Pumas are the real masters to sneak up unnoticed and very rarely come out of the shadows. Silently and imperceptibly one slowly conquering their former habitats.
A warm winter day in Southern California and buses loaded with tourists arriving on the plateau overlooking Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. And while their guides showing building film studios and villas well-known star, Jeff Šikići, a biologist from the National mountain recreation areas of Santa Monica, directs my gaze toward the narrow belt of forest in the distance. About a dozen of months ago a young male cougar made his way to the Santa Monica Mountains that thin green band right in the great human hive. Having somehow crossed over two very busy highway, including the Hollywood freeway with ten lanes, settled in Griffith Park whose hills rise directly behind us, and who is known worldwide for its large inscription HOLLYWOOD.
Following a signal from a radio collar on the animal Šikići leads me beside the famous slope of the hill. Identifies the exact place where the cat is now, and then we go to check where lingered to make meals. We discover the remains of two deer in odvučenih gustišžbunja. The remains of a third lying in a ravine, next haired dog lawn cemetery where deer often graze. Along the way we encounter many people who walk dogs, watching birds, walk, run, ride bikes or riding horses, as well as many of those who came to the funeral. If only we knew that here lurking unseen but potentially deadly beast would certainly have been such a carefree.
“In the mountains of Santa Monica has room for only ten to fifteen pumas,” says Šikići. “Overall the territory of one adult male there is about 500 square kilometers. But since adults, stronger males guard their territory, this young male had to go and find their own home. Griffith Park occupies less than 18 square kilometers, but it looks like our guy here managed to find everything he needs to survive. “
Just imagine: big carnivore that must kill to eat meets their needs for food in the middle of one of the busiest parts of Los Angeles, and in doing so effectively hidden even from the stars fleeing paparazzi. How to do it? Thus, moving almost silently, mostly at dusk or at night, keeping constant the large shelter. On a strict watch to preserve your privacy in the metropolis, which just goes to the highest stage of glory.
With distribution range that extends from southern Argentina and Chile all the way to the edge of the Yukon in Canada Puma concolor, also known as the cougar, the most widely widespread mammals in the western hemisphere, and one of those least seen. In North America it is known as a mountain lion, although it is actually far closer to the cheetah and other smaller cats than the African lion and other big cats. Equally inhabits the humid tropical lowlands and mountains. In North America, cougars are mainly inhabited by mountain areas because it was the last refuge of the settlers and their guns, traps and poisons, as well as government programs for the extermination of large carnivores.
Once inhabited by cougars are 48 states, from the east to the west coast, or at the beginning of the twentieth century there were still only in inaccessible areas of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Coast and Southwest. (The only exception is sub-species known as the Florida panther, which is still held in the vast wetlands of the country.) Finally, the Western countries have abolished rewards for killing of cougars, which were paid much more in the 1960s. A 1972 federal law prohibits the use of poison against predators on state land. Puma began increasingly to be treated as a game species with a legally regulated hunting season. And for the first time in 300 years, their numbers began to grow. So began the return of large carnivores, whose recovery has far broader access and greater consequences than the hyped and much more controversial return of grizzly bears and wolves.
40 years pumas began increasingly to spread throughout the western United States. Penetrated to the east, the Great Plains, by creating a new population in Brejks Missouri, Montana, North and South Dakota, and recently also in western Nebraska. According to a growing number of confirmed reports – more than 200 since 1990 – cougars advocated in almost all states in the Midwest and the Canadian province in the north. As in the case of Pumas from Griffith Park, these passengers are usually young males seeking new territory. Only a small part remains, while others continue on, probably in search of females, or become victims of nervous farmers, local police officers, poaching or traffic. Boldest of these researchers was killed in 2011 when he was hit by a jeep at the exit from the highway in Milford, Connecticut, on which they wrote the newspaper. On the basis of genetic tests established that this animal came from the Black hills of South Dakota, prevalivši more than 3,220 kilometers, which set a record in the length of travel of a four-legged animal on the North American continent.
Hunting and Fishing Ministry of the United States was just declared that the eastern cougar subspecies extinct when in Milford died one male from South Dakota. Two years later in a wooded suburb, just a block away from where the cougar was killed, a resident of Gari Đanoti told me that he recently drove another cougar with his back porch.
