Cougars are beautiful, elusive wild cats. They are known by several names including, Painter, Florida Panther and Mountain Lion among others. In Latin America, the Puma concolor is commonly called Puma. Just as their habitats vary among wide ranges, so does the color of their coats. Depending on their environment, their coats may be brown, sandy tan, light silver or gray. Their offspring are born with spots that diminish into a shiny coat when they become adults. No matter how dark or light the cougar is in color, it can surely hide in the background within its habitat. Although there are about 30,000 mountain lions in the western part of the world, some are considered to be endangered (Unknown). For example, there are less than 100 Florida Panthers (also called the Puma concolor coryi) still trying to survive. Outside of the United States, cougars have set up domains in Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. They live under so many threats. Their hope lies in the hands of special groups that engage in conservation efforts. The relentless evils against them include: human population growth. This goes in hand with development expansion that encroaches on their habitats. Hunting also punishes the cougar population with deadly force. The purpose of this document is to examine one location of endangered cougars and review explanations for what hinders their potential to survive.
The number one excuse for killing cougars is the threat that they impose on humans and their livestock. According to the United States Fish and Wild Life Service, European immigrants killed eastern cougars for this reason. People were enticed by a bounty offered for killing cougars. Hunting other animals also hurt the cougar. White-tailed deer were wiped off of the wild cat menu which hurt cougars tremendously (Wendi). An example of a painful consequence is the mother cougars fighting starvation. She had to do this while trying to nourish her young and protect them from other. This problem is coupled with lawless hunting, harsh and winters. The outcome was the complete extinction of the eastern cougar. It was not enough to heartlessly hunt cougars. Their favorite meals were swiped away from them as well. The range of the eastern cougar included states such as Maine, Georgia, Missouri, eastern Illinois and the northern lands of Michigan and eastern Canada. The last record of the eastern cougar was in the 1930’s.
After reviewing the historical explanation for the demise of an endangered group of cougars, it should be an event that remains in the past. However, even in this current day the state of Nebraska profits from the hunt of mountain lions. Florida panthers are critically endangered (Caper). Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act was passed by the United States Congress in 1973. This declared hunting, capturing, collecting or other hurtful activities to be illegal. One of the very first species to take a rightful place on the endangered species list was the Florida panther. Other than excessive hunting, the Florida panther habitat was stolen by imperialistic man. This inhibited their ability to safely breed and isolate protective land for their young. The good news is that their population numbers are increasing due to the success of the Genetic Restoration Program of South Florida (Williams). There are still other places in the world where the cougar is considered to be endangered. For instance, the lower Colorado River cougar or Yuma puma and the southernmost population in Central America P. costaricensis has also declined in numbers (Hansen). Sadly due to lack of data, the status of many cougar populations throughout the Americas remains unknown.
There were other threats that landed the Florida panthers onto the endangered species list. From 1979 to 1991, almost 50 percent of documented mortality of the Florida cats was due to collisions with autos (Hansen). Cougars have been known to get killed by a train, such as an incident in Colorado. Irrigation canals, wells and other large pools of water have become drowning sites for some cougars. These causes of death are not likely to decline since construction continues to impose on their natural habitats. Finally, like many species of animals in the wild, cougars are most vulnerable during three times in their lives. When they are newborns, the mother leaves them in protective dens to hide them from other predators, but she knowingly stands a chance of returning with food and no infants to feed. Foxes and other hungry animals may take advantage of the vulnerable infants. The next part of their lives when life can be painfully shortened is during the transition to adulthood. If they step into unfamiliar territory without protective, parental guidance and with under-developed hunting skills, they simply smell like an easy meal for wiser, more experienced enemies. Elderly cougars die from age associated conditions in areas where no hunting takes place. Their teeth get old, they lose weight and consequently have less energy to hunt and survive extreme weather conditions. Starvation marks their natural graves.
In conclusion, cougars are amazingly graceful, surprisingly shy and intelligent creatures of the wild. They are concerned for their home, young and biological needs just like their insensitive human enemies. They are slowly defying and steering away from the black hole of extinction in Florida. This is due to Congressional laws and the efforts of conservation groups. Historically, cougars were slaughtered with the excuse that they were a hazardous threat to humans and their farm animals. They were also legally hunted for sport and killing cougars drove profits for many careless people. Like all living things, cougars make a small (yet significant) contribution to mother-nature’s maintenance of homeostatic balance. Abuse of the planet’s natural resources such as forests and water not only hurts the cougars, but it hurts all forms of life and entire ecosystems. Surprisingly, there is still time to reverse the downward slope towards the permanent extinction of cougars.
Caper, William. Florida Panthers Struggle For Survival. New York, N.Y.: Bearport Publishing Company, 2008. Print.
Hansen, Kevin. "Cougar: The American Lion." Mountain Lion Foundation. Mountain Lion Foundation, 2014. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.
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Wendi, Weber. United States. Fish and Wildlife Services. Eastern Cougar. Hadley, Massachussetts : U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, 2011. Web. <http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ecougar/qa.html>.
Williams, Stephen L. "The Florida Panther." The Florida Panther Society Inc.. Christopher B. Davis, 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.