Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Cougars on the Move

my_partner_doug tipped me to this article about cougars in the midwest.  Actually, the sightings span parts of the midwest, great plains, and southwest.  Cougars are re-entering their historic territory.  Folks have mentioned hearing them in Illinois a few times during my life.  I'm thrilled to see apex predators expanding their range again.  We need them.

What does this mean for humans?  Well, cougars are really shy; they don't like people and prefer to avoid contact.  If you see one, it will usually run.  They don't like really big prey, so spreading your arms or coat to make yourself bigger is a good tactic.  They rarely bother big livestock like adult cows or horses.  But if there's little food around, they may go after smaller animals such as calves, foals, sheep, or goats.  So good containment is important, and preferably away from woods and rivers where cougars like to live.  The rare cases of cougars attacking humans are usually very small children, and you shouldn't let toddlers out of immediate reach anyhow. 

On the upside, deer are a favorite cougar food.  When cougars eat deer, the deer become fewer and shyer, which greatly reduces their tendency to eat your garden, or jump in front of your car and maybe kill you in a collision.  Cougars will also eat rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, and various other critters that can annoy humans.  Then too, cougars are great fun for hobby-naturalists because they are so ellusive.  Local nature centers may track them through tufts of fur, pawprints, feeding sites, reports of sightings or soundings, etc. 

Cougars are among the easiest big predators for humans to live with precisely because they are so shy.  Give them a decent amount of their own space and they make pretty good neighbors.  They don't like to be crowded and young adults will leave in search of better territory rather than overfill the local area.

Maybe we'll get some in central Illinois.  There are some fine patches of upland forest and riverbottom land around here.  Plenty of deer and other prey, and more coyotes than are probably good for the ecosystem.  Those we hear yipping fairly often, and they're not supposed to be the top of the food chain.  I'd be happy to see a few cougars come put the cap back on the pyramid.  I think they'd be a better fit for what's here now than wolves or bears.

Tags: nature, news, wildlife
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