Return of the cougar.Predator personified, our biggest cat seems to be slowly gaining in numbers in numbered parts; as, a book published in numbers.
See also: Number . But it remains a wraith in our imagination, and that is as it should be.
"HARLEY, I THINK I FOUND ONE." Harley Shaw walks over and follows my gaze to the ground at my feet. He slips off his pack and squats for a closer examination. Nestled in the loose dirt is the outline of a mountain lion mountain lion: see puma. track--a big one.
"Good eyes," he says, smiling. "Looks like you're getting the hang of it. It's a big tom--the first male we've found this year." From his pack he withdraws a small plate of glass and offers it to me. "Care to do the honors to bestow honor, as on a guest; to act as host or hostess at an entertainment.
See also: Honor ?"
Removing my pack. I kneel next to the track and gently place the glass over it. With a grease pencil grease pencil
A pencil of hard grease mixed with colorings, used especially for marking on glossy or glazed surfaces. I carefully trace the outline of the impression, mentally checking off the distinguishing characteristics: two lobes on the leading edge of the heel pad heel pad Orthopedics–foot Calcaneal fat pad A flat encapsulated disk of fat that lies below the plantar surface of the calcaneus, which acts as a cushion for ambulation; normally < 21 mm; enlarged in the obese, with steroids, or in acromegaly Orthotics A , three lobes on the trailing edge; toes elongated e·lon·gate
tr. & intr.v. e·lon·gat·ed, e·lon·gat·ing, e·lon·gates
To make or grow longer.
adj. or elongated
1. Made longer; extended.
2. Having more length than width; slender. ovals and asymmetrically arranged. Yes, this is definitely a mountain-lion track--and I found it.
"Here's some more," says Harley, pointing at the ground farther up the road.
Finishing the tracing, I gingerly lift the glass and begin to transfer the track outline to a sheet of paper. I'm giddy over the discovery of my first track, and Harley chuckles at me as he takes out a small ruler and begins to take measurements.
After 26 years as a research biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, much of it spent studying mountain lions, and after writing two books on the big cats, Harley Shaw knows a thing or two about cougars, as the cats are also known. That is why I quickly accepted the offer to join him for a week of tracking in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona Southern Arizona is a region of the United States. It is the southernmost portion of the 48th state, Arizona. Southern Arizona's boundaries are not well defined, but certainly include all of present-day Cochise County, Pima County, Graham County, and Santa Cruz County. . Because of their stealthy stealth·y
adj. stealth·i·er, stealth·i·est
Marked by or acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid notice. See Synonyms at secret. nature, counting lions in the wild is practically impossible with current research technology. Harley is trying to develop a tracking technique that will allow him to determine the general presence of cougars in an area using minimum tracking effort.
I QUICKLY LEARN THAT real tracking is nothing like the movies. For eight days I drag myself out of my tent at 5 a.m. to follow Harley and his team of volunteers as we hike designated sections of firebreak fire·break
A strip of cleared or plowed land used to stop the spread of a fire. Also called fireguard.
a strip of open land in a forest to stop the advance of a fire roads and trails in the Huachuca Mountains. The early hour is for low-angle light, which accentuates the small shadows thrown by tracks and makes them easier to see. By 9 a.m. sunlight washes out most impressions. Surface is also important. That is why we are here in the heat of early June, when the roads are covered with the layer of dust that holds a track so well. Concentration and fatigue are also factors. Good trackers work only a few hours at a time. Finally, you must have patience--the patience of a cat. The reward for my patience is the big tom's track. We never see the cats themselves, only their tracks. Such is the nature of a predator whose survival depends on remaining in the shadows.
Mountain lions--also called pumas--are secretive, solitary, and highly mobile carnivores that occur in low densities and roam enormous tracts in western North America's diverse landscape. For decades, these characteristics made the cats extremely difficult to research. Thanks to the development of anesthetizing drugs, radio-telemetry equipment, and the persistent and painstaking efforts of a few biologists, the mysterious lions are slowly giving up their secrets.
