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
Self-organising system enables motile cells to form complex search pattern
07.05.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Mouse studies show minimally invasive route can accurately administer drugs to brain
02.05.2019 | Johns Hopkins Medicine
A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.
The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...
Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.
The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...
Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...
With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.
Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...
'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.
However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2019 | Life Sciences