunted those same caribou for thousands of years without them going extinct.

              In any event – the difference with moose is they weren’t shot incessantly as happens to cougars and wolves when they were trying to migrate. If people were shooting moose at the same rate they did 150 years ago – they would not have come back to NY naturally.

  8. [email protected] says:

    Beautiful article, Phil. Sort of heartbreaking, too.
    Thanks.

  9. Charlie S says:

    What a sad story!

  10. Charlie S says:

    AG says: “Sure Cougars are a threat. They also live in increasingly crowded South Florida with nary an incident.”

    Last I heard there were less than a handful in Fla….that is if you’re talking about the Florida panther. Fifteen years ago they were about done in that state thanks to automobiles and politicians who bend over backwards to developers who have greatly over-developed that once beautiful state.

    • Paul says:

      The everglades are not very crowded. I don’t think there are to many cougars on Miami Beach.

      • AG says:

        The Everglades are full of alligators and now pythons.. So they are not ideal for the Florida Panther. In the same way cougars avoid being where there a lot of wolves. Do you know how many gators there are in the ‘glades? The pythons (which do not belong) have depleted every other predators food sources. There are hardly any bobcats left in there because of the pythons (lack of prey and the pythons will eat the bobcats also).
        Miami Beach? What? Is that supposed to be a serious comment???

    • AG says:

      Actually they have rebounded. There are close to 200 in South Florida.. But unfortunately development is hemming them in so they can’t spread out naturally like in a normal ecosystem. Last year was the deadliest year for them on record in terms of them being killed by cars.

  11. Charlie S says:

    Boreas says: “7 billion humans on this earth are putting incredible stresses on our flora and fauna. That is the problem in a nutshell.”

    > 7 billion humans who all have the desire to be convenience’d at the expense of all things else.

    “If any other species was getting this overpopulated we would be wiping them out in droves. We should probably be encouraging predation on ourselves.”

    > We’re already there Boreas! Just look at the record of crimes against humanity whether it be rape,murder,war,whatnot. It only makes sense that if we’re not taught to respect all living things we’re not going to respect each other. And let us not forget that money comes first and foremost….which is a big part of the problem.

    • Paul says:

      We also live in what is probably the most peaceful time in human history.

      • Charlie S says:

        We’ve been through this already Paul. This the most peaceful era? Please!

        • Paul says:

          Those are the facts:

          https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence?language=en

          Google it yourself if you want to see other data. But it is absolutely indisputable that this is the most peaceful time in human history.

          • Paul says:

            But what do those Harvard Professors know anyway!

          • Charlie S says:

            There’s always been war Paul no doubt. Maybe I should re-emphasize and say the world is at it’s most unstable right now due to the amount of destructive weapons there are and all of the tensions and popuiation explosion and diseases…. and war. At the very least we are not a very peaceful planet right now Paul and I cannot imagine it ever being more unstable than it is now due to circumstances listed above no matter what the records show.

      • Boreas says:

        Paul,

        Wait ’til the waters rise…

      • AG says:

        That’s only because in many cases the power of the weapons makes war unpalatable.. Nuclear weapons makes it not as palatable. That said – guns and bombs do quicker work than swords and spears. So by body count these might not be the most peaceful times. The 20th century was just exceptionally bloody (do to the power of the weapons). None of those nations involved want to experience that type of carnage again…. But unfortunately, history moves in cycles.

  12. Charlie S says:

    AG says “Now if you want to talk recorded history – when the Europeans got here in what is now NYC – there were wolves and Cougars – along with native tribes.”

    Yes and there were trout aplenty in those little creeks that flowed over and through that once pristine land NYC. The best oysters in the world were found in the Hudson River north of NYC back in the days when Dutch was the prominent language in that village.

  13. Jesse B says:

    The actions of the western states are one of the largest (if not largest) hindrance to the re-population of cougars in the east. Their hunting ‘seasons’ give license to state residents to shoot any cougar on site with no repercussions. Looking at their harvest counts, who would consider killing a 3-month 14lb cougar kitten a ‘legal’ harvest, but according to South Dakota, this hunter was completely within their bounds (http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/big-game/mountain-lion-season-harvest-status.aspx).

    The breeding population east of the Rockies is situated in several strongholds consisting of the Black Hills of SD/ND, Sandhills of Nebraska, and western Texas. However, all those states have such loose hunting policies that any cougars caught wandering beyond those regions have a high likelihood of being killed. This severely hinders the population (and most importantly the females) from establishing themselves in new areas. I have no doubt cougars will eventually make the push across the eastern Great Plains, but progress is slowed by hunting policies in these states. Unfortunately stories like our wandering cougar here tend to be the rare exception. In my personal opinion, the natural course of Eastern re-wilding may have to come via Canada and not the western Plains.

    • Boreas says:

      Jesse,

      I agree. Same with our current coyote/wolf.

    • gulo says:

      The eastern most breeding colony in Canada is the Cypress Hills, fifty miles north of central Montana and 400 miles west of the North Dakota colony. The U.S. prairie colonies have gained just 150 miles east in 25 years. Females remain west of the Missouri River. Heavy trapping pressure (two U.S. females trapped/killed in prairie Canada this year) and competition with wolves are major limiting factors for any cat trying the northern Great Lakes route via Canada. Eastern recolonization is not happening via Canada.

      • Boreas says:

        “Eastern recolonization is not happening via Canada.”

        At least not while they can essentially be killed on sight with impunity.

        • gulo says:

          Trapped with impunity as well. Wolves, some just fifty miles from the NY border, can’t reach the Daks because of the trapping pressure outside the APP and the pocket populations in Ontario and Quebec.

          • AG says:

            True. Though Canada has recognized the “Algonquin Wolf” separate from other “Timber” wolves. They are being protected from shooting. We will see about trapping. The problem is coyote are not protected. So when ppl shoot them “oops – thought it was a coyote”. Traps off course don’t discriminate.

          • Dan says:

            Coyotes are unlikely to be protected in NYS. There’s actually a push to establish a year-round season. Farmers and hunters are all for it. Trappers prefer to only have an open season when the pelts are optimal.

            • AG says:

              You are probably right. Unfortunately feelings rule in our society more than knowledge and wisdom. Those things wouldn’t get rid of coyotes. Coyotes don’t have the same complex social structure. That’s why they spread everywhere. They are out of balance because ironically we extirpated their natural population checks – wolves and Cougars. It’s the same with dingos in Australia- except they never had natural population checks. Kill and trap them all you want and it won’t solve the problem. In fact it usually just caused unintended consequences. All it means is more will move in from elsewhere. You would think humans would learn by now – but apparently not. Wolves can’t live everywhere in the state though (which is strange since wolf packs now live near to cities in Spain and Germany again) so the next best thing to protect livestock are working dogs. It’s worked for thousands of years now. But some still haven’t learned that.

  14. I have posted an item on Global Economic Intersection derived from and linked to your post here.
    http://econintersect.com/pages/contributors/contributor.php?post=201608092227

  15. Mike says:

    One of the worst, most biased blogs posted on adk almanack, and that’s really saying something, cause there’s been some doozies over the years. Let’s all apologize for the extirpation of this predator from the east before any of us were born. Enough already.

    • Boreas says:

      Mike,

      You are reading the “Comments” section of an article. Bias is inherent in comments and opinions, as they are not edited.

      The only apologies that are necessary are from the people who support and continue the illogical persecution of predators.

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