Cougars once laid claim to the most extensive range of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere Western Hemisphere
Part of Earth comprising North and South America and the surrounding waters. Longitudes 20° W and 160° E are often considered its boundaries. . They once roamed from the Yukon to the Straits of Magellan, over 110 degrees latitude, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They can be found from sea level to 14,765 feet, and in habitats as diverse as Northwest forests, Southwest deserts, and Florida's Everglades--attesting to their resilience and adaptability. They are adaptable, but not invulnerable in·vul·ner·a·ble
1. Immune to attack; impregnable.
2. Impossible to damage, injure, or wound.
[French invulnérable, from Old French, from Latin : Habitat loss and persecution have reduced the lion's North American North American
named after North America.
North American blastomycosis
see North American blastomycosis.
North American cattle tick
see boophilusannulatus. range to the 12 western states, Mexico, British Columbia British Columbia, province (2001 pop. 3,907,738), 366,255 sq mi (948,600 sq km), including 6,976 sq mi (18,068 sq km) of water surface, W Canada. Geography
, Alberta, and a small remnant population Remnant Population is a 1996 science fiction novel by American writer Elizabeth Moon. The story revolves around an old woman who decides to remain behind on a colony world after the company who sent her there pulls out. in southern Florida.
UNTIL RECENTLY, biologists called them Felis concolor, literally "cat of one color" (see accompanying feature). Their coat is a plain, tawny brown, while their distinctive heavy tail measures almost two-thirds the length of the head and body. The sexes look alike, though males are 30 to 40 percent larger. Males measure six to eight feet from nose to tail tip, compared with five to seven feet for females. A typical adult male will weigh 110 to 180 pounds and the female 80 to 130 pounds. A rare heavyweight will top 200 pounds.
Newborn mountain lions enter the world weighing less than a pound. Litters average two or three cubs, which have coats covered with black and brown spots and rings around their tails. The cubs begin nursing minutes after birth. Within three weeks they weigh more than two pounds. After being weaned wean
tr.v. weaned, wean·ing, weans
1. To accustom (the young of a mammal) to take nourishment other than by suckling.
2. at two to three months, the young start to lose their spots, and they accompany their mother to kills. At 17 months their baby blue eyes The Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii, is a common wild flower of California, whose range extends into Oregon and Baja California. It is a spring-flowering annual that gets its name from the bright blue flowers of two of the three varieties that are recognised. have turned golden brown.
Many wildlife professionals believe the cougar is making a comeback. During the 1960s and 1970s, most state wildlife departments reclassified the mountain lion from vermin vermin /ver·min/ (ver´min)
1. an external animal parasite.
2. such parasites collectively.ver´minous
n. pl. to game animal, giving the big cat a greater measure of protection. Only Texas allows unrestricted killing of the cougar. The setting aside of 700 million acres of public land and the passage of legislation such as the Wilderness Act The Wilderness Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-577) was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society. It created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, and protected some 9 million acres (36,000 km²) of federal land. have protected critical habitat and improved chances for the cat's survival. Wildlife managers point to increased sightings, as well as increased attacks on livestock and people. Compared to the status of cougar populations at the turn of the century--when most states still paid bounties--the animals certainly seem to be resurgent re·sur·gent
1. Experiencing or tending to bring about renewal or revival.
2. Sweeping or surging back again.
Adj. 1. in many parts of western North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. .
"Mountain-lion numbers have increased across the West," agrees cougar expert Kenney Logan. Logan and Linda Sweanor, his colleague and wife, are about to complete a 10-year lion study in the San Andres Mountains The San Andres Mountains are a mountain range in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico, in the counties of Socorro, Sierra, and Doña Ana. The range extends about 75 miles (120 km) north to south, but are only about 12 miles (19 km) wide at their widest. of southern New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S). . "But it is important to understand that lions are recovering from depressed numbers, not just increasing. They are reestablishing populations in many areas. Man has been a dramatic mortality factor on cougar populations over the last 200 years, and now we are simply not killing as many. Game status and the elimination of state-supported bounty hunters helped."
So how many mountain lions are there? Nobody knows. "It's misleading to talk of one cougar population in California," says cougar researcher Rick Hopkins. Hopkins has studied the cougars in the Diablo Mountains of northern California Northern California, sometimes referred to as NorCal, is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The region contains the San Francisco Bay Area, the state capital, Sacramento; as well as the substantial natural beauty of the redwood forests, the northern for 12 years as part of his doctoral research. "There are several separate populations scattered throughout the state," he explains. "Some may be increasing, some are stable like these in the Diablo Mountains, and some are likely in trouble. It's possible to census a population in a small area, but only through long and expensive effort." There is just no reliable way to count the elusive cats over a large area.
