Cougars Are Taking Back AmericaS

We so often hear about the human "predator" known as the cougar, that we sometimes forget that there are actual animals that inspired the nickname for ladies who go a-huntin' for younger manfolk. But did you know that cougars of the big cat variety very nearly went extinct during the last century? Well, they did, but today researchers reported that they've figured out that the cougar population is rebounding and gradually reclaiming territory where they used to run wild in the Midwest and beyond. Great for them, but what about for the people who now call that territory home?

According to Clay Nielsen, co-author of this cougar study, the animals have found a way "to naturally recolonize the Midwest." They've mostly been found in Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota (where there's long been a known population in the Black Hills). There have been 178 "confirmed cougar sightings" over the past 20 years, and some have been seen as far away as Connecticut. As for what having more of these big cats in our midst might do, it seems unlikely that they'll come and murder us in our homes anytime soon. Nielsen says,

The risk of being attacked by cougars is very, very, very low. Man has much more to fear from fellow humans and many other animals than cougars in the Midwest.

Well, that's a relief. So for the moment we have more to fear from the incessant media coverage of Lady Cougars than we do from big cats. Just be careful if you've got plans to go camping in the Midwest anytime soon. The last thing we need is an "A cougar ate my baby!" situation on our hands.

More cougars making their way back to native Midwest, study finds [MSNBC]

Image via Chris Alcock/Shutterstock.