Archive for Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Letters to the editor: Print can confirm cougar

July 3, 2007

To the editor:

I just read with interest your June 13 article on a cougar sighting. I would just like to correct something that the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks person said.

He said a print would not do to confirm a cougar, and that is simply wrong. I have a research interest in keeping track of cougar sightings in this area and know quite a bit about these chaps. It is true that most prints turn out to be dog and you need to have very good prints to see the diagnostic cat features, but if you have them (especially on a couple of prints) you can confirm a cougar.

In fact if you look at the map of confirmed cougar sightings on the Nebraska Web page at /wildlife/images/mtlion.pdf, you will find that a number have been confirmed on the basis of print.

One of my Web page shows how to tell the difference between dog and cougar prints and uses (with their permission) one of the Nebraska prints (see mtlion/print_id/cougar_print_id.html).

However, you really have to have good pictures of good prints with a scale on them to be confident.

I suspect the Kansas DWP may be getting tired of being called out on big dog prints. Most of the ones I get called out on are dog prints (usually with big nails -- which is not typical on a cat that will usually retract them). And it takes looking at prints for quite a while to start being confident (unless you have a good tracker that already knows feline and canine prints).

James Mahaffy
Professor of biology
Dordt College,
Sioux Center, Iowa

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