THOUGH A PRECISE census of California's cougar population is lacking, we do know that the state's human population has tripled in the past 40 years. Many of these people have settled in the brushy chaparral country of the western Sierra Nevada Sierra Nevada, mountain range, Spain
Sierra Nevada (syā`rä nāvä`thä), chief mountain range of S Spain, in Granada prov., running from east to west for c.60 mi (100 km), parallel to the Mediterranean Sea. and in the Coast Ranges--both prime lion habitats. San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. , Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , and the San Francisco Bay Area “Bay Area” redirects here. For other uses, see Bay Area (disambiguation).
The San Francisco Bay Area, colloquially known as the Bay Area or The Bay all have adjacent mountain-lion populations. More people are exploring wilderness areas than ever before. One reason we are seeing more cougars is that there are more people nearby to see them.
Urban, residential, and agricultural development encroaches on cougar habitat throughout North America. In Colorado, the growing urban corridor that extends along the eastern shoulder of the Rocky Mountains Rocky Mountains, major mountain system of W North America and easternmost belt of the North American cordillera, extending more than 3,000 mi (4,800 km) from central N.Mex. to NW Alaska; Mt. Elbert (14,431 ft/4,399 m) in Colorado is the highest peak. , from Boulder south to Denver and Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, city (1990 pop. 281,140), seat of El Paso co., central Colo., on Monument and Fountain creeks, at the foot of Pikes Peak; inc. 1886. It is a year-round resort and a booming military, technological, and commercial city. , presses in on the margins of cougar country. Rampant growth on Florida's coasts is squeezing the Everglades on both sides, endangering the 20 to 50 remaining panthers, a southeastern subspecies subspecies, also called race, a genetically distinct geographical subunit of a species. See also classification. of the cougar. The urban sprawl of Tucson, VancOuver, and Salt Lake City parallels increased lion-human interactions. "People are moving to places where lions always have been and people never were," says Logan.
Unlike early hunters and ranchers who probably shot cougars on sight and boasted only to neighbors, modern hikers who see a cougar in the wild consider themselves lucky and are more likely to report the sighting to a ranger. Additionally, when lions show up near populated areas and are subjected to the alarmist a·larm·ist
A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe. scrutiny of the media, the lions are quickly labeled a threat. But the perceived threat may reflect an increase in noise, not numbers.
Male pumas lead solitary lives, except when mating, though mature females are usually accompanied by cubs. Both sexes tend to space themselves out and confine their movements to individual home ranges. Such cats are called residents, and their home ranges can vary in size from 25 to 300 square miles, depending on the quality of habitat and abundance of prey. Possession of a home range increases a resident's chance for survival by guaranteeing an established hunting ground. The larger home ranges of the male typically overlap or encompass several female ranges, but only occasionally overlap those of other resident males. However, female home ranges commonly overlap each other. Resident adult males use scrapes--collected piles of pine needles pine needles pine npl → Kiefernnadeln pl
pine needles npl → aghi mpl di pino , leaves, or dirt that are marked with urine or scat-- to mark their home ranges.
A TYPICAL population is composed of resident adults, their cubs, and transients. Cubs usually disperse from their mother's home range sometime during their second year and become transients, wandering for a year or more in search of their own home range. In one Nevada population, males traveled up to 31 miles from their birth areas, while females averaged 18 miles. One young cougar marked in northern Wyoming appeared in northern Colorado, 300 miles from the original location. Because transients must hunt their own food and may need to defend themselves against residents, this is a risky time in a lion's life. Transients play an important role as replacements for resident lions who die from old age, accidents, fighting with other lions, or sport hunting. Sport hunting is legal in 11 western states and two Canadian provinces; over 2,000 lions are killed every year, making it the leading known cause of death in cougars.
