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!).