Saturday, February 14, 2009

Canada: Researcher studies cougars in rural areas

University of Alberta researchers found people appreciate cougars, but don't want them near their homes

Posted By Catherine Griwkowsky News Staff
Posted 21 hours ago

People value cougars, but don't want them in their backyard, according to one University of Alberta researcher.

Aliah Adams Knopff and her husband Kyle, work on the Central East Slopes Cougar Study in west-central Alberta to answer questions on public opinion, rural development and conservation and wildlife management.

Knopff said there are two main challenges when development happens in rural areas: habitat changes to avoid homes and roads, and secondly people don't want cougars in their backyard.

"If people aren't willing to have cougars closed into their homes then it becomes difficult to maintain cougars on the landscape," she said.

A survey she conducted in Clearwater county said it valued the cougars in the area, that cougars play an important role in the ecosystem and cougar play an important role in the ecosystem.

When asked if they thought cougar populations should increase, decrease or stay they same, respondents they wanted populations to stay the same or decrease around homes.

"I think the strong response to valuing cougars I was a bit surprised at," she said. "They have a strong aesthetic association with cougars, they do think that they're important for the ecosystem and their continued presence is important, so that was a bit surprising. The not-in-my-backyard sentiment was not surprising. Cougars pose a risk to people, and to pets, and to livestock."

She said when something is a risk to people, their tolerance decreases for it.

Alberta legislation has recently changed where if a landowner sees a cougar on his or her property, they have a right to shoot the cougar and take the carcass to the provincial government.

Knopff said counting cougars is difficult, but it appears cougar numbers are healthy in Alberta. She said cougars populations may be increasing, and cougars are moving eastward. The eastward movement means cougars could encounter people more often.


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