National Geographic : 2009 Sep
W ILDLIFE Cougar tagged May 12, 2004 Chicago COLORADO FLORIDA ILLINOIS S. DAKOTA IOWA KANSAS N. DAKOTA CALIFORNIA NEVADA MINNESOTA LOUISIANA MISSOURI MONTANA NEBRASKA WASHINGTON WYOMING OKLAHOMA ARKANSAS TEXAS OREGON IDAHO UTAH ARIZONA NEW MEXICO WISCONSIN MICHIGAN NGM MAPS. SOURCES: COUGAR NETWORK; SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY. NG ART PHOTO: DEAN STUDNICKA, NEBRASKA GAME AND PARKS COMMISSION Call them cougars, mountain lions, or pumas. Americans think they see them everywhere. That's no surprise in the West; strict management helped the predatory cat make a remarkable recovery after "varmint hunters" took numbers very low by the mid-1900s. Eastbound cougars are also turn- ing up in the Midwest. South Dakota has a breed- ing population of 200-plus; just last year, Chicago cops cornered and shot one on the North Side. But Eastern sightings are suspect. Florida has 70 to 100 wild cougars, a remnant from the days when the cat covered the continent. Other folks likely glimpsed a bobcat or a darned big house cat. "Imaginations get carried away," says Clay Nielsen, wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. If you do meet a cougar ---and really, the cat tries to avoid humans---experts say, Don't run! Otherwise, a 150-pound cat might mistake you for a deer dinner. ---Marc Silver Where the Cougars Are Hundreds of sightings are reported to the Cougar Network each year. Those below were confirmed by photo, carcass, or paw print. Established wild cougar range State with confirmation Confirmation of wild cougars outside range, 1990---May 2009 (by county) A CAT MAY BE REPORTED MORE THAN ONCE. 70 10 1 Cougar 75-200 lbs Bobcat 15-30 lbs House cat 8-25 lbs Population Estimates are rough. The U.S. has at least 20,000. California and Oregon have the largest totals: 4,000 to 6,000 each. Dispersal Young males, and some females, will roam 600 miles to find a mate and a home. The line shows one male's trek, through January 2005. Range Four confirmed sightings in the Northeast are not noted here. Experts believe those cougars were escaped pets. 0mi 300 0km 300 TYPICAL ADULT WEIGHT RANGE Cougars are settling in---and climbing up--- in Nebraska.