Study by SIU research team points to cougar resurgence
They've become the "Bigfoot" of Illinois. Cougars, also known as "mountain lions," have been the mysterious subject of deer hunters' tales for the past five years. But wildlife officials have never confirmed the big cat's existence.
Now, a researcher and associate professor from Southern Illinois University is contending that cougars are indeed making a comeback in the Midwest.
Clay Nielsen, assistant professor with the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at SIU Carbondale, said the cougar presence clearly is increasing in Midwestern North America. Nielsen worked with Michelle LaRue, a former graduate student at SIU Carbondale, now at the University of Minnesota. The scientists see the trend reversing 100 years of species decline due to loss of habitat and other factors. Nielsen said the findings also raise new questions about how humans might live in closer proximity to the big cats.
Nielsen served as principal investigator on the study, the results of which are scheduled for online publication today (June 14) in the “The Journal of Wildlife Management.” The article is titled “Cougars Are Recolonizing the Midwest: Analysis of Cougar Conﬁrmations During 1990–2008.”
The researchers divided the study area into an east and west region, calculated the number and types of confirmed sightings and assessed trends brought forth by the data. In all, they identified 178 instances of a confirmed cougar presence, with that number increasing.
To read more details about what the study says about cougars in Illinois, see the June 29 issue of Illinois Outdoor News.