“Here we have a large population of deer, turkey and wild rabbits and raccoons,” says Gianoti. “I’m always seeing traces of a pumas.” He turned on his cell phone and showed me pictures of big cat paw prints in the snow. “There must be a permanent population of pumas in Connecticut,” insists Gianoti. He referred me to a site where there are a lot of complaints that they noticed a pumas or their tracks. “But none of the authorities did not want to bother with that.”
Stories about allegedly reliable access order cougar, creepy night meowing male or fresh catches of wild animals with typical feline tooth trace of the larynx are transmitted from generation to generation, from Maine to the southern Appalachian mountains. Since 1960 the authorities have arrived at the thousands of applications on the alleged access order cougars in the East. As a rule, whenever such a case investigated, it turned out to be that these are all the other animals not only pumas. The strange thing is that a third of people describing what she saw as a black panther, although no scientist has ever found any trace of a black cougar in North America. But not all cougar sightings in the East, the fruit of illusions; Experts have confirmed that more than one hundred applications were true. Mostly these were the animals that escaped from captivity or were intentionally released. In other cases, the origin of the cats remained unclear.
AS TYPE Pumas concolor goes better than other big cats in the world. How long will arrive at the track his return, depends primarily on how much the public is willing to tolerate them. And this in turn depends on how many people know the truth about these cats.
From the 1890s onwards in the United States and Canada recorded 145 cases of cougar attacks on humans. Only twenty of these attacks (an average of one every six years) ended fatally. At least a third of these attacks occurred in the last twenty years. Increasing the number of pumas, as well as increasing numbers of people in rural areas and lead to greater opportunities for attacks.
As a typical ambush hunters that are most active after dark, pumas are very difficult to spot. But with technology that allows the movement of these mysterious Pumas monitored 24 hours slowly disappearing and the mysteries that have been previously wrapped.
Patrick Landry is a biologist who works in the project “Teton Cougar” long study conducted in the area of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. In a field station in Kelly Landry of the latest data by means of the satellite receives the radio-collar a couple of cougars. With a few mouse clicks on a computer on these figures converted into points on a detailed satellite image of the entire area, which enables him to monitor the movement of cats virtually in real time. And to observe the animals themselves, put the memory card from automatic cameras mounted in places last catch. Using natural light during the day and night infrared cameras tirelessly recorded and photos and video clips, while bringing a lot of all sorts of surprises. “Every day is like a little Christmas,” said Landry as the monitor of his computer to see two adult males, the natural rival, how to shift food hunted deer. While one eats, the other is resting a few feet away. “I do not think anyone has ever seen anything like this. Our cougars doing something that none of them would have expected. “
Another outstanding example is the female marked as F61. When she and her siblings had six months ago, close to killing a young female whose suddenly become orphans. Next week is the mother of orphan F61 allowed to eat the prey with her and her cubs. From day to day mixed pups are doing more and more to play and eat together, and even licked each other their rough tongues. This is the first known case of adoption among others cougar cubs.
A few years later, the now grown-F61 and F51 her neighbor had youth around the same time. (F51 was otherwise one of those orphans.) Two families were often met, handed out food and wandered along the spring. At the end of the F61 began to grown offspring other females seemed to her, which is the second case of adoption.
During my first visit to Teton in November 2012. The two females had a new litter. When I returned a few months later, the F51 lost two young wolves that have drowned. And one cub F61 seems to have met the same fate, according to a radio signal that can not move. Landry and his supervisor Mark Elbroč they went on snowshoes according to the signal and found no traces cougar mixed with wolf tracks. There were traces of blood in the snow, like a pumas claw marks on the bark of a tree.
Shortly after the attacks of wolves F61 ušatog caught a deer, so the researchers set up remote cameras near the prey. As suspected, video footage showed that he truly lost one cub. Also footage also revealed an unexpected new addition – an adult male who was eating with his family.
“We assumed that males and females mate during the breeding season,” says Elbroč. “But more and more I see in the video how the male and female parts of the prey. On one occasion we counted seven pumas at once on the same prey – males, two females and four young. Let me video footage. They looked like a pack of American lions.
An earlier study of glacier national park in Montana revealed that wolves from Canada were re-settled in the area occasionally killing cougars and that they often force the prey. Biologists have observed the same thing in Yellowstone National Park after the resettlement of wolves in the mid-1990s. Over the past decade packs of wolves have spread south to the area of Tetona, which is the local cougars led into a difficult position to defend their young prey. Are cougars respond so they started to come together in packs, like someone said? Or they behaved as they always behaved cougars, which only now can detect scientists who observe them.
