Mountain Lion Attacks Are Increasing – But Why?

Image: Eric Kilby, CC BY-SA 2.0

What’s really behind all the recent cougar conflicts

Wes Siler, Apr 11, 2019

OUTSIDE – Mountain lions sure are in the news a lot, right?

There was the deadly attack outside Seattle last May, the woman who was killed on Mount Hood, in Oregon, in October, then the Colorado jogger who killed a cougar with his bare hands in February, and now a mom on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who saved her son from a hungry cat.

Are these incidents connected or part of a larger trend?

“What we’re seeing is a statistical anomaly,” says Lynn Cullens, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, a conservation group.

She says that attacks by the cat are so rare that we simply don’t have good data on them.Wild Cattle, Pit Bulls Terrorize California Hikers

In the past 100 years, there have been fewer than two dozen fatal cougar attacks in North America.

Before the current swarm of events, there hadn’t been a fatal attack on this continent since 2008. Suddenly, in the last year, there have been two, which, according to Cullens, may feel like a trend but “just isn’t.”

Populations Are Recovering

There may be more mountain lions in the woods today than there were just a few decades ago.

When Europeans began settling the continent, they saw cougars as both competition for game and a threat to their own lives.

Unregulated market hunting and bounties for dead cats eventually extirpated mountain lions, which had once roamed the entire lower 48, from most of the East Coast outside of Florida.

By the mid-1900s, mountain lions lived in only a few isolated pockets of territory in the Rocky Mountains and westward.

Conservation efforts created protections for the species, which has slowly been returning to more of its historic range.

Cullens notes that efforts to count mountain lion populations remain rudimentary and are frustrated by the shy nature of the cats. … Read more. 

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