Science vs Rumors

A recent news release from the Connecticut Department of Energy
and Environmental Protection brings to the forefront the value of
having science involved in rare animal sightings.

Hearsay, rumors, hoaxes and flash sightings have made us all
leery of claims, but this case says two things about how important
science is and should remain in documenting animal movements.

More than 100 years separated mountain lion sightings in
Connecticut. Also, this mammal set a record for dispersal
distance.

Even though we should remain skeptical of all claims until there
is some science involved, we should never doubt the tenacity, and
in some cases the adaptability, of wildlife.

A young, lean, 140-pound male mountain lion was killed by a
vehicle near Milford, Conn., June 11. There is no doubt this was a
wild cougar because no collar, micro chip or declawing signs were
observed. Animals had been reported in the area prior to the
accident.

Through several samples of scat, blood and hair, this animal was
shown to be the same one that came from someplace in South Dakota,
traveled through Minnesota and Wisconsin before ending up 1,500
miles away in northeast U. S.

There is no camera equipment that could have told this full
story. But DNA testing should, and did, give us all the certainty
we need.

As we look at this event, we should rethink some of our
off-the-cuff comments about science and statistics being all bunk.
We don’t always like what science suggests, supports and, yes,
sometimes even proves, but if conducted correctly, science is blind
to personal opinion and preferences.

That’s why we hear of some studies being blind studies or even
double blind studies. It prevents the researcher form knowing the
difference between the controls and experimental groups until the
science is done.

The last step in the scientific method sequence is conclusions.
Many steps separate collecting data and reporting conclusions. So
when someone accuses someone of jumping to conclusions that means
we are coming to a conclusion without following all the steps in
experimentation, without doing all of that science requires.

Categories: Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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