As U.S. Cougars Rebound, More of the Large Cats Are Heading East

A robust recovery of cougar, or mountain lion, populations in the American West is leading an increasing number of the large predators to recolonize former territory in the Midwest, according to a comprehensive new study. Relying on confirmed sightings from wildlife professionals, tracks, photos and video, DNA evidence, and attacks on livestock, scientists from two Midwestern universities determined that there have been 178 confirmations of the presence of cougars in states such as South Dakota, Arkansas, and Nebraska, as well as in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. In one well-publicized case, a male cougar traveled 1,800 miles through a handful of Midwestern states before winding up in Connecticut. Cougars were virtually extirpated from Eastern and Midwestern states in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in the past few decades they have been migrating from their more rugged habitats in the West. The study was published in The Journal of Wildlife Management.