United States Experiencing Increase in Cougar Populations
All across the United States, wildlife groups are reporting a growing increase in native cougar populations. Declining for almost a century, the North American cougar, also known as the mountain lion, panther or puma, is making a substantial comeback. In some cases, this return is affecting areas readily inhabited by humans.
According to the “Journal of Wildlife Management,” cougar populations are growing eastward. Preferring rugged wildernesses, growing populations are forcing cougars to move to new grounds, which include the Midwest, Great Plains and further east.
For a significant period, cougar populations were generally limited to the Black Hills of South Dakota. As the population began to grow in the 1960s and 1970s, these populations continued to increase. By the 1990s, cougars migrated eastward as far as Connecticut and a scientific analysis of one deceased carcass showed that the male cougar shared the same genetic code as those that once limited their terrains to the Black Hills. That means that cougars have the ability to travel more than 1,800 miles.
Some areas are raising concern, questioning if humans can indeed live side-by-side these felidae predators. In fact, studies show that cougar sightings have been confirmed as far south as Texas, southeast as Arkansas and Midwest Nebraska to northern Canadian provinces, such as Manitoba and Ontario.
Male cougars can travel further distances than females, with nearly 76-percent of male cougars carcasses recovered being male. This alone suggests that male cougars are predominantly responsible for the wandering cougar population.
With the public reaching out and conducting awareness campaigns, the only action human populations can do is retreat, or if attacked, then fight back. In most areas, it is illegal to hunt cougars, so it is best to check local state regulations before firing more than simply a warning shot.
With cougar management becoming an increasingly controversial subject, scientists expect great debate as cougar populations continue to grow and enter urban areas. While mountain lions do not pose a specific threat to humans, they can attack livestock, deer and other large game. They are also prone to attacking pet dogs and cats. The most important thing people can do is staying alert in mountain lion country, stop and not running away. Always maintain eye contact and throw items at the mountain lion, if necessary.
Conversely, there are reports from the New York Times and The Associated Press that in Washington State alone, cougars are emerging in residential areas and terrorizing pets. In fact, of the 10 fatal cougar attacks recorded since 1890, nearly half that number was within the last decade.
What can families do to protect themselves if they live in a high-risk area for cougar attacks? The most important thing is to practice self-defense and in deadly scenarios, shoot when necessary. To help facilitate comfort with handguns, rifles and shotguns, Jumping Targets recommends that families practice with moving targets. Using a high-quality AR500 steel target also guarantees years of future use, without the danger of pitting or negligent ricochets.