Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 12


Creature Feature

Cougars Making a
Comeback?
While a cougar shot in east-central
Kentucky was the first in that state
since before the Civil War, there is
still not a single camera sighting in
the southeastern mountains.
by Nancy Henderson
For decades, some folks have sworn that cougars freely roam
the Blue Ridge. And last December - three full years after
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nixed hundreds of
verbal reports and declared the eastern species extinct
- one of the mysterious, eight-foot-long cats was killed
on a farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky (west of the
Blue Ridge Country coverage area, near Lexington). So
are they making a comeback?
Before European settlement, the cougar was the second most wide-ranging land mammal in North
America next to humans, says Michelle LaRue, executive director of the Cougar Network, a scientific group
that works with state and federal agencies to collect
data and assess physical evidence, from DNA and
tracks to photos and videos.
"As they were moving west, [hunters and farmers]
were indiscriminately killing these animals because
they were 'dangerous' and people were scared of
them," she says. "By about the early 1900s, east of the
Rocky Mountains they were entirely gone with the
exception of the Florida panther population."
During the last 20 or 30 years, however, more cougar sightings have been confirmed in the Midwest,
and experts estimate that there are now about 30,000
living in North America. Elk and deer populations
have rebounded, allowing one of their chief predators,
the cougar, to rebound as well.
"Sub-adult males are moving from the west into
areas where there aren't any other males that will beat
them up," LaRue points out. But so far, she says, no

Elk and deer populations have
rebounded, allowing one of their chief
predators, the cougar, to rebound as well.
12 BlueRidgeCountry.com

The legend of cougars in the wild in the Southern Appalachians
apparently continues to be no more than that.

one has spotted a female. "In order for populations to
establish in the Midwest and in the East, females have
to get there. And they don't move nearly as much or as
far. So I think it will take a lot longer to actually have
population reestablishment in the East."
According to LaRue, only a handful of real cougars
have been spotted in the Blue Ridge in the last few
years, including the one shot by a wildlife officer in
Kentucky last winter to keep it from venturing into a
nearby neighborhood. It is believed to be the first cougar verified in that state since before the Civil War.
And despite a major research push about 10 years ago,
camera traps revealed not a single cougar. Since then,
amateur cell phone photography has made it even easier to rule out most claims of sightings.
So exactly what are Appalachian residents seeing if
they're not seeing cougars? For the most part, bobcats,
large house cats and Golden retrievers, says LaRue.
"I don't think people realize how big cougars are.
They're huge. I mean, if you were to see one standing
next to a house cat, it would be really, really obvious."
Contrary to popular belief, cougars are not generally aggressive toward humans.
"They're an elusive species. They're solitary. They
retreat. They don't like to be near people," LaRue
asserts. "The likelihood of ever seeing a cougar is so
low you might be more likely to win the lottery.
They're just so difficult to see. But largely they're really
not very dangerous."
And if you do happen to be the metaphorical lottery
winner who stumbles across a cougar, says LaRue, "Stop
what you're doing, make yourself look big, and back
away. Do not run. Their instinct is to chase. But in all
likelihood, if you saw each other, it would run." 


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015

Sweet Summer Weekends & Overnights in 7 States
The Great Divorce: Virginia-West Virginia
Swimming Holes for Summer: The Photoessay
Grand Hotel Comebacks of Western Virginia
SUP in the Mountains?
Northern Shenandoah Weekend
A Home in, on and from the Mountains
Far Beyond Sweet Tea: Great Restaurants of Upcountry South Carolina
From the Editor / Worth a Click
Mill Creek Stories
The Hike
Creature Feature
Great Home Buys in the Mountains
Festivals & Events
Country Roads
Mountian Garden
Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - From the Editor / Worth a Click
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Mill Creek Stories
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - The Hike
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Great Home Buys in the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 16
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Sweet Summer Weekends & Overnights in 7 States
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 22
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - The Great Divorce: Virginia-West Virginia
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Swimming Holes for Summer: The Photoessay
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Grand Hotel Comebacks of Western Virginia
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 42
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - SUP in the Mountains?
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Northern Shenandoah Weekend
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 48
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - A Home in, on and from the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 52
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 54
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Far Beyond Sweet Tea: Great Restaurants of Upcountry South Carolina
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 57
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 60
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 62
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Mountian Garden
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 64
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2015 - Cover4
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