***We don’t know the puma population in the United States.***
In 2002, the puma AKA cougar was ‘one of the few large predators in North America that people can legally chase with dogs and hunt for sport’¹. I am sure things have changed at least a little bit over the past ten years and hunting is banned in California. Once again hard data in one source is hard to find. Actually it is hard to find it in any sources, anywhere. Information about puma population size is as fragmented as the puma’s habitat. I had the same problems trying to compile bobcat and lynx fur trade statistics.
The point I am making is that if we don’t know for sure what the population of the puma is in the USA how can we judge whether it is sustainable to hunt this cat? And another thing I hate the word “harvest” in reference to killing cats for sport. It is horribly symptomatic of human arrogance and a lack empathy with nature, which will cost us dear in the long term.
The best book on wild cat species, The Wild Cats of the World does not quote puma population figures except the well known population size of the Florida puma (70-80 individual cats) which they say is estimated (published 2002). More potential inaccuracy. Disappointingly, they use the word ‘harvest’ by the way.
The Red List™ says that the cougar population at 1990 was 10,000 in the ‘western US’. As this cat is confined to western US (bar the odd wandering individual), 10,000 is the total USA population of the puma. The Red List™ should be the definitive source because it is their role to assess the survivability of wild species in the wild. If you don’t know population sizes you cannot work out the conservation status of the species.
The Red List figure is completely in conflict with the Defenders of Wildlife website, which states a figure three times larger: 30,000! Where did that come from?
What else have we got for a figure? More guesswork, I guess. Wikipedia cannot provide an overall figure for the USA. They quote these figures:
- Oregon: 5,000 (2006)
- California: 4,000 to 6,000
The combined total of these two states in potentially larger than the Red List™ total for the USA. This discrepancy is to be expected.
Another really good book on the wild cat species Great Cats has no figures on population sizes.
Cambridge Journals Environmental Conservation, “Interpreting puma (Puma concolor) population estimates for theory and management” makes it clear that there has been inappropriate extrapolation of puma densities and densities cannot be used to assess population size. We draw another blank and we can see that estimates are in general unreliable.
Wiley Online, another scientific journal in their article, “Managing puma hunting in the western United States: through a metapopulation approach” suggest that better management of hunting is required to sustain puma populations. This indicates a falling population in the USA. This is indirectly confirmed by the Red List™ which states that the overall population of the puma is falling. The puma is found across South America and in parts of Central America as well.
When you search for puma population figures at Google books this renowned search engine throws up “PUBLIC USE MICRODATA AREA (PUMA)” – no idea what that is!
At 1973 (yes a little old!) in Southwest Oregon the puma population was stable or increasing² due to classifying the cat as ‘game’ not a ‘predator’. That does not add much to this article, does it.
Another source says, “Little data is available on population trends…” – United States. Bureau of Land Management. Vernal District 1989 referring to the cougar and black bear.
As I said at the start, the authorities don’t have a handle on mountain lion population numbers across the United States. They should.
- Wild Cats Of The World by the Sunquists.
- Josephine Sustained Yield Unit ten-year timber management plan
- Link to original Flickr photo.