Laundre’s ecology research in Yellowstone after wolves were restored to the national park in 1995 was the first to identify how predator presence changes prey vigilance and browsing behavior.
“Cougars hunt at the edges of rivers and in forests that provide lots of cover,” said the author of the 2012 book “Phantoms of the Prairie: The Return of Cougars to the Midwest.” “Deer learn where they are in most danger from predators, which self-restricts where they feed; plants start coming back that the deer would normally just vacuum up.”
‘SHEPHERDS OF DEER’
His groundbreaking Yellowstone study and subsequent research found that “wolves and cougars are, in a sense, shepherds of these wild herds of deer, keeping them from overgrazing the forest.”
Considering years of cougar predation studies, his Adirondack analysis suggests that cougars annually would take about 8 percent of the Forest Preserve’s estimated 50,000 to 80,000 white-tailed deer, a number he called easily sustainable in conjunction with the current hunter harvest and wildlife management protocols.
“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,” Laundre said.
A visiting instructor in SUNY Oswego’s Department of Biological Sciences and an expert in wildlife ecology and conservation, Laundre is vice president of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation.