Clay Nielsen, assistant professor with the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Department of Forestry and the Center for Ecology at SIU Carbondale, said the cougar presence clearly is increasing in Midwestern North America. Nielsen worked with Michelle LaRue, a former graduate student at SIU Carbondale, now at the University of Minnesota.
The scientists see the trend reversing 100 years of species decline due to loss of habitat and other factors. Nielsen said the findings also raise new questions about how humans might live in closer proximity to the big cats.
Nielsen served as principal investigator on the study, the results of which are scheduled for online publication today (June 14) in the “The Journal of Wildlife Management.” The article, titled “Cougars Are Recolonizing the Midwest: Analysis of Cougar Conﬁrmations During 1990–2008,” can be found at http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/jwmg.396 .
As principal investigator, Nielsen helped with data collection, analysis and writing the paper, which used confirmed cougar sightings, carcasses, tracks, photos, video and DNA evidence collected from 1990 to 2008 in 14 states and provinces throughout Midwestern North America.LaRue, who was Nielsen’s master’s student from 2005 to 2007 and currently is pursuing her doctoral degree in Minnesota, served as senior author on the study. Personnel from the Cougar Network and the Colorado Division of Parks & Wildlife also were involved with the study.
Cougars were driven from much of the Midwest by around 1900, and their absence left a hole in the ecosystem, Nielsen said.
“Cougars would be top carnivores in Midwestern ecosystems, affecting prey species populations. The white-tailed deer would be the primary prey item,” Nielsen said.
During the last two decades, however, hard evidence of the cougar’s return has been emerging. The researchers set out to qualify and quantify that evidence, which they hoped would identify population trends and movement among the cougar -- also known as a puma or a mountain lion -- ranks.
The researchers divided the study area into an east and west region, calculated the number and types of confirmed sightings and assessed trends brought forth by the data. In all, they identified 178 instances of a confirmed cougar presence, with that number increasing.
The confirmations ranged from just one in Kansas, Michigan and Ontario to a high of 67 in Nebraska. The cougar remains reclusive, however, with almost 80 percent of the confirmations occurring within about 30 miles of highly suitable forests with steep terrain and low road and human densities.
The most frequent means of confirming the predator’s presence was by finding a carcass, and 76 percent of those found were males. The researchers believe sub-adult males are leading the repopulation trend by dispersing in search of territory and mates.
Nielsen and LaRue previously teamed up on another study concerning cougar populations, back when LaRue was a student at SIU Carbondale. That study, which looked at potential cougar habitat in nine Midwest states west of the Mississippi River, also pointed toward the cougar reclaiming its old turf. Nielsen and LaRue found that Arkansas, Missouri and Minnesota have substantial areas that could attract and support cougars. About 19 percent of Arkansas, for instance, is highly suitable, with 16 percent of Missouri and 11 percent of Minnesota.
Nielsen said the most recent findings have important implications for future management strategies for the big cat, which typically weighs 100 to 150 pounds but can grow up to 200 pounds.
“This paper provides the strongest quantitative information to date regarding potential recolonization of cougars in the Midwest, and these findings indicate that the public and wildlife managers may need to deal with increasing cougar populations in the near future if recolonization continues,” Nielsen said. “Much of the Midwest has lived without large carnivores such as cougars for more than 100 years. How will we all get along...or will we?”
Published for the Wildlife Society, The Journal of Wildlife Management publishes original research manuscripts contributing to basic wildlife science in areas such as wildlife habitat use, reproduction, genetics, demographics, viability, predator-prey relationships and others.
Tim Crosby | Newswise Science News
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences