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Cougars on the Prowl in the Midwest

By Margaret Lyons in News on Feb 22, 2008 5:59PM

2008_2_22.cougar.jpgAre cougars reemerging in the Midwest? A few years ago, a dead mountain lion turned up in New Boston, IL and last month, a live one made its way through southern Wisconsin. Experts tested DNA from a bloody pawprint the animal left and confirmed that it was indeed a mountain lion, the first in Wisconsin in a hundred years.

Big cats haven't been in the Midwest in a long time, but over the last few years, they've been reappearing in Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois. Ecologists say the animals are moving eastward because their habitats in the Rockies and South Dakota have become crowded. So far, the renegade cougars have been male.

Female cougars don't roam as readily as males, and ecologists have yet to identify signs that a breeding population has moved into the Midwest. Males are loners and have been known to wander up to 1,000 miles.

Any headed this way are probably in for a forlornly celibate existence. Bumping into another cougar -- let alone a potential mate -- in such a vast expanse is a tall order.

"You've got to have a male and a female, in unfamiliar territory, get together at the right time with the right kind of music and chocolates," said [cougar researcher Clay Neilsen of SIU Carbondale]. "What is the chance of that?"


Cougars rarely attack people, so you can rest easy, but if you do spot one, make yourself as big as possible, maintain eye contact, and back away. [Trib, USA Today, awesome cougar video, Photo via Savannah Grandfather]