EXTIRPATION AND RECOLONIZATION OF MOUNTAIN LIONS IN THE EASTERN UNITED STATES: IMPLICATIONS FOR CONSERVATION IN THE FAR WEST.
Lynn M. Cullens; Mountain Lion Foundation; PO Box 1896, Sacramento, CA, 95812; (916) 606-1610; LCullens@mountainlion.org; Robert B. Wielgus, Jay Tischendorf, David Furedy, Rachel A. Masoud
Although the record of extirpation is incomplete, the reality is undeniable. The mountain lion (Puma concolor) once ranged coast to coast, and the impact of its absence within Eastern ecosystems is profound. A human population a tenth the size of today's was able to eliminate every breeding population east of the Rockies and north of Florida within 200 years. While many would argue that the species' resilience and adaptability make it impossible to imagine such an outcome in the West, pockets of mountain lions already exhibit signs of severe genetic isolation, and human-caused mortality appears to be at a historic high. While the "comeback cat" is hailed by the media, we see crossed eyes and kinked tails in Southern California, and worry that over-hunting in the Black Hills may create the very conflicts that will eventually decrease human tolerance of local and dispersing lions. But we believe that eastern states can serve as vast examples of what happens when you lose a major predator, compelling western states to take heed. And as western states take a more tolerant, measured, and scientific approach to mountain lions, their experience and best practices will have an influence on agencies in the East.
The Anthropocene: Decline & Extinction I