Lions are most commonly found in areas with plentiful deer and adequate cover. Such conditions exist not only in remote, primitive country but also in mountain subdivisions, urban fringes, and open space adjacent to housing. Due to this increased proximity and higher cougar numbers, attacks on humans have increased in the past 20 years. Last April, Barbara Schoener, a 40-year-old mother and marathoner, was killed by a cougar while running one morning. She was the first person killed by a mountain lion in California in 85 years. In January 1991, 18-year-old Scott Lancaster met a similar fate while running near his high school in Idaho Springs, Colorado Idaho Springs is a city in Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States. The population was 1,889 at the 2000 census. It is in Clear Creek Canyon, in the mountains upstream from Golden about 30 miles west of Denver. . Other, nonfatal maulings have recently occurred in Montana, British Columbia, and elsewhere in California.
Theories abound as to why attacks occur, but too little is known about cougar behavior to say for sure. "There are two interacting reasons attacks are on the increase," says Kenney Logan, "a dramatic increase in people and increasing lion numbers."
Dr. Paul Beier Paul Beier is an american lutenist. He graduated from the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Diana Poulton.
He is founding member of the Italian Lute Society, he is a consulting editor of the Lute Society of America Journal. , a wildlife ecologist at Northern Arizona University Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a public university in Flagstaff, Arizona in the United States.
As of Fall 2007, the university has 21,352 students, 13,989 of these are situated in the main Flagstaff campus<ref name="Enrollment" />. in Flagstaff Flagstaff, city (1990 pop. 45,857), seat of Coconino co., N Ariz., near the San Francisco Peaks; inc. 1894. Lumbering, ranching, and a lively tourist trade thrive in the region, where many ruined pueblos, numerous state parks, several lakes, and large pine forests , has documented 67 cougar attacks since 1890, 50 of them since 1970. Of the total, 12 attacks were fatal and eight of those occurred after 1970--three in the last four years, one each in Colorado, British Columbia, and California. Children were more likely victims than adults, with ages five to nine being the most attack-prone.
By contrast, automobile collisions with deer kill scores of people each year, and more Americans die from bee stings and lightning strikes than from cougar attacks. So why the sensational uproar over such rare events? It is partly due to the big cat's method of killing. Cougars are ambush predators. Like most cats, with the notable exception of cheetahs, they attempt to catch their prey unaware rather than chase it down. Unlike a bear, for instance, which kills with brute force, the cougar employs speed and precision--a silent approach, a swift attack, an efficient kill. The prey is usually dispatched with a bite behind the neck that severs the spinal cord spinal cord, the part of the nervous system occupying the hollow interior (vertebral canal) of the series of vertebrae that form the spinal column, technically known as the vertebral column. . "Mankind has a primeval view of predation predation
Form of food getting in which one animal, the predator, eats an animal of another species, the prey, immediately after killing it or, in some cases, while it is still alive. Most predators are generalists; they eat a variety of prey species. ," says Rick Hopkins. "When you combine that with the fact that the mountain lion is a secretive predator that is successful because of its stealth, you get pure fascination."
Some cougar experts are struck by how infrequently lions attack, given the opportunity. "I'm surprised there aren't more incidents," says Linda Sweanor. "It says something for the cat. They seem to generally avoid people." Beier, who conducted a five-year study of mountain lions in urban southern California, tells of lions frequently bedding down for the day adjacent to heavily used trails and casually watching people stroll by. The hikers were oblivious to the lion's presence.
Hunting advocates argue that restrictions on hunting have caused cougars to lose whatever fear they have of humans and become more aggressive in attacking both people and livestock. (Californians voted to ban sport hunting of mountain lions altogether in 1990.) However, Beier explains that hunters generally select adult males. This leads to an increase in the number of transient lions, which tend to be the attackers. He also points out that over half of all recorded attacks have taken place in British Columbia, especially on Vancouver Island. Hunters and animal-control agents kill six to 10 percent of the island's cougars each year, a rate that probably exceeds the sport hunt in any western state.
Despite occasional conflicts, some believe coexistence between people and cougars is possible. Canadian researcher Ian Ross is an advocate. Ross, along with Martin Jalkotzy and Ralph Schmidt, has studied Alberta's cougars for 13 years. "Education is the first step, but we have to go deeper and change our perception of predators. It is already taking place with the wolf and grizzly. Public support of predators is growing."
Part of Florida's success in bringing the alligator alligator, large aquatic reptile of the genus Alligator, in the same order as the crocodile. There are two species—a large type found in the S United States and a small type found in E China. Alligators differ from crocodiles in several ways. back from the brink Back from the Brink can refer to:
Harley and I finish our measurements of the lion track and continue up the steep firebreak. As my eyes search the road surface, I think back to my first encounter with a cougar in the wild. It came not in the West, but in southern Florida. While I was working as a ranger in Everglades National Park, a Florida panther crossed the road in front of my truck one night. (Panther is the common name for the cougar in the South.) As I braked, the most endangered animal in Florida, a front paw suspended in the air, "blinked into the glare of my headlights. The light glinted in the eerie mirrors of the panther's eyes as the long tail twitched. Then the cat was gone. It glided across the pavement and melted silently into the sawgrass Sawgrass can be:
Though subjected to the intense scrutiny of our technology, the cougar still slips our grasp. This is as it should be, for we love a mystery, and this mystery drives both the cougar biologist's research and the layperson's imagination. Writer Barry Lopez spoke. eloquently of the cougar's furtive fur·tive
1. Characterized by stealth; surreptitious.
2. Expressive of hidden motives or purposes; shifty. See Synonyms at secret. nature: "As long as men study the lion, they will learn, but it is against a certainty that they will never understand it at all. This counts as no loss. The lion retains two things that are perhaps most dear to any animal--dignity and mystery. And with these all life deepens."
MORE BEARS IN THE EAST
THE COUGAR isn't the only large mammal stalking the comeback trail. Our biggest predator, the bear, is at its highest population level in a century--on the eastern seaboard, at least.
According to Bear News, the publication of the Great Bear Foundation, wildlife biologists chalk up the burgeoning numbers of black bears (the only species found in the East) to general declines in farming and timber production. Earlier in the century, woodlands were cleared for crops and homes. Today, despite urban/suburban sprawl, many areas are reverting to forest and the bears are repopulating them.
Maine, for example, has some 21,000 bears, and about 2,000 are taken each hunting season to help maintain the population at levels the habitat can support. If the animals get more numerous than that, they start getting into trouble in residential areas and by raiding dumpsters.
Virginia has an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 black bears, Pennsylvania 7,500, Massachusetts 1,000, and New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of about 4,500.
IF YOU LIVE IN COUGAR COUNTRY:
* Make lots of noise if you come and go during the times cougars are most active--dusk to dawn.
* Install outdoor lighting so you could see a lion if one were present.
* Supervise small children when they play outdoors, and keep them inside between dusk and dawn. Teach children about lions and what to do if they meet one.
* Keep landscaping trimmed back, and remove excess brush to eliminate hiding places for lions.
* Do no plant shrubs or vegetation that deer prefer to eat, or encourage other wildlife to come into your yard. Predators follow prey! The California Department of Fish and Game offers a brochure, "Gardening to Discourage Deer Damage."
* Keep pets from roaming the neighborhood. They are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. If you leave your pet outside, keep it in a kennel with a secure top. Don't feed pets outside; this can attract racoons and other animals that are eaten by lions. Store garbage securely.
* Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close doors to all outbuildings since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.
* Encourage your neighbors to follow these simple precautions. Prevention is far better than a possible lion confrontation.
IF YOU MEET A LION:
* When you hike in cougar country, go in groups and make plenty of noise to avoid surprising a lion. Keep children close and within sight at all times.
* Never approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or accompanied by kittens.
* STAY CALM when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly yet firmly to it. Move slowly.
* STOP. Don't turn your back, and don't run. If it is safe, back away slowly.
* Running may stimulate the lion's instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion, and stand up straight.
* Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms and open your jacket if you're wearing one. If small children are with you, pick them up so they will not panic and run.
* If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones or anything you can reach without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly.
* Fight back if the lion attacks. Unlike with bears, "playing dead" does not work. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. Use such objects as rocks, sticks, clothing, garden tools, and even your bare hands. Remain standing or try to get back up.
KEVIN HANSEN former science director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, authored Cougar: The American Lion, which is available from the foundation at P.O. Box 1896, Sacramento, CA 95812.