Cougar Population Reemerging in the American Midwest

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The cougar population (read: mountain lions, not Courtney Cox) is apparently on the rise, which ultimately reverses nearly 100 years of decline, according to Science Daily. With their numbers increasing and the amount of land available to them dwindling, the question remains: How will humans learn to live in harmony with these gorgeous predators? Again, not Courtney Cox.

Although the majority the cougars generally keep to the Black Hills area of South Dakota, many of them are embarking on journeys which take them to places that are pretty far from home. One male cougar, for example, traveled through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York, eventually ending up in Connecticut. This sort of extensive travel is rare, though scientists believe these animals are slowly but surely moving back into regions they once populated.

Researchers have started analyzing cougar sightings which date as far back as 1990 in an effort to determine where these cats are headed. In addition to these reports, officials are also looking at other forms of data, including carcasses, tracks, photos, video, DNA evidence, and cases of attacks on livestock. The majority of the evidence indicates that male mountain lions are the ones spearheading the charge into other territories.

"This evidence helps to confirm that cougars are re-colonizing their historical range and reveals that sightings have increased over the past two decades,” University of Minnesota's Michelle LaRue explained. “The question now is how the public will respond after living without large carnivores for a century. We believe public awareness campaigns and conservation strategies are required across these states, such as the Mountain Lion response plans already in place in Nebraska and Missouri."

Out of the 178 confirmed cougar sightings, 62 percent took place in an area that scientists feel are suitable for cougar habitation.

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