Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wisconsin Cougar Watch

No, this has nothing to do with sexually-aggressive middle-aged women.

For the second time in about a year, there was a documented mountain lion sighting in Wisconsin. This one was near Spooner. Hounds were used to tree the cat, and the DNR tried to tranquilize and radio-collar the animal, but they were unsuccessful. They have asked folks not to harrass the cat. If it is spotted again, they may try again to fit it with a radio collar to track its movements.

I hope it fares better than the jaguar that was collared in Arizona last month. I also hope it has the sense not to wander into a crowded city like the cougar that passed through Wisconsin on its way to Chicago last year.

I realize that Wisconsin cannot sustain a large cougar population; there isn't enough wilderness area. However, the fact that there have been two recent documented sightings probably means that there have been several large cats spending time in the state over the past few years, mostly undetected. There were rumors of a moutain lion spotted near Wisconsin Dells several years ago, but since the witnesses were mostly bar patrons and no forensic evidence was found, the DNR decided it was just a large dog.

By eliminating all of the natural predators of the deer herd in the 20th century, we took the natural out of natural selection. Human hunters tend to select large bucks in their prime, leaving the scrawny and sickly animals to reproduce. Overpopulation of the herd in pockets of the state where food was plentiful allowed CWD to spread.

For all of the admitted damage that wolves and cougars do to livestock, they also play an important role in the health of the food chain. Ranchers in the west have learned to manage predators and protect their stock. There are breeds of dog that specialize in guarding livestock from wolves, for instance.

Wisconsin can surely support a small population of mountain lions. In the end, I think they will contribute more to our environment than they will take away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The report says they tried to tranqualize and radio-collar the animal.

I don't believe they actually tried to radio-collar the cat. Having failed to tranqualize it first, that would have been darn near impossible!