Will cougars return to the Adirondacks? Recent research/debate has focused more and more attention on the presence or absence of cougars (aka mountain lions) in the Adirondack Park. If you missed Mike Lynch’s December 22, 2014 Adirondack Explorer article, “Will cougars return?” then you also missed Essex resident John Davis’ perspective on the present and future of cougars (as well as other top predators.)
John Davis, who heads the Wildlands Network’s Carnivore Recovery Program, said the cougar’s eastward migration has been slowed due to excessive hunting in Nebraska, South Dakota, and other states. In the Black Hills, fifty-three male and thirty-one female cougars were killed in 2014—out of a population of just a few hundred.
“The likelihood of cougars recolonizing [the Adirondacks] on their own is not very good in the near term because they are being heavily persecuted in the Midwest,” said Davis, who lives in Essex. “They are basically being blocked from moving north out of southern Florida, the other nearest population, by the Caloosahatchee Channel. So natural recolonization of cougars in the near term unfortunately is not very likely. In the longer term, it may be possible.”
But Davis is committed to studying whether cougars and other carnivores will be able to return to the Adirondacks naturally and to figuring out what needs to be done to help them do so. In November, Davis organized the Eastern Carnivore Summit in Lake Placid at the Intervale Lowlands Nature Preserve, private property owned by Larry Master, a former chief zoologist with the Nature Conservancy and an Explorer board member.
“It’s very clear we need to educate people clearly as wide as possible about the values of top carnivores—wolves, cougars, and lynx, in particular,” said Davis. “We need to show people these are not dangerous animals, and in fact they will make our forests healthier.”
Davis wants DEC to look at what can be done to help cougars, wolves, and lynx return to the Adirondacks, whether naturally or through a reintroduction. Besides public education, one idea is to improve and protect wildlife corridors that animals use to travel long distances.
Davis also would like to see these top carnivores included in DEC’s Wildlife Action Plan, the department’s guide to managing and conserving species and habitats. “To ignore them because they’re extirpated is a big mistake,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of science and research in recent decades showing that top carnivores are ecologically important.” (Adirondack Explorer)
There appears to be a contradiction between abundant anecdotal evidence that cougars are present in the Adirondack Park and a veritable paucity of verifiable scientific evidence. Why? And if they are not already here, might cougars return in the near future? Share your thoughts in the comments.