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The feasibility of the north-eastern USA supporting the return of the cougar Puma concolor

  • John W. Laundré (a1)

The cougar Puma concolor was part of the pre-European fauna of the north-eastern USA. It was extirpated in the late 1800s and since the late 1900s there have been discussions concerning its reintroduction to the region. One site considered is Adirondack State Park in northern New York. In 1981 an assessment of the feasibility of returning cougars concluded that the Park had adequate prey and forest cover to support a small population of cougars but that conflicts with humans would cause the demise of this population within 10 years. Thus reintroduction at that time was not advised. Since then knowledge of cougar ecology and how cougars interact with humans has increased substantially. Based on information compiled since the 1980s I conducted a landscape-scale analysis to assess whether cougars could live in the Park. The results indicate that cougars could occupy 15,300–17,000 km2 (61–69%) of the Park, with minimal contact with human habitation. Based on reported cougar densities the Park could support a population of 150–350 cougars. These cougars would consume < 10% of the adult deer population annually and fawn production would be sufficient to replace these losses. Human and road densities in the Park are similar to those of the Black Hills, South Dakota and southern Florida, both of which have viable populations of cougars. I concluded that Adirondack State Park could support a population of cougars. What is now required is the will to bring them back.

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