Nakobi Cougar hanging out in the grass.

Cougars

Cougars are an apex predator, and they are also vital to the ecosystem of the United States. Without them, our entire ecosystem can fall apart.

The last known cougar population in North Carolina was in 1900. At that time, cougars reigned as the state’s primary apex predator. They were essential to regulating both the deer and small mammal populations. The deer population in North Carolina during the cougars’ vital reign was around 10,000 individuals.

Today, because there are no cougars present in North Carolina, the deer population has exploded and remained imbalanced for decades. In North Carolina alone, there are more than 1.34 million deer. As a result, these numbers have had drastic and devastating impacts on the health of our environment and the residents of North Carolina.

Apex Predator: A predator that is at the top of the food chain; it has no predators itself 

Keystone species: A species that is so vital to its ecosystem, without it, the entire ecosystem will fall apart

So, what if there were no cougars?

  • Aside from a small population in the everglades of Florida, there are no cougars east of the Mississippi River.
  • Cougars help keep the deer population in check, as they are the only consistent predators of the prey animal.
  • An increase of deer results in an increase of tick-transmitted diseases, such as Lyme Disease.
  • Because there are more deer in the area, the likelihood of car collisions with deer increases tremendously.

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  • Cougars are shy animals who will quickly move out of an area that is inhabited by humans. 
  • There have been a few documented cases of cougars attempting to move back east. The cats are unsuccessful because of poaching, or they are often hit and killed by cars.
  • Without our apex predator, the North Carolina’s ecosystem remains out of balance. The deer population is decimating the plants and preventing new ones from growing.
  • The deer population will continue to rise without cougars, which will increase the tick population and heighten people’s risk of contracting Lyme Disease and other tick-born illnesses.

TAKE ACTION

 It is important to know and understand that every animal in our ecosystem is vital to its balance. Without cougars, the bobcat and deer populations grow larger, which has had a massive impact on our ecosystems.