After a brush with extinction, cougars are making a comeback in the Midwest, leaving ranchers and farmers wondering how livestock and the predators can co-exist.
A new study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management reported 178 confirmed cougar sights in the Midwest and as far south as Texas between 1990 and 2008. Three main cougar populations exist in the Midwest and are centered in South Dakota. However, new data suggestions that some cougars – primarily male – are venturing out of this region.
One male cougar from the Black Hills was found to have traveled 2,900 kilometers through Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York, before ending up in Connecticut.
"While the distance the Connecticut cougar traveled was rare, we found that cougars are roaming long distances and are moving back into portions of their historical range across the Midwest ", Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota said in a news release. "Our study took in over 3,200,000 Km² of territory, confirming the presence of Cougars from Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska, to the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba."
Two reports last year also suggest a surge in the cougar’s Midwest presence.
In January 2011, Bill Jorgenson, a North Dakota rancher came face-to-face with a 130-pound female cougar and her three cubs in a storage barn on his property, where he had 20 horses and 1,000 head of cattle. According to the Associated Press, Jorgenson shot and killed the animals to protect himself and his herd.
That same month, a farmer shot and killed a cougar in northwest Missouri after dogs had forced the predator into a tree near his herd of grazing cattle. At the time, it was the state’s 12th confirmed cougar sighting since 1994. The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that there have been 14 confirmed cougar sightings this year alone.