Wisconsin lion sightings confirmed

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Babble Mouth
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Wisconsin lion sightings confirmed

Postby Emily » Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:26 pm

From the Price County (WI) Review;
seems like there's a misquote suggesting cougars attack human more in places where they are hunted...esp

http://www.pricecountydaily.com/sports/ ... 21a46.html

Cougars return to Wisconsin after disappearing from state a century ago

State has confirmed three cougar sights this year
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Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Cougar sightings

A trail camera in Lincoln County caught this photo of a wild cougar.

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2014 11:23 am

Chris Malina, Wisconsin Public Radio

This week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources confirmed two cougar sightings in northern Wisconsin, bringing the total number of sightings in 2014 to three.

Those sightings come after a handful of sightings from previous years, not to mention hundreds of unconfirmed sightings as well — an indication that an animal that the DNR estimates disappeared from the state more than 100 years ago is making a return.

The cougars now being spotted around the state, however, are likely not the same kind of cougar that existed in Wisconsin a century ago, according to Timothy Van Deelen, assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said that historically, Wisconsin was well within the range of the eastern cougar, a subspecies of cougar that biologists believe is now extinct. The cougars that are in the state now, however, are probably a western subspecies moving into a now-vacant niche.

That species is likely coming from the Black Hills area of South Dakota, where Van Deelen says there’s a robust cougar population. Van Deelen said that the most likely reason for why cougars are moving east is hunger: Since deer are the species' primary prey, and Wisconsin has a dense deer population, it’s not a stretch to think that cougars would come here to hunt.

Van Deelen also said the gentrification of Midwestern agricultural areas might be attracting them as well.

“It’s getting woodier, brushier, and looking more like cougar habitat,” he said.

Van Deelen said it’s hard to determine just how many cougars may be in the state, and how long they’ve been coming here. He said there have always been rumors of cougars in Wisconsin, but that in the past, sightings had been difficult to verify. That’s partly changed now due to the rise of trail cameras. Van Deelen said many landowners are now using the devices to keep an eye on their property.

“They’re picking up lots of deer and bears, and occasionally they’ve gotten a cougar,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to argue with the image.”

While Van Deelen said that the cougar population in Wisconsin could grow, he isn’t expecting a boom anytime soon. So far, the cougars that have been seen in the state are all young males.

“You can’t have a population until the females show up,” he said.

Despite the cougar’s status as a predator, Van Deelen noted that attacks on humans are very rare. When cougar attacks have happened, he said, they were in areas with high cougar populations or in a place where the cougar was hunted. Van Deelen said that when humans aren’t hunting them, cougars tend to lose their fear of people.

Now that the cougar has made a return to the state, the DNR is providing guidance should anyone encounter one. In a news release issued this week, the DNR advises people who have a run-in with a cougar to “face the animal and spread your arms and open your coat or jacket to appear larger. If the cougar approaches, make noise and throw rocks or sticks.”

Van Deelen said that he doesn’t expect that anyone will come face-to-face with cougars anytime soon.

“As a wildlife guy, I’ve spent a lot of time in cougar habitats, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a wild cougar,” he said.

Editor’s Note: If you believe you’ve seen a cougar, or have captured a picture of a cougar, the DNR is urging you report the sighting using their ‘Rare Mammal Observation Form.’ The information could prove to be valuable in providing more information about the state’s cougar population.

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