December 5, 2013
Dear Cougar Rewilding Foundation Member,
Good holidays. We wish we had reason to join this season’s festivities of celebration, but 2013’s cougar news has been cause for more consternation:
- As we predicted, South Dakota failed to meets its cougar hunting quota for the first time, and its female subquota for the fourth consecutive year. While that’s good news for those cats that were spared, it’s an indication that South Dakota’s deliberately high quotas are taking their toll. Fewer females remaining to restore the Black Hills means fewer pioneering young cats will leave to begin potential new colonies east.
- In July, Nebraska decided to launch an inaugural hunt in the Pine Ridge National Forest, while joining the Dakotas by declaring open season across most of the rest of the state. Home to just 20 cougars, the hunt is meant to reduce the Pine Ridge population and any potential conflicts, though there have been no documented human-cougar incidents nor a single livestock depredation in 20 years of cougar dispersal and recolonization into Nebraska.
- Cougar mortalities and captures east of the prairie colonies has dropped from 16 in 2012 to 9 in 2011 to just 3 this year – two were females killed on the prairies – marking another year that a female has yet to reach the Midwest in 25 years of dispersal. Without females there can be no recovery East. The shrinking number of dispersers means that the expanding gauntlet in the northern prairies is effectively diminishing any chance for cougar recolonization eastward.
- Roadkills of Southern panthers remains at record levels, reinforcing the need for panther restorations outside their dwindling habitat in southwest Florida.
Despite the Cougar Rewilding Foundation’s efforts and the efforts of cougar advocates across the country, we were unable to convince the Nebraska game commission that cougars police themselves, that best, peer-reviewed practice to limit potential conflict is to do nothing. We pray that Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers can do what science and overwhelming public opposition to the plan couldn’t: find a way to block the hunt.
In the Midwest, we are reaching out to Illinois DNR, offering our first-responder cougar incident management training, so that intrepid young toms like this one who do reach the Midwest stop being killed simply for showing up.
Further East, CRF Vice President John Laundre’ made headlines by publishing his cougar habit analysis for the Adirondacks, concluding that the Lower 48’s largest protected region can support up to 350 cougars. In 2013, we’ll be releasing more details on our campaign to establish a megaufauna rewilding in New York’s North Country. There’s no reason the “Daks” shouldn’t be Yellowstone East, home to elk and forest bison, lynx and wolverines, red wolves and cougars, with all the attendant economic benefits from wildlife watching a restored ecosystem would invite.
At the southern end of the Appalachians, we’ve begun a rewilding campaign for the Smokies. Beginning in January ’14, we’ll present a similar habitat analysis for the Southern Appalachians that we did for the Adirondacks.
In 2014, we’ll continue to provide regular cougar news and updates from our blog and Facebook page, report from lectures and presentations, and keep you abreast of our work to restore not only cougars, but collapsing eastern ecosystems. If you missed them, here are links to our 2013 newsletters, some of which were picked up and distributed by the Mountain Lion Foundation (Thank you, MLF):
Christopher Spatz, President
Cougar Rewilding Foundation