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The Reintroduction of Cougars in the Adirondacks Should be Considered

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Cougars in the Adirondacks: Should it Happen?

Reintroducing the Long Absent Cougar into the Ecosystem

A Cougar. Photo Courtesy of DEC NY.If we keep the promise we’ve inherited from our forefathers, ensuring our state parks are preserved for our children and their children’s children, then NYDEC needs to expedite the study for the reintroduction of cougars into the Adirondacks.

John Laundre, a wildlife expert who conducted extensive research on cougars in Idaho and who also teaches at SUNY Oswego said that the Adirondacks could be home to between 150 to 350 mountain lions, should strides be made to reintroduce the animals.

Successful at encouraging public discussion as well as implementing a system of protected land and hunted areas where cougars exist, Laundre said in a Times Union article written by Brian Nearing, “These big cats are an essential element in healthy ecosystems.”

A diverse ecosystem in the Adirondacks is vital to the sustainability of the entire region. Plants that produce oxygen, microorganisms that decompose waste products and recycle nutrients, insects and birds that pollinate vegetation are examples of biodiversity.

As of late, evidence that the park’s ecosystem is very much imbalanced points to the invasive species that continue to wreak havoc on indigenous plants and animals. So it stands to reason why Laundre would describe how the woods in the northeast are being damaged by the droves of white-tailed deer that have no major predators like cougars.

“The fear element for cougars by the public is unfounded. They are not going to take our children while they are waiting for the bus, or decimate the deer population,” Laundre said. “The Adirondacks can support a population of cougars. What is now required is the will to bring them  back.”

He compared the roadways and human density in the Adirondacks, comprised of 6 million acres, to South Dakota and Florida, where there are known cougar habitats.

NYSDEC spokesperson Lori Severino said in the Times Union article “Study: Adirondacks could support cougar comeback” there are no current plans underway for the cougar reintroduction.  A biological assessment and a survey to determine public support would have to occur before anything else happens.

If reintroduced back, a full population of cougars would kill roughly 8 percent of the forest preserve’s 50,000 to 80,000 white-tailed deer, Laundre estimated. That figure would still leave plenty enough game for hunters.

Although there have been reports of cougar sightings since they became extinct in New York state in the late 1890s, many of those claims have been debunked by wildlife scientists that went out to investigate any findings in search of their existence.

The last study on the reintroduction of cougars was conducted in 1981. The idea was squelched by there being too many roads, too many people living in the region for the cougars to dwell. Laundre did his own research to prove that the old study was inconclusive and outdated based on more recent findings cited in his study, published in Oryx, an international conservation journal.

A small number of cougars lived unharmed in the mountains of California. “There’s even a young, radio-collared male wandering around Los Angeles’ Griffith Park,” Laundre said. “If 5,000 cougars can co-exist with 37 million people in California, then the cougar’s ancestral home, our nation’s first wilderness, the Adirondacks, can certainly support  them.”

Though this might result in progress for the preservation of this great and mighty creature, there is still cause for concern. Severino said that the resident species that are threatened or endangered must come first before another animal like the cougar can be considered for a reintroduction program. How many years will that take?

Diana Denner is a Contributor to The Free George

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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