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The article below includes the following statement: “In fact, Jenks said, the pressure on the cougar population in the Black Hills is becoming so great that 87 to 92 percent of the male cougars born end up walking out of the area, trying to find a promised land where there is no competing male but plenty of females and lots of venison.”

Though the facts presented by Jenks may be accurate, the conditions underwhich it happens are missleading.  Young males are not leaving the Black Hills because there are too many cats there, as might be interpreted by Dr. Jenks’ comments.  Under almost all population conditions, we get over 90 % of the young males leaving their home area.  Regardless of how high or low the cougar populations is in an area, most male territories will be filled by resident males.  Young males born in the area are just too small and inexperienced to compete with their fathers or other resident males.  So it is not population pressures that cause them to disperse, it is social pressures, which exist at any denstiy.

Elgin Courier News –

A Plank Road Panther?

Experts skeptical, but now they can ‘never say never’

By Dave Gathman dgathman @STMEDIANETWORK.COM

Elgin hunter Pat Crawford captured this image of a mystery animal with his motion-activated camera near Plank Road and Muirhead Road on Nov. 23, 2008.

BROOKFIELD — Could as many as 16 witnesses in the Elgin-Pingree Grove area be mistaken when they claim to have seen the mysterious big cat we have named the Plank Road Panther?
Probably, said an assemblage of experts on the mountain lion (which also is known as the cougar, puma or American panther).

But after a genuine, laid-out-dead-on-the-table-in-front-of-you, 120-pound cougar was found and shot to death right in a residential neighborhood of Chicago in April 2008, “we can never say ‘never’ again,” biologist Chris Anchor of Cook County Forest Preserve District cautioned.

About 90 people, most of them employees of Illinois forest preserve districts and police departments, attended a recent seminar about the possible movement of cougars into the Chicago area. The workshop was held at Brookfield Zoo and sponsored by the East Dundee-based Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation.

Zoologist Mike Kinsel of the University of Illinois performed the necropsy on the 2008 Chicago cougar. He said it was a male about age 3 to 4 and it seemed to have been a wild animal, not an escaped pet.
Kinsel said DNA testing showed he was the same cougar who left a blood stain at a farm in south-central Wisconsin a few weeks earlier. Genetic similarities suggest he came all the way from the Black Hills in South Dakota, probably by walking but possibly (in what one person at the conference dubbed “the Boxcar Willie Theory”) by hitching rides on trains.
That’s not totally surprising, according to professor John Jenks of South Dakota State University. He has been studying the cougars of the Black Hills for 12 years. He said young males wearing radio signal-emitting collars have traveled as far away as Oklahoma and Manitoba before dying or disappearing.
In fact, Jenks said, the pressure on the cougar population in the Black Hills is becoming so great that 87 to 92 percent of the male cougars born end up walking out of the area, trying to find a promised land where there is no competing male but plenty of females and lots of venison.
Since few females leave, and those that do don’t go far, these optimistic males tend just to keep going, often until something bad happens — such as being hit by a train (as one was in southern Illinois in 2000) or being shot by a cop in the middle of Chicago.

False sightings

The group also heard from Seth Riley, a National Park Service biologist who has been studying cougars in a mountainous national park that abuts developed neighborhoods of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Jenks and Riley both said that even in the two experts’ own areas, where there are large numbers of genuine cougars, as many as 80 percent to 90 percent of sightings turn out to be mistaken identity — probably large dogs, bobcats, coyotes or even house cats.

One reassuring fact, they said, is that despite some well-publicized cases in California, cougars rarely attack adult humans.

“A mountain lion looks at you and he sees second-class prey,” Jenks said. “You’re not mom’s home cooking” that the cougar learned as a kitten to enjoy.

Their favorite food in both the Black Hills and the Los Angeles area is deer, with dead deer being even more enticing than live ones if dead ones can be found. However, they often also eat domestic cats and dogs and will scavenge through garbage cans. Surprisingly, Jenks’ students also find that many South Dakota cougars attack porcupines, which leave behind painful quills in the cats’ stomachs and mouths.
Donna Alexander, director of Cook County Animal Control, said that right after the 2008 Chicago cougar shooting, her office got calls complaining that police should not have killed the noble beast. But she said the cougar had been found in a densely populated neighborhood and the nearest tranquilizer gun was a long way away.

One Cook County forest preserve policeman said he once saw a deer shot with a tranquilizer and it didn’t fall unconscious until it had run a mile.

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