The Quest of the Eastern Cougar

By Robert Tougias

Eastern Cougar
Eastern Cougar
The Quest of the Eastern Cougar
The Quest of the Eastern Cougar - by Robert Tougias

Connecticut –-( What is it about cougars?

Why is there this controversy in the East about resident cougars or pumas living unobtrusively?

For decades wildlife officials have been telling us that they do not exist east of the Mississippi and yet each year there are hundreds of people claiming to see one.

There have been confirmed tracks, scat and DNA. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Society finally and officially declared the species extinct in the East this past spring– but just weeks later there was the case of the Milford, Connecticut cougar road kill.

While it may appear state and federal wildlife agencies have answered all the questions regarding the recent cougar kill in Milford on June 11, 2011 a growing number of biologists and private conservationists find fault in the DNA trail explaining the 1,800 mile trek from South Dakota.

Since the match of the cougars DNA with a pioneer population in the Black Hills of South Dakota, more and more state Fish and Game agencies are disclosing DNA extracted via micro-satellite testing from scats. DNA from places such as New York's Lake George region and Michigan map out the route of the cougar on his way to Connecticut. These tested scats match with the cougar killed in Milford or so they claim — but some skeptics have shown otherwise — both in inconsistencies in testing and in the improbability of the cougar's route.

Already, Greenwich, Connecticut residents and locals doubt the explanation as a transient male in search of a female for what they believe is a resident population of undetected cougars in the Northeast. Wildlife author and active member of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, Robert Tougias, does believe the healthy male cat, that showed no signs of having been in captivity, is one of many male cougars that have escaped the stressed Black Hills population in search of a female.

“This is something we thought would happen but it just surprised us because we didn't think it would so soon. Cougars travel widely in search of females, which are philopatric or faithful to home birthing ranges, they don't disperse and the males will keep going in search for them and new territory”. Tougias, who has just released a new book titled The Quest For The Eastern Cougar, says this cougar is not the first to make a long distance journey from the Black Hills.

Tougias explains the reasoning behind the Milford cougar roadkill and the continued claims of it being a native relic cat from pre European settlement times in his book which discusses the entire eastern cougar topic in detail. Tougias journeys deep into the world of the cougar and into the reasoning of those who believe cougars do exist in the East and those who do not.

He also predicts more cases of cougars turning up here in the East and offers hope of potential recovery for the species. His book The Quest For The Eastern Cougar is available at Barnes and & Amazon or at [email protected]

  • 4 thoughts on “The Quest of the Eastern Cougar

    1. Why is that the return of predators creates an ecology of fear only among grown men? Think about it. You never read or hear women and children crying about the issue.

    2. Hi John,

      Three Florida opinion surveys, of hunters and anglers, of the general public, and of residents near potential release sites showed favorable support for panther reintroductions, ranging from a low of 75 % to a high in the 80s %. From the Duda study cited here,

      “The third statement was: I favor the reintroduction of panthers in my county or surrounding counties. The majority of respondents (77%) agreed with this statement. Specifically, 48% strongly agreed, 29% moderately agreed, 7% moderately disagreed, 11% strongly disagreed, and 5% did not know or had no opinion.”

      Opinion studies in western states also show favorable support for coexisting with cougars. From the Colorado 2004 management guidelines, page 13,

      “Overall attitudes toward mountain lions across metropolitan and suburban communities were very similar, with approximately 80 % of respondents in all having a “positive attitude” toward lions.”

      65 % of South Dakota residents cited in the graph on page 49 of the SD Mountain Lion Management Plan 2010 -2015 wanted to see their Black Hills cougar population remain the same or increase.

      With respect to threats to livestock, the same Colorado study found,

      “Most of the damage claims are not on cattle or sheep, but on “other” livestock such as horses, llamas, alpacas and goats” and that the “primary means of reducing game damage is to educate landowners about livestock practices to minimize the potential for lion depredation” and “by targeting the individual animal that is causing the damage.”

      National Agriculture Statistics Services show cougar depredation way down on the list of cattle caused deaths, much lower than respiratory and digestive problems, calving complications and disease, coyotes and domestic dogs

      As well as for sheep

      A new study published by David Mattson and co-authors last year determined that 29 people have been killed by cougar attacks in the United States and Canada in the last 121 years, and that the average number of annual incidents have gone down in the past ten years. There have been three deaths since 1998.

      The chances of an individual being killed by a cougar is less than almost any other form of accidental death. In the United States alone, 31 people were killed by dogs in 2011. 60 people are killed each year in the US by lightning strikes. About 200 people are killed, and 20,000 injured annually in vehicle collisions with deer, a larger human threat than all other wildlife combined.



    3. The very last thing the eastern U.S. people population needs, is for the introduction of the more aggressive western cougars, with a history of attacks on adults, children, domestic & farmyard animals being turned loose into the eastern forests. For attack data on those more aggressive western cougars, the Eastern Cougar Rewilding Foundation is suggesting to be released in the eastern forests, visit the website of Linda Lewis @
      Its beyond my grasp & the concern of thousands of responsible citizens, why any group would want to deliberately import a more dangerous subspecies, when there are already, a mixed bag of less dangerous native cougars, aka pumas, mountain lions freely roaming all states east of the Mississippi River.

    4. It is my hope the book The Quest For The Eastern Cougar will change the discourse about these sightings and allow for some thought about reintroducing the predator. The controversial point from the sporting/hunting groups is that cougars will deplete the deer herd. One adult healthy cougar takes one deer every ten days and so even with the best results a reintroduced population of a few individual cougars would have a negligible impact on deer. There are about 50,000 deer in the higly industrialized state of Connecticut alone. Cougars are more of an instrument in the age-old evolution of predator and prey. The return of the cougar would create an ecology of fear and keep deer moving or challenging. According to most biologists who have studied the situation this could only help the health of the forest understory, birdlife, water dynamics and other components of the woodland environment. In the end, it has always been the hunting community that embraces many good conservation advancements. It may be the same with predators. After all, think of the many species restored with the support from hunting. With out hunting,there would be far fewer lands, watersheds and species such as turkey and wood ducks. The consumptive use of wildlife has made all of this possible. The Quest For The Eastern Cougar takes a good look at all of this as it answers the question about cougars in your back woodlot. Have you or someone you know seen a cougar in the East? Do they live here? Are the state biologists keeping the evidence a secrete?

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