Mission & History

the Cougar Rewilding Foundation

Our Mission

1. Promote recovery of breeding populations of cougars through natural recolonization and mandated restorations to the central, southeastern and eastern United States, advocating responsible management in habitat where cougars are recovering.

2. Promote full legal protection of all cougars living wild east of the Rockies, regardless of origin.

3. Conduct public education programs by preparing cougar education modules and lesson plans, exhibiting at outdoor and conservation events, and giving presentations to interested groups.

4. Conduct habitat and public attitude surveys.

5. Evaluate evidence and conduct investigations in collaboration with wildlife agencies to document cougar presence along their expanding range into eastern habitat.



The Eastern Cougar Foundation was established in 1998 by West Virginia coal miner and houndsman Todd Lester and Appalachian nature writer Chris Bolgiano.

In the 1990s, Todd established the eastern cougar listserv as a forum for people with an interest or expertise in eastern cougar history and biology. Online, he met Chris Bolgiano, who was then working on her first book, Mountain Lion: An Unnatural History of Pumas and People, published in 1995.

The foundation re-evaluated its goals, to focus less on the search for cougar evidence, and to put our efforts into recovering the big cat. We began advocating for the protection and recolonization of cougars to their former range in the Midwest, and to see them restored to the Southeast and the East via sanctioned reintroductions (leading to an inevitible name change to the CRF).

Position Statements


CRF advocates implementation of the FL Panther reintroduction plan including community outreach and education. CRF advocates science and evidence-based wildlife management to promulgate sound, solid, sensible conservation of our natural resources (including puma and other wildlife).

As Pets:

The CRF opposes the breeding and maintenance of cougars as pets.

On Hunting:

The CRF is not opposed to sustainable sport hunting of cougars in areas where significant cougar populations are documented.


Central to our restoration mission is the land-mark research between predators and prey pioneered in Yellowstone National Park. Without predator presence, prey species like elk and deer overbrowse the landscape, wreaking ecological havoc. And nowhere is this crisis more evident and well documented than in the East’s deciduous forests. Overabundant white-tailed deer have arrested the next generation of trees, decimating ground-nesting songbird habitat, inviting the spread of invasive plants. The East needs cougars to restore ecological balance to our collapsing forestry.