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Cougar Kids Are Coming

By JoshMogerman in News on Jun 16, 2012 8:30PM

Cougar, ready to pounce [Neil McIntosh]

Pumas keep popping up at Chicagoland’s margins. Outside a Burr Ridge school in March. Near the Bears’ training facilities in Lake Forest last fall. In the past, those reports were attributed to over-imaginative suburban scaredy cats, rather than accepted as legitimate mountain lion sightings, until the still-stupefying sight of a 150-pound cougar laid out in a Roscoe Village alleyway after being shot by a police officer in 2008 showed that the secretive big cats are indeed in our back yards.

This week an interesting study in the Journal of Wildlife Management confirmed what we’ve known for a while: there’s a bunch of Midwestern mountain lions. And their numbers are growing. The research looked at 178 confirmed sightings, cougar carcasses, and other data points to document an eastward migration out of the Rockies and northern Plains where the cats’ numbers have exploded in recent decades:

“We (now) know there are a heck of a lot more cougars running around the Midwest than in 1990,” Clay Nielsen, a Southern Illinois University wildlife ecologist who co-authored the report while heading the nonprofit Cougar Network’s scientific research [told the Associated Press]. “We’ve got an interesting and compelling picture to talk about now."
The study is in line with what Bill Zeigler, Sr. Vice President of Collections and Animal Care at Chicago Zoological Society (the folks who run Brookfield Zoo), told us when we talked to him about sightings last October. At the time, he noted that it should be no surprise if we see an uptick in the number of pumas visiting the suburbs, given the growing population in Wisconsin, “as that population continues to grow, young males will get kicked to the outer fringes by older males.” He also made it clear that "mountain lion," "puma" and "cougar" all refer to the same species.

More cougar kids coming. Somebody better prep CPD.