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Groups Give Cougar Talks Around New Mexico

Date
July 7, 2008
Contact
WildEarth Guardians
In This Release
Wildlife

Monday, July 7, 2008
Groups Give Cougar Talks Around New Mexico

Cougars of New Mexico: Natural History, Conservation, & Co-Existence
Contact: WildEarth Guardians

WildEarth Guardians and Animal Protection of New Mexico are giving 5 talks in New Mexico called “Cougars of New Mexico: Natural History, Conservation, & Co-Existence” between July 9th and July 16th – venues and times below.

The presence of cougars (Puma concolor) in desert ecosystems can have several beneficial top-down effects. Cougars (also known as mountain lions or panthers) increase biological diversity in both plant and animal communities and increase the functionality of rare Western riparian systems. A recent Utah study showed that by modulating deer populations, cougars prevent overgrazing. The result: more cottonwoods, rushes, cattails, wildflowers, amphibians, lizards, and butterflies, and deeper, narrower and cooler stream channels.

A survey of New Mexico residents indicates that most people appreciate the beauty and majesty of New Mexico’s most magnificent cat. Sleek and regal, cautious and cagey, mountain lions evoke myriad mythical associations. These large golden cats, shy and unsocial by nature, prefer rugged terrain that is suitable for ambushing their large prey, such as mule deer and elk. On rare occasion they kill humans.

“The fatal attack by a cougar on Robert Nawojski of Piños Altos around June 17th underscores the need for more co-existence education in New Mexico and mindful vigilance in cougar country,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, Carnivore Protection Director for WildEarth Guardians. She added, “Cougar attacks rarely occur, and they are generally avoidable if we exercise common sense precautions in cougar country.”

The scientific literature indicates approximately 100 non-fatal attacks on humans by cougars, and 18 fatal attacks from 1890 to June 2008-with two of those fatalities occurring in New Mexico. The number of fatal attacks is approximately 1 every 6 years (although most attacks have occurred since the 1990s as more people find themselves living and recreating in cougar habitat). The chance of a fatal cougar attack is roughly 1 in 1.2 billion each year per person in the United States.

Ironically, exploiting (killing) cougars can exacerbate negative interactions between cougars and people or livestock according to several studies. One Utah research project showed that the removal of 40% of the adult population for four years or more reduced the number of individuals in a population, and created a demographic structure that was younger, produced fewer kittens, and was socially unstable. Therefore, both hunting and predator control programs could potentially destabilize a cougar population, which could, ironically, lead to increased human and cougar conflicts. Management of cougars can affect the behavior of individuals.

“Cougar attacks occur very rarely, because they specialize on deer, elk, and other smaller animals like rabbits and porcupines,” said Debbie Risberg of Animal Protection of New Mexico. “We encourage people to come out and hear these informative talks-after such a tragedy, people need to have access to excellent information,” she added.

AlbuquerqueWednesday, July 9, 7:30 PMO’Neill’s PubCommunity Room3211 Central NE

TaosThursday, July 10, 7 PMTaos Convention Center120 Civic Center Plaza Drive

TijerasMonday, July 14, 7 PMLos Vecinos Community Center478 ? Old Highway 66

RuidosoTuesday, July 15, 7 PMRuidoso Senior Center501 Sudderth Drive #A

Santa FeWednesday, July 16, 7 PMSanta Fe Downtown Library145 Washington Street

Other Contact
The presence of cougars (Puma concolor) in desert ecosystems can have several beneficial top-down effects. Cougars (also known as mountain lions or panthers) increase biological diversity in both plant and animal communities and increase the functionality of rare Western riparian systems. A recent Utah study showed that by modulating deer populations, cougars prevent overgrazing. The result: more cottonwoods, rushes, cattails, wildflowers, amphibians, lizards, and butterflies, and deeper, narrower and cooler stream channels.
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