Cougars Regaining Numbers, Spreading Habitat

cougars, cougar
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]

Judge bans predator from cruise, ruling raises questions

predator cruiseAn Illinois man is accused of being a sexual predator, gets arrested and is out on bond. A condition of his bond is to stay within the continental United States. He asks the judge if can go on a cruise with his wife. The judge says no. End of story? Not so fast. Questions are being asked.

“Should sexual predators (accused or convicted) be permitted to cruise?”
“Should cruise lines perform background checks on passengers?”
“Should cruise lines warn passengers when a sexual predator is aboard the cruise ship?”

These are all questions being raised by maritime attorney Jim Walker who has focused on safety at sea since 1983.

“This situation illustrates a problem that most families do not consider, namely that there are sexual predators on cruises.” say Walker, referring to a case in June where a sexual predator abused a 6 year old on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.

Walker’s questions highlight the reality that cruise lines do not perform background checks on passengers or attempt to discover if guests have been convicted of crimes during the normal registration process.

Cruise industry organization the Cruise Lines International Association points out that “the industry takes every measure appropriate to ensure that its passengers are safe and that they have an enjoyable vacation experience.” Indeed, incidents of crime do represent a small percentage when considered among the millions of passengers who sail every year.

But Walker urges caution. “The danger as I see it is that responsible parents often get caught up in the excitement of the cruise. They let their guards down.”

Flickr photo by tom.snaps