Cougars May Recolonize the Middle of the United States in 25 Years

First Posted: Nov 06, 2015 05:02 PM EST

Cougars may actually recolonize the middle part of the United States within the next 25 years. Researchers have taken a closer look at the cougar population and have found that this large predator may be on the verge of making a comeback.

In this latest study, the researchers looked at large-scale population viability of cougars. The scientists examined more than 40 years worth of data on demographics and geographical information on more than 3 million square kilometers in order to determine possible areas of population establishment. The researchers specifically looked at the female dispersal since population settlement is dependent on the arrival of females in a given area.

"We didn't just look at where they are now, but where they could go," said Michelle LaRue, one of the researchers, in a news release. "These are predictive models, but we feel that our study could be an important tool for conservation of this species and education about a large carnivore that can sometimes incite fear."

Breeding populations of cougars are already living in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and researchers know there are four breeding populations in North Dakota and Nebraska. This latest study shows that the cougars could spread to Arkansas, Missouri and Nebraska in the next two decades.

"The reason cougars used to exist across the country and now they don't is because of people," said Clayton K. Nielsen, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Now that this large carnivore is expected to come back into new areas, we need to have a clear plan for education and conservation."

The findings are published in the journal Ecological Modelling.

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