Wednesday, August 10, 2011

COUGAR: The Eastern Cougar never was a myth ... proof from the past

I quite admire Bruce S. Wright for his work many years ago. Bruce's view was that scientific papers are nice but getting the facts to the public is nicer. He wrote on many fascinating subjects and, in fact, authored numerous scientific papers and a couple of books on the Eastern Cougar.

For those who think they have debunked stories about the existence of this elusive creature, Bruce was credited with resolving the issue of whether or not the East Cougar was indeed extinct. To do this, he collected evidence from the Maritimes, Maine and elsewhere and in his book "The Ghost of North America" provided proof that the Eastern Cougar actually existed here in the Quoddy Region. But time passes and, it seems, we must once more "prove" the existence of this "ghost".

While not the usual beautiful images that we try for here on ILQW, the following photos of a cougar kill were taken at Lepreau River in August, 1953.

The photo of a cougar skin was from an animal shot in Kent County in 1932. All of the photos are from Bruce's book. I found one copy on Amazon for anyone who is interested in purchasing this fascinating tale. The Ghost of North America, the Story of the Eastern Panther
Lieutenant-Commander Bruce S. Wright served with the RCN during the Second World War, and was instrumental in forming and commanding the "Sea Reconnaissance Unit," termed "The Frogmen of Burma," serving under Admiral Lord Mountbatten in South East Asia. On his return from military service, he became director of the Northeast Wildlife Station at the University of New Brunswick. From:

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  1. Steve Tinker wrote:
    > Art,
    > This article appeared in a Sci. American blog last week. Although I personally don't doubt the existence of the eastern cougar, this article proves they are here, eastern or not. Animals move, just like the pure wolf that was shot in Mass. Last year. They theorized that it travelled down the Adirondacks from Quebec to its eventual demise in New England, just like this cougar.
    > Steve

  2. Hi Steve.

    Yeah the road kill in New England is what spurred the cougar posts. Actually the DNA brings up the whole taxonomy mess. So clearly 1. they are the same species, 2. previously different populations were designated as different subspecies based largely on measurements, color, and other dubious criteria, 3. DNA now identifies specific populations. tribes, ecotypes, whatever you choose to call them.

    My stand is these tribes will have variations in their DNA. But since "nature abhors a vacuum" animals on the fringes of these populations are always seeking new suitable territory and mates. Should they succeed in forming a new or modified local "tribe" they will in a dynamic way alter the DNA signature over time.

    BUT, if it takes up residence here, it is, defacto, an eastern cougar! More particularly, the habits and large range make sightings difficult. But there are enough, plus occasional scat, hair, tracks etc., to indicate they have and still exist as a local tribe, modified or not!

    What say you?