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January 9, 2013

Professor suggests cougar reintroduction to Adirondacks

OSWEGO — A SUNY Oswego biology faculty member suggests that a forest preserve in the Adirondack Mountains can accommodate the reintroduction 150 to 350 cougars, challenging previous findings.

In an article titled “The Feasibility of Northeastern U.S. Supporting the Return of Cougars,” published Jan. 8 in the international conservation journal Oryx, Dr. John Laundre cites cougars’ successful return to the urban interface of western cities and compares their recovery to similarly developed habitats in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Cypress National Preserve of southern Florida.

In proposing to return the cougar to the New York State Forest Preserve, Laundre provides an updated re-evaluation of a 1981 study by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry biologist emeritus Rainer Brocke, who concluded that road density would hinder any chance of cougar recovery to the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park.

“Thirty years ago, everyone thought cougars needed to live in the most remote places,” said Laundre, who studied the Western hemisphere’s second-largest cat for 20 years in Idaho and Mexico, “but they’ve demonstrated that they are as adaptable as coyotes.”

He cited the black bear’s comeback in New Jersey as further evidence of the viability of this kind of re-introduction.

He emphasized that a small population of cougars safely co-exists in the Santa Monica Mountains of West Los Angeles, north of Malibu.

“There’s even a young, radio-collared male running around LA’s Griffith Park,” he said in a news release. “That’s like taking up residence in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.”

LOSS OF PREY

The cougar was wiped out of the Adirondacks by the end of the 19th century after prey such as the white-tailed deer was market hunted nearly to extermination, combined with state-sponsored predator bounty programs.

Laundre noted that white-tailed deer have recovered to super-saturation, critically threatening forest regeneration throughout the state, a pending ecosystem collapse highlighted in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2011 State Forest Management Plan.

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