Cougars Regaining Numbers, Spreading Habitat

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Cougars have been declining in number for a century now, as victims of hunting and loss of habitat. Now the BBC reports they’re making a comeback. The population is increasing and they are spreading out of their usual western habitats back into eastern and northern areas where they haven’t been seen for many years.

They’ve been spotted from Texas to Canada, and one even made it to Connecticut last year, only to get killed by a car.

Naturalists say that restrictions on hunting and the return of some of their prey, like elk and mule deer, have increased their numbers and forced these solitary animals to search further afield in search of a hunting range.

Some have raised concerns about cougar attacks. Although experts say that cougars generally avoid humans, cougars must be treated with caution like any wild animal. From 2001 through 2010, there have been 36 injuries and four deaths caused by cougars in the U.S. and Canada.

By way of comparison, lightning killed 26 people in the U.S. in 2011 alone. Environment Canada reports, “each year lightning kills approximately 10 Canadians and injures approximately 100 to 150 others.” So it appears that, much like the common fear of wolves and sharks, fear of cougars is based less on their real threat than it is on urban ignorance of nature.

[Photo courtesy Art G]