The Catalogue of Coexistence; Heart of a Lion book tour
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Cougar Habituation: Not Your Beast in the Garden


Judging from social media citations about cougar conflicts, there are two entrenched anomalies poisoning the public's perception of our coexistence with Puma concolor: the unprecedented, 2004 twin attacks in a single day by a single cat in Orange County, CA, and a habituation theory posed in David Baron's sensationally successful Beast in the Garden (2003), that cougar recolonization of Colorado's Front Range was a plague paradigm waiting to happen. It hasn't happened.

Since that January day in 2004, one person has been killed by a mountain lion in the U.S., in rural New Mexico, in 2008. The one long-range, peer-reviewed study of the phenomenon observed that the number of predation incidents - 4-5 every year - is dropping. Meanwhile, someone is killed in a vehicle collision with a deer in the U.S. at least every other day; 20,000 are seriously injured annually. Rest assured, if cougars were killing 3-4 people a week and mauling 20,000 a year, big game militias would be building pyramids again with the heads of the slain marauders.

Telemetry data from research labs like U.C. Santa Cruz's Puma Project is revealing that San Francisco peninsula's suburban cougars are habituating all right, habituating - as Mattson, Logan and Sweanor suggest - to minimize conflicts with us. Sentient beings that they are, cougars get smarter the longer we share neighborhoods (CRF VP John Laundre calls them "the safest neighbors"). And let's remember that it's the trouble-prone youngsters who move the boundaries, adolescents who were on the leading edge of recolonization when Front Range conflicts spiked in the 90's: primary vertebrate population dynamics that never get a mention in Beast in the Garden. Despite the ghastly predictions, things have sure simmered down in the Garden now for three habituated generations.

Refreshing displays of wild felid coexistence disarming the dystopian habituation fantasy are cataloging monthly: 

60 Minutes: Mountain Lions of L.A.

National Wildlife Federation's Beth Pratt's "P-22 Has More Imagination Than I Do" TED Talk.

In the public's worst-case cougar scenario, a Granada Hills, CA school is lock-downed when a cat wanders onto campus. CA Bill 132 requires wildlife officials and first-responders to remove marooned residential cougars with non-lethal force. He was tranquilized, captured, and released back into the hills.

India's Wandering Lions: Nature's breathtaking footage of starlit, communal lion-watching and collaborative hunting between subsistence farmers and the Gir Forest's last Asian lions.

National Geographic's How Wild Animals are Hacking Life in the City.

And Heart of a Lion, Will Stolzenburg's acclaimed new book on the young tom who trekked 2,000 miles from the Black Hills to Connecticut's Gold Coast seeking a mate, without harming a human soul.

The Cougar Rewilding Foundation and Wildlands Network are supporting Will on his book tour through Connecticut & New York. We'll be retracing the intrepid cat's (dubbed Walker) fateful final week on a memorial Connecticut hike celebrating individuals like Walker & L.A.'s P-22, and the urban tribe of Puma concolor, who are teaching tribe Homo sapien daily how to habituate with mountain lions.

Look for the stars of Heart of a Lion, Walker & P-22, to shine soon across the Big Apple.

Christopher Spatz

Graphics courtesy of the Mountain Lion Foundation's Amy Rodrigues

Thank you to Adirondack artist Rod McGiver for the use of his Shadows image on our masthead.

Copyright © 2016 Cougar Rewilding Foundation, All rights reserved.

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