We do not know to what extent wolves affect the social behavior of cougars, or have an impact on some forms of their behavior, that’s for sure. In Yellowstone National Park, for example, cougars were previously chased by valleys and ravines shrubby, but now prefer steeper terrain with denser forests, which provide them with a better shelter. But now that the wolves have moved into the area Tetona, cougars are rarely seen by valleys.
“In the last sixty years, since the biological sciences modernized, most animal communities that study did not have a superior predator,” says Howard Quigley, managing ecologist from the Organization for the Protection of big cats “Panters” which supervises the project “Teton Cougar” in cooperation with the Institute “Craig Head Beringija Saut”. “Here in the Teton and Yellowstone grizzly bears and cougars have managed to survive all national pogroms directed against the bloodthirsty beasts. With the addition of wolves that grew into a major zoological experiment is a reconstruction of the entire ecosystem of North America. This is a rare opportunity to find out how these systems work. “
Cougar is now most common kind in top predator in the third of the 48 federal states. The remaining two-thirds, and generally there is a larger carnivorous mammal. Either way, the big cat whose main feature is that it creeps up unnoticed so far is the only big carnivore that modern society is so-so willing to accept or at least tolerate. But people would want to know what all the problems can be expected. In addition to fear for their safety, people who live in the suburbs or in the country fear for their pets, while ranchers and farmers concerned about livestock. But the loudest shouts for action in connection with the cougars are still hunters, who see them as direct competitors in the hunt for deer.
“If you ask some hunters here, will tell you that the forest is no longer anything left of the game,” said David Gray, a former game warden and now mayor of Hill City in South Dakota. After frequent complaints hunters state commissioners on bile public meetings permitted quota caught cougar was erected in 2013 to 100 units of a total population of about 300 animals although the number of deer actually fell because they were heavily hunted by humans.
On the hunting regulations affect science, politics, economics, and social traditions. Thus, the regulations for hunting cougars vary considerably from region to region, from one state to another. In Texas, for example, cougars are still classified as pests; You can kill them whenever you want and where you want. In contrast, California has banned the hunting of cougars since 1972 and that is why there are now more than in any other state. California also has a large population of deer and one of the lowest rates in the number of conflicts between cougars and humans. How is it possible?
Adhering to the foreign currency that each killed a cougar means more game for hunters in some states to Kill the largest possible number of pumas allowed people from hunting believe that the population can tolerate. Usually pay the highest price adult males, which are considered trophy hunters. But as the biggest, most powerful, most of the territory they hold and force young males to leave, thus limiting the total number of cougars in one area.
Research by Robert vilgas, a professor at Washington State University, conducted with his associates showed that when caught too many adult males, young males to break away immediately vacated territory. In the fierce competition with each other most of them is banished to the very brim of the free territory, often near human settlements. At the same time, females can spread to move and avoid encounters with unknown males, sometimes drown the cubs.
Vilgas summarizes their surprising discovery: “Excessive fishing can lead to an increase in the total number of cougars, increased attacks on wildlife and frequent conflicts with people – in other words, to completely the opposite of what you wanted to achieve.”
Instead of increasing the quota caught cougar, vilgas recommended that the quota limit and equalize with their natural increase, which is about 14 percent per year. The Federal State of Washington has recently adopted this practice. Having received great support from many biologists, said the strategy could become a standard for the hunting of cougars – and possibly other large predators – which would considerably facilitate their coexistence with people.
Many think it is very important that in nature there is something big and scary, something that is angry and what inflames the imagination. And scientists think this is important because many ecosystems based on large carnivores in them play a key role. In the absence of large carnivores and due to the declining popularity of the sport of hunting white-tailed deer have become a danger to drivers, the temptation for gardeners and carriers of ticks that transmit Lyme disease. Since there are no predators that would eliminate the weak and sick animals, there is a spread of other infectious diseases and parasites. And how uncontrolled deer graze all the bushes and saplings of trees, slowly but surely disappearing and parts of the old North American forests.
Nobody says that cougars should be on every piece of local woods, but why not in large state-owned forests in the Great Lakes, and New York’s Adirondack, or perhaps the Ozark Plateau. These are all parts of which are cougars visited in previous years. Where cougars will be tomorrow or in ten years, no one knows. But there is a good chance that they will continue to return to their former territories. As Howard Quigley said: “This is one of the most successful large carnivores on the planet.”