This week’s episode is inspired by photos posted to a Facebook group. A user posted these photos of part of a deer carcass high in a tree. They asked what animal would cause this? I watched the responses pour in and I knew what they would be.
Cougar. Mountain lion. Puma. These are different names for the same species (Puma concolor) and I knew people would say with certainty that this big cat did this.
But I knew it was not. In fact, I posted that there are NO eastern cougars. But I knew I would get a lot of opposition. I did.
In this episode, I talk about how I can be so certain. How scientists in general can be certain of this subspecies absence from such a large are. And also explain what people think they are seeing.
Even if you aren’t familiar with the story of cougars in the east, you’ll learn about the evidence (or lack thereof) that scientists use for detecting larger terrestrial mammals.
Specifically, I go over:
- Where cougars currently live and in the US, where they are starting to expand their range
- When eastern cougars were last detected
- Why the presence of individuals does not necessarily mean a population exists
- My research experience working in the eastern US in relation to cougars, specifically North Carolina and the description of large-scale studies on mammals
- Examples of large mammals with very low population sizes that are still detected by scientists
- The different methods scientists use to determine absence for large, terrestrial mammals
- Where verified cougar detections are found in the US
- What people are likely seeing when they say they see a cougar
- Explanations of real and verified cougar detections in the eastern US
- Where you can submit wild cat photos to have experts determine the species
Resources and Sources Mentioned in Eastern Cougars
Four Florida panthers killed in 2020 so far
Cougar Network Research Group For The North American Cougar
Mountain lion killed in Connecticut prowled east from S. Dakota
So You Say You Saw A Black Panther? Here’s Why I Don’t Believe You
Cougar? Play Dr. Michelle LaRue’s #CougarorNot game on Twitter. Example below:
@drmichellelarue Was hoping you could asssist with this particularly difficult #cougarornot posted a few hours ago on reddit. Location the Shenandoah Valley, VA— David Walker 🌎 (@Bio_ecologist) August 23, 2020
Opinions seem quite divided pic.twitter.com/WN6ChZdgYQ
Video with more info on cougars:
Interview with Kyle Burgess on recent cougar viral video:
My thoughts on the media’s take of the cougar viral video:
Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.
I don’t care what the science says or what the so-called experts say. I have heard mountain lions and have also seen them as well.
I even saw a photograph of somebody that photographed a mountain lion in Westchester county a number of years ago.
Although the experts commented on the photograph. And the photograph was of a mountain lion in their opinion. Although they did say that the mountain lion has been extinct for a number of years
Also to prove the experts to be wrong which is nothing new. I was eating supper with my father. Whereas A large animal came running down the hill with a very long tail about 3-4 feet long
It was so fast I could barely see him. In my personal opinion it was a mountain lion. Furthermore at night time I used to hear growling like a mountain lion.
Therefore my final conclusion even though I could say a lot more. I do honestly believe that their indeed mountain lions